Capernaum - The Town Of Jesus In Israel
ANCIENT CAPERNAUM - THE TOWN OF JESUS
Capernaum National Park (Kfar Nahum) in northern Israel preserves the remains of an ancient fishing village that was the center of Jesus's ministry in Galilee. The site contains the ruins of a synagogue, the first church in the world, houses, and other structures offering insight into life during the 1st century AD.
The first focal point is a limestone synagogue in Byzantine architecture dating to the 4th-5th century AD. However, pottery and coins found below indicate an earlier synagogue once stood here, likely built in the 1st century AD during the Roman period. Scholars debate whether this earlier structure was built in the 3rd or 4th century.
The second discovery at Capernaum is one of the earliest known Christian churches ever found, uncovered through 20th-century archaeological digs. Only preceded by the famous Domus Ecclesia church in Israel dating to the 3rd century AD, this Capernaum church is believed to have been established around what was thought to be the house of Saint Peter's mother-in-law.
Peter moved to Capernaum with his brother, becoming one of Jesus’s first disciples. Excavations revealed the foundations of a church constructed over a 1st-century AD house, later known as Peter’s residence. Pilgrims carved stone walls with crosses and prayers to Peter as early as the 5th century. This building's transformation into one of the world’s first Christian pilgrimage sites provides a uniquely early window into the roots and spread of the new faith in the Roman-ruled Holy Land region.
The fact that the house and location have been revered for centuries adds to the strong bond that the ruins of ancient Capernaum and the time of Jesus' ministry have with one another.
The settlement, which grew on trade routes along the Sea of Galilee and Jordan Valley, is believed to be where Jesus relocated with his family after being expelled from Nazareth. According to the Gospels, Jesus performed miracles and preached here, like healing Saint Peter’s mother-in-law.
The account of Jesus healing a paralyzed man lowered through a rooftop is said to have occurred at Peter’s house in Capernaum. Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man, miraculously curing his disability, which astonished locals who questioned Jesus’ authority.
By the 7th century, Capernaum was abandoned and buried in sand and silt. In the 19th century, Franciscan Catholics purchased land from Bedouins and discovered the ruins, including parts of the magnificent 4th-5th century synagogue. The site continues to attract Christian pilgrimage for its Biblical history tied to Jesus’s ministry before relocating elsewhere in Galilee.
CAPERNAUM HISTORICAL SITE
Regarding the "Village of Nahum"'s attractions, I would like to point out that the location alone is worth the time and attention of millions of tourists and believers. You gain something unexpectedly unique for your soul after visiting a city as old as this.
MODERN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF CAPERNAUM
A modern Catholic octagonal church with unique architecture rises over the ancient ruins of Capernaum today. Completed in 1990, the Church sits on towering pillars and steel beams overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Its design contrasts old and new - the building almost “floats” above the remains of ancient homes and places of worship below.
The building’s glass floor encapsulates the layered history underneath. Visitors can glimpse portions of a pre-Byzantine-era church, a Roman-style house believed to be Saint Peter’s mother-in-law’s home where Jesus healed her, and other early structures. Twisting staircases along the edges lead down to the ruins and the remains of a 1st-century village from Jesus’s time.
The church's octagonal shape is unique. The building is just one of the 3 octagonal structures found in Israel. Constructed from the black basalt stone of Galilee reinforced by steel, continuity between human outreach across ages perseveres in this unique modern space gazing through glass floors into small remnants below where the foundations of early Christianity once sprouted around Jesus’s ministry.
The combination of new and ancient highlights how sites of faith can evolve dramatically over generations while remaining rooted in connection across time. Pilgrims today travel the layers of early Christian heritage emerging through contrasts at Capernaum.
CHURCH OF THE 12 APOSTLES IN CAPERNAUM
The striking twelve pink-hued domes of the modern Church of the Twelve Apostles make this 20th-century Orthodox house of worship stand out dramatically along the Sea of Galilee shoreline. Completed in 1925 using donations from the Greek Orthodox community, the church's domed architecture echoes styles across the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Inside, each dome gleams with decorated iconography painted in rich blues and gold by a team of artists from Greece. The domes cover a stone iconostasis also donated from abroad in 1931 by Russian Orthodox Christians wishing to leave their mark. This partition wall covered in intricate icons and religious scenes separates the sanctuary from the nave according to Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Beyond visual splendor, number twelve carried symbolic meaning for the church’s benefactors and the Eastern Orthodox faith more broadly. The twelve domes represent Jesus's twelve apostles, underscoring continuity from the original followers who spread teachings across the ancient Middle Eastern world that evolved into today's Orthodox church.
The church attracts architecturally curious travelers and Eastern Orthodox pilgrims to its brilliantly colored domes. Visitors can also wander through the stone gardens, home to peacocks and exotic plants that lead to the Sea of Galilee shoreline. Here believers can pray or ritually cleanse their feet in the water where Jesus himself once walked, feeling a connection through generations of worshippers drawn to the Sea of Galilee's timeless sanctity.
