Capernaum

cafarnao

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 4: 12-17)

When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.


He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:


"Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen."
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The Name Capernaum

The original Semitic name of the village was Kfar Nahum, i.e., the village (kefar) of Nahum (the name of a person), as indicated in rabbinical sources and from an inscription found in the synagogue at Hammat Gader.
In both the Gospels and the writings of the historian Flavius Josephus the name was translated into Greek as Kapharnaum, and this is how it was subsequently transmitted to modern languages. Even after the abandonment of the village, the name remained linked to the ruins until modern times. In Arabic, the site was called Tell Hum, i.e., the ruins (tell) of Hum (a shortening of Nahum). We still do not know who this Nahum was who gave his name to the village: it was not until the Middle Ages that several sources identified him with the Old Testament prophet of this name.

Identification of the Ancient Capernaum

The identification of the ruins of Talhum with ancient Capernaum was not accepted unanimously by the topographers of the nineteenth century; in fact, several scholars identified Capernaum with Kh. Minyeh, a ruin in the Ginnosar valley due S of Tell 'Oreimeh and 14 km from Tiberias.
Today, after the excavations of both Talhum and Kh. Minyeh, and after a better knowledge of literary sources, the identification of ancient Capernaum with Talhum is no longer a matter of dispute.

To start with, the ruins of Kh. Minyeh turned out to be simply an Omayyad castle, and no pre-Arab remains were found. To the contrary, the excavations of Talhum brought to light all the periods of occupation recorded by literary sources. Besides, the two public buildings of Talhum, i.e. the synagogue and the house of St. Peter, fit the descriptions of the pilgrims.
Finally the ruins of Talhum exactly match the geographical setting of ancient Capernaum; in fact, they are located two miles from Heptagegon-Tabgha (Theodosius), two miles from Korazin (Eusebius), and between Heptapegon and the upper Jordan river.

History of the Village

Based on literary sources and the results of recent excavations, it is possible to trace the historical events of ancient Capernaum.
Already in the Hasmonean period, in the second century BC, there was an early settlement on the banks of the lake. Capernaum’s favored position along the fish-rich northern shore of the lake, and its proximity to both the spring water sources at Tabgha and the Via Maris trade route, allowed its inhabitants to dedicate themselves to both fishing and agriculture while benefiting from the commercial traffic that wended its way between Galilee and Damascus.

Jesus chose Capernaum to be the center of his public ministry in Galilee. From the Evangelists we know that the houses of a number of the Apostles were in the village, including Peter’s where Jesus took up residence, as well as a synagogue where he went on the Sabbath day.

In the first century AD a Judeo-Christian community gathered together in Capernaum and established Peter’s house as the place for meetings, which came to be a place of domestic worship. The presence of Judeo-Christians is also confirmed in various Jewish sources, which refer to these early Christians as Minim or heretics.
With the peace of Constantine, the faithful were able to erect a larger domus ecclesiae that was also able to accommodate the first pilgrims coming from far away.
During the Byzantine era both the synagogue and the octagonal church were rebuilt in an elegant and monumental style, an indication of the economic and social well-being of the inhabitants, as well as of the interest shown by both the Christian and Jewish communities in the site of Capernaum.
With the coming of the Arab period, the village gradually began to lose its importance, leading up to its permanent abandonment in the 13th century.

The Insula Sacra on the House of Peter

The house of St. Peter, often mentioned by the Synoptic Gospels in relation to the activity of Jesus in Capharnaum, and recorded later on by pilgrims, was rediscovered in 1968 under the foundations of the octagonal church some 30 m south of the synagogue.
The history of that house where Jesus lived, can be summarised as follows:

  1. the house was built in the Late Hellenistic period;
  2. in the late first century A.D. it was changed into a "domus-ecclesia", i. e. became a house for religious gatherings;
  3. in the fourth century A.D. the same "domus-ecclesia" was enlarged and was set apart from the rest of the town through an imposing enclosure wall;
  4. in the second half of the fifth century A.D. an octagonal church was built upon the house of St. Peter and remained in use until the seventh century A.D.;
  5. the identification of the house of St. Peter is based on the combination of archaeological data and literary sources which run side by side in a wonderful way.

