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Tabgha

Tabgha is an area situated on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It is traditionally accepted as the place of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-46) and the fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus (John 21:1-24) after his Crucifixion.

The earliest building at Tabgha was a small chapel built in the 4th century A.D. (around 350) by the Jewish convert to Christianity, Joseph of Tiberias. According to Epiphanius, Joseph was a contemporary of Emperor Constantine, a Rabbinical scholar, member of the Sanhedrin and a disciple of Hillel II. Following his conversion, Emperor Constantine gave him the rank of count (comes), and gave him permission to build churches in the Galilee, specifically, in Jewish towns which didn't yet have a Christian community, and the Galilee including the Sea of Galilee, was an area with a Jewish majority. This was probably the shrine described by the pilgrim Egeria at the end of the 4th century. The 4th century small shrine was dismounted in 480 and a bigger chapel was built by Martyrius of Jerusalem, Patriarch of Jerusalem from 478 to 486. Martyrius was Egyptian by origin, and this may be the reason why the floor of his chapel was covered with a beautiful Nile mosaic, a style of art popular in the Byzantine time, describing Nilotic landscape and the fest of the Nile.[citation needed]

The mosaic of the fish and loaves is laid next to a large rock, which has caused some New Testament scholars to speculate that the builders of the original church believed that Jesus stood on this rock when he blessed the fish and loaves just before the feeding of the crowd who had come to hear him.

The large monastery and a church were built in the fifth century. While some date the destruction of the site to the time of the Arab conquest, the church was most likely destroyed in 614 during the Persian invasion, for already in AD 670, Bishop Arculf had reported that only columns from the church remained. In any way, by the Crusader conquests the Byzantine site was forgotten, and rediscovered only in the 20th century.

The area's lands were bought in the 18th century by a Catholic German association, so they could build a hotel for pilgrims. As they began digging for the construction they discovered archaeological evidence of an earlier church, but could not make excavations due to the Ottoman law. Only in 1932, in the times of Mandatory Palestine. After nearly 1300 years of "solitude", two German archaeologists (Mader and Schneider) uncovered a number of the Byzantine church's walls and mosaics In 1981, after further excavations, the church was finally restored by German Benedictines to its Byzantine form, incorporating portions of the original mosaics. The windows are fitted with alabaster panels.

Today, the church and surrounding land are property of the German Association of the Holy Land whose head is the Archbishop of Cologne. The site is maintained by Benedictine monks from the Dormition Abbey, which is located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

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