CAPERNAUM ANCIENT SYNAGOGUE
What remains of the 5th century synagogue where Jesus preached evokes some trepidation among its visitors, because once, right here, lord Jesus Christ healed a man possessed by the devil, healed, resurrected, and worked miracles. This once-imposing building is constructed of white limestone called the Jerusalem stone, specially brought from a remote quarry. According to archaeologists, the synagogue took about a hundred years to build.
Columns, symbols/images on stones, and other architectural pieces of the synagogue can be seen from the structure's remains.
Inside the Capernaum Synagogue, On a column in the central hall appears the following three-line Greek inscription, a dedication to the person who built or donated to the synagogue.
"Herod son of Mo[ni]mos and Justus his son,
together with (his) children,
erected this column".
THE BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CAPERNAUM - GOSPEL EVENTS
As already mentioned, the city was established over 2000 years ago. In the first years of our era, it reached its highest prosperity due to its strategic location. Numerous trade routes passed through Capernaum from the shores of the Mediterranean to Syrian Damascus. During these times, Capernaum was a small fishing village.
The miracle of Capernaum refers to one of Jesus's most famous miraculous healings recorded in the New Testament Gospels.
As described in the Gospel of Mark (2:1-12), Jesus was teaching in a crowded house in Capernaum, where he lived in adulthood. Four men arrived, carrying a paralytic man on a mat who they wished for Jesus to heal. With the crowds blocking access, they lowered the paralyzed man down through a hole they made in the roof. Seeing the great faith they had in his power, Jesus told the paralytic man "Your sins are forgiven." When scribes and Pharisees began questioning his authority in their minds, Jesus then commanded the man: “Stand up, take your mat, and go home” to visibly demonstrate the claim. In Jesus’s words, the previously paralyzed man was suddenly able to stand up completely healed, confirming Jesus’ divine healing authority and forgiving power over sins and bodily disability alike through this miracle.
The healing of the paralyzed man in Capernaum is seen as a pivotal New Testament story that established Jesus’s healing abilities by curing complete paralysis. The visible miracle challenged all witnesses to recognize Jesus’ ability to forgive sins as the Son of God. The event remains famous for taking place early in Jesus's ministry years before his eventual crucifixion and resurrection - making Capernaum a site forever linked with a pivotal miracle kicking off his public works.
STATE OF THE ART IN CAPERNAUM
The main area of the national park, which covers approximately 8 hectares, is located northeast of the site of the discovery of antiquities. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has prepared a special area that helps and complements the visit to Capernaum archaeological remains. The national park is part of a new 3.5 km long promenade that connects Capernaum and Ein Sheva (Tabgha).
A port was built next to the ancient monuments, which allows visitors to reach Capernaum from Tiberias and Ein Sheva. Because the water level changes frequently, the port was built to rise and fall with the water level.
An information center stand with a gift shop, toilets, a restaurant, and a diner is currently being erected in the national park. A fishing village and an artists' town are also planned, where daily life during the Second Temple period will be recreated.
Nowadays, natural and domesticated plants grow in the park, thanks to which pilgrims can walk along the paths, feeling a connection with the sacred history of this place. One of the trees that grow naturally here is Christ's thorn marmalade, which is said to be the species that made the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear when he was crucified.
All antiquities here are under the protection of the Franciscan Church. The national park around the antiquity site is under the supervision of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU VISIT AROUND CAPERNAUM?
1) Nearby Tabgha contains several major Christian sites like the Multiplication Church where Jesus fed the 5,000 with bread and fish. The Mount of Beatitudes overlooks Tabgha with beautiful panoramas.
2) Mount of the Beatitudes: This hilltop is where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount with the Eight Beatitudes. The location offers sweeping views over the northern Sea of Galilee shores.
3) Magdala/Migdal: See recently discovered ruins of a 1st century AD synagogue at this ancient site connected to Mary Magdalene. There is also an excavated harbor.
4) Jordan River Baptism site: Many pilgrims visit the Jordan River, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
5) Tiberias: The thriving resort city of Tiberias makes a good home base for exploring Galilee Christian sites. It offers hot springs, beaches, water sports, and archaeological remains.
6)Jesus Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee: Take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the freshwater lake where Jesus and his disciples fished and sailed. The rides provide gorgeous views back onto Capernaum and the Golan Heights region.
Whether walking trails, pilgrimage sites, recreational water activities, or bases to stay, there are myriad options beyond Capernaum for fully exploring Jesus's homeland region of Galilee.
Capernaum in Israel is a location worth visiting on a Christian Galilee tour. It is a place of pilgrimage for millions of Christians. Here, another era will be able to make you look at your life differently, which will help you to believe and comprehend those truths that your soul does not want to accept. Take a trip to the Capernaum Historical National Park, open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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