02 September 2020, The Tablet

Ancient church discovered near Mount Tabor

The church is thought to have belonged to a monastic community living on the outskirts of the Byzantine village.

Ancient church discovered near Mount Tabor

A view of Mount Tabor, 2010
Wikimedia commons

Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a 1,300-year-old Byzantine church near Mount Tabor in the Holy Land. 

The church, located in the village of Kfar Kama in the Lower Galilee, was discovered prior to the construction of a playground. It is believed to have belonged to a monastery on the outskirts of the historic village, within which another church from the same time period was discovered in the 1960s.

The head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel has personally visited the site, which was excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with the Kinneret Academic College and local volunteers. The ruins are situated near Mount Tabor, the location of Christ’s transfiguration in the New Testament, and a traditional site of pilgrimage for Christians. 

Nurit Feig, the lead archaeologist of the excavation, said: “The church, measuring 12×36m, includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer and a central hall. Particular to this church is the existence of three apses, or prayer niches, while most churches were characterised by a single apse. ”

Feig added that the aisles of the church were paved with mosaics that have partially survived and that an especially rare find was a reliquary, a small stone box used to preserve relics. Radar studies suggest that there are more rooms at the site that have yet to be unearthed, backing up speculation by researchers that the complex was home to a community of monks.

The Byzantine-era village was resettled during the 19th century by Circassian tribes, who used stones from the older settlement to construct their homes. As well as becoming a popular destination of Christian pilgrimages, the area is also increasingly regarded as archaeologically significant, and the nearby Kinneret Academic College has funded long-term research in the region. 

In the Gospels, Jesus and three of the apostles, Peter, James and John, go to a mountain usually identified as Mount Tabor to pray. While on the mountain, Jesus appears glorified, and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing next to him and speaking with him. The event, held as highly significant by most Christian denominations, is celebrated as the Feast of the Transfiguration in the liturgical calendar.

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