The Synagogue

The white synagogue in Capernaum was the first building on which archaeologists focused their investigations and was brought to light beginning with the first excavations in 1905, followed by those of Father Gaudenzio Orfali in 1921. In 1969 the Franciscans Corbo and Loffredo undertook renewed investigations of the synagogue. Their excavations, carried out in stages over a thirteen year period, involved twenty-three trenches opened both inside and outside the synagogue.

1 - The results have led to a revision in the dating of the synagogue’s construction, which is now assigned to the fifth century rather than to the second or third century as had been proposed after the earlier excavations.

2 -The investigations also sought to establish the location of the synagogue constructed by the centurion and frequented by Jesus. The new excavations uncovered structures belonging to older buildings that were later replaced by the fifth century synagogue.

 

 

The acquisition of the site of Capernaum

The principal credit for acquiring the ruins of Capernaum on behalf of the Custody of the Holy Land belongs to fra Giuseppe Baldi. The Custos at that time, Aurelio Briante, expressed his intentions in the following manner in an 1886 letter: “For these things, that is, the purchase of Capernaum, there is no one other than fra Giuseppe of Naples and the Dragoman to turn to, in order to avoid being swindled.”



The purchase was a long and complicated affair. 
From the very beginning, a growing number of people presented themselves as owners of the land.
The Samakieh Bedouin tribe, who owned a large part of that side of the lake, saw an opportunity to make a large profit by selling for a considerable sum a piece of land that up to that point had been worthless. Moreover, other potential purchasers appeared, some of them backed by considerable economic resources: one offered 1,500 napoleons and the Jews, for their part, went as high as 2,000. A third interested buyer said that he wanted to purchase not only the ruins of Capernaum but also those of Corazin. Then there were the Greek Orthodox, a European Catholic company, and still others who tried by all means possible to acquire the property.


The situation of the Custody at that point did not appear very promising: it lacked the funds for the purchase and the Ottoman government had shown itself to be hostile. Nevertheless, fra Giuseppe Baldi continued to conduct the negotiations with the Bedouins in a prudent manner in order to arrive at the desired objective. All eyes were turned towards the friars.



On 17 August 1890, when the affair was on the point of being concluded, a telegram suddenly arrived from the land registry office in Beirut ordering the suspension of the negotiations. They wanted to know the first and last names of the seller and a description of the property, more specifically what sort of “precious antiquity” was lying on it. This telegram turned out to be more helpful than might at first be thought. It in fact had the advantage of making the whole operation of acquiring the land more transparent, placing the Custody in a much clearer position vis-à-vis the Ottoman government. Fra Giuseppe Baldi intensified his efforts with regard to both the sellers and the authorities in Safed, Acre and Beirut.

The numerous letters exchanged between fra Giuseppe and the Custody illustrate the enthusiasm of these days, and on the first of October 1890 fra Giuseppe wrote to tell the Father Custos that on 27 September he had received from Tiberias the 206 documents for the property and that everything was in order. The Custody had become the owner of Capernaum! But this was not to be the last word.
The Bedouins, hoping to obtain even more money for the sale, had tried to hide away a small piece of the land prior to the conclusion of the transactions.
To foil this attempt, the Franciscans immediately erected a wall surrounding the property and built a hospice for protecting the ruins that, in the meantime, had continued to be looted.

But the story was still not finished. Despite the legal sales agreement with the Samakieh Bedouins that had been worked out between their authorized representative, whose name was Barbur, and Signore Bauab on behalf of the Custody, the claims of other “sellers” continued to be pressed, in each case strongly opposed by Fra Giuseppe.



