Tabgha is the Arabic mispronunciation of “Heptapegon”, Greek for “seven springs” which are located on the shores of the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. The water of largest of these springs is hot and sulfuric and since the 1950’s its waters no longer flow into the Kinneret but have been diverted into a canal which takes them to the southern part of the Jordan River. According to the 1st century Roman Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius, people believed that the Nile River, in Egypt, was the source of the springs.

The remains of two Byzantine Churches, the later on top of the ruins of the earlier, testify to the centuries old tradition that this is where Jesus fed five thousand people who had come to hear his words. “Taking up the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied”. (Mat 14:13-21)

The present Benedictine church was built in 1935 with a central nave and two aisles typical of the Byzantine church. Part of the wall of the 6th century church has been incorporated as have some of the remains of the beautiful mosaic depicting flora and birds. Uniquely, in the middle is a round tower reminiscent of the nilometers found on the Nile River in ancient times to measure the rising flood waters.

The rock under the altar is traditionally the rock on which Jesus laid the loaves and the fish which are portrayed in the Byzantine mosaic in front of the altar.

On the grounds of the church are a hostel and a monastery.

A short distance away is the Franciscan church of St. Peter, built in 1934 on a rock right on the shores of the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. Traditionally this rock is Mensa Christi, the table of Christ. As recorded by John, the disciples were returning after a luckless night on their fishing boat when they saw “a charcoal fire there with fish lying on it and bread. … They knew it was the Lord”.  (John 21)

This too is where Jesus asks Peter three times “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and tells him, “feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my lambs”. Because this is where the primacy of Peter is recognized the church is also known as the church of St. Peter or the church of the Primacy of Peter.

Where is Tabgha 

Tabgha is on the northwestern edge of the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret. It is the site of two churches – the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fish and the Franciscan Church of St. Peter. On the hill above is Mount Beatitudes with the church which commemorates the Sermon on the Mount.

“Passing along by the Sea of Galilee” Jesus assembled his first disciples Simon, Andrew, James and John. (Mark 1:16-20).  They proceeded to the bustling border town of Capernaum, about a half an hour walk away, which has been excavated and the synagogue restored. Capernaum was where one crossed from the Kingdom of Galilee, ruled by Herod Antipas, to the Kingdom of Golan, ruled by his half- brother Philip.

South of these sites, also on the western shore, is the modern city of Tiberias with excavations which have exposed the two thousand year old synagogue and other finds.

Weather

As the Kinneret is two hundred meters below sea level the weather is normally very hot and humid with summer temperatures reaching 40 C.  The water is generally calm and warm. Even in the winter months the days can be quite pleasant. However, when the wind blowing from the Mediterranean tries to ascend the Golan Heights on the eastern shore the waves can be rough and dangerous.

Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)

Other sites in this area

Mount of Beatitudes

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Mount Tabor

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Mount Meron

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