During the second half of December a very inopportune development occurred: the Governor of Safed, who had been favorable to the Custody, was replaced by Musa Effendi, son of the head of the city of Jerusalem. He encouraged the agent of the Bedouins to accuse Signore Bauab of defrauding the government, on the grounds that the acquisition had been carried out through unofficial channels in order to circumvent the prohibition under Ottoman law of property sales to foreigners.
A difficult period then ensued: several individuals who had been well paid by the Custody to help out with the transaction wound up complicating the situation, by openly revealing that the land and the ruins had been purchased by the Custody. At this point a priest from the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem entered the scene who, through his friendship with the Secretary of the Pasha of Acre, interceded on behalf of Fra Giuseppe Baldi.
The Jews, seeing that the property had been acquired by the Custody, also sought, though without success, to advance their cause with the government.



During the month of July an order arrived from Beirut to stop all works on the hospice, and the whole complicated affair, with all its expenses and headaches, started all over again. The Custody made various attempts to resolve the situation through intermediaries, initially through the Secretary of the Pasha, then via the Apostolic Delegate to Syria, Msgr. Gaudenzio Bonfigli.
Just when these efforts seemed to be on the point of bearing fruit, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople lodged a claim for the land at Capernaum, declaring that the property in question had belonged to the Greeks, that there had also been a church there and that the land had been stolen by a Dervish Aga. The resulting tumult only died down when, after a scrupulous examination of the case, the Pasha of Acre declared that the lands in question had never belonged to the Greeks. 



The frequent reshuffling of government posts among various officials between 1892 and 1894 meant that the issue of Capernaum, which passed through the hands of various people who tried to resolve the problem by means of intrigues, was left hanging. Fra Giuseppe Baldi, after having put in so much work on the matter, departed the scene.


Finally, after eight years of negotiations and innumerable obstacles, on 19 September 1894 the “Capernaum affair” finally ended, and all titles to the land, which at time was known as “Cushan”, passed into the name of the Custody of the Holy Land.

 

Excavations at Capernaum

The ancient ruins of Tell Hum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee were investigated in 1838 by the American Edward Robinson (1794-1863), who was drawn there by the wave of Protestant-inspired biblical archaeology. The scholar of Palestine identified the remains of the precious synagogue, but made no link between the ruins and the Capernaum of the Gospels.

In 1866, another visiting archaeologist, the Englishman Charles William Wilson (1836-1905) made a small excavation inside the synagogue which, however, provided only limited information on the exact layout of the structure. He was the first to identify the village of Tell Hum with Capernaum.

The first archaeological exploration after the purchase of the ruins by the Custody of the Holy Land was carried out by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (“German Oriental Society”) under the direction of professors Heinrich Kohl (1877-1914) and Carl Watzinger (1877-1948), in the area of the synagogue. The two archaeologists were the foremost experts of their time on Middle Eastern synagogues.

The monument was not fully explored at this time (1905), however; accordingly, immediately after the excavation, the Custody entrusted the task to fra Wendelin von Menden (1851-1921), who not only completed the excavation of the synagogue but also extended the investigations in the following years to the entire area to the west.

With the outbreak of the First World War, the excavations were suspended. They were taken up again only in 1921 and 1926 by Father Gaudenzio Orfali ofm (1889-1926), who discovered the ruins of the Byzantine church and other buildings from the same period situated between the octagon and the synagogue. To Father Orfali is due the great credit of publishing a monograph on the excavations of the synagogue and the discoveries made in 1921. Following his premature death, all systematic explorations in Capernaum were suspended.

In 1968, after nearly fifty years, the Custody of the Holy Land resumed explorations of the ruins at Capernaum, and also of the ruins of the Church of the Primacy of Peter in Tabgha. The excavations were confided to Father Virgilio Corbo ofm (1918-1991), along with his young colleague Father Stanislao Loffeda ofm. 
From 1968 to 1986 Fathers Corbo and Loffreda directed nineteen seasons of excavations, and a further four were carried out between 2000 and 2003 by Father Loffreda, aided by a team of archaeologists from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.

The discovery of Peter’s house

 

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On 16 April 1968, in the year of St. Peter’s centenary, the site at Capernaum was reopened after 42 years under the direction of Father Virgilio Corbo.


Building on the experience he had acquired at the Herodion fortress, Father Corbo directed the investigations beneath the Byzantine era octagonal church that had been brought to light in 1921 by Father Gaudenzio Orfali; the apse from the church had been discovered four years later by Father Antonio Gassi.


The mosaics were removed in order to better preserve them, thus allowing deeper excavations beneath the Byzantine structures.
Within a week after works had been initiated by Father Corbo, along with Fathers Stanislao Loffreda, Bellarmino Bagatti and Godfrey Kloetzly, the Fathers already had in hand a large quantity of fragments of painted plaster, belonging to the earlier domus ecclesiae, on which numerous graffiti were preserved. Some of the graffiti contained Christian symbols and invocations to Christ carved by faithful and pilgrims, a sign of the ancient veneration of the site.



Excavations were also carried out in the areas enclosed by the boundary wall of the Byzantine church, and the results showed that a series of walls and pavements had succeeded one another, from the ancient Roman to the late Roman periods.



Beginning with the second season of excavations, Father Stanislao Loffreda ofm worked continuously alongside his colleague Virgilio. In view of the results that had been achieved, on 30 October Father Loffreda was given permission to open a small excavation trench underneath the floor of the 4th century domus ecclesiae. The archaeologists needed to determine the age of the house they had found.



The preservation beneath the floor of layers of increasingly older ceramics convinced them to carry out a more extensive excavation. An intact pot that had never been used, oil lamps from the time of Herod, fragments of colored plaster and a succession of different pavements led to the conclusion that, a half century after Jesus’ resurrection, this particular room in the house had been enlarged and embellished. A room used for the gatherings of the first Judeo-Christians in which Christ’s presence in Peter’s house was commemorated; the place itself where, according to the Gospels, a number of miracles took place.
The news of these exceptional discoveries reverberated in news columns everywhere, and the echo was not limited to the academic world: Capernaum was soon to become one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the Holy Land.


From 1968 to 1986 Father Corbo directed nineteen archaeological campaigns, which yielded four principal results:

  • a retracing of the history of Capernaum from the Middle Bronze Age to the Arab period;
  • a more precise dating of the monumental synagogue from the 4th-5th centuries (recent studies have further moved the date forward to the late 5th century);
  • the discovery beneath this synagogue of traces of an earlier synagogue from the time of Jesus;
  • bringing to light the remains of Peter’s house, transformed into a place of domestic worship.


At the same time the excavations were being carried out, Father Corbo also supervised the restoration of the ruins at Capernaum, and the re-positioning throughout the area of architectural elements from the synagogue and other recovered items, so that they can be more easily appreciated by pilgrims and tourists.

Finally, he saw his grand wish of a revival of worship at the “House of Peter” realized, with the construction of a new Memorial, inaugurated on 29 June 1990, which he had carefully monitored throughout all of the stages of its execution. Father Corbo, who died the following year, is buried in Capernaum beside the venerated room, as had been his great wish.

Beginning in 2000 a further four seasons of excavations were carried out under the direction of Father Stanislao Loffreda, focusing on the Arab and Byzantine parts of the residential area located to the east of Peter’s house and the synagogue. Apart from the excavations, over the past decade Father Loffreda has continued publishing the volumes of the series “Cafarnao [Capernaum]”, now numbering nine.

Series of books: “CAPERNAUM” vol. I-IX

One of the principal merits of the activities of the scholar Father Virgilio Corbo was the constant attention he paid to making information public, providing both popular summaries published in the magazine “Terra Santa” and scientific articles contained in the “Liber Annus”. This tradition has been carried on in the collection “Cafarnao [Capernaum]” under the direction of Father Loffreda, which now totals nine volumes. Apart from the first volume, Cafarnao I, by Father Corbo himself dedicated to Capernaum, the other volumes are by:



In 1968 Father Augusto Spijkerman ofm (1920-1973), a numismatist, who at the time was head of the SBF museum, began collaborating with Corbo and Loffreda on the identification of coins found in Capernaum. His volume on the coins of Capernaum (Cafarnao III) was published in 1970, in which he catalogued the coins recovered in a number of trenches in the synagogue during the first series of excavations.



A study of the graffiti in Peter’s house was carried out by Father Emmanuele Testa ofm (1923-2011) in Cafarnao IV. The scholar, who had always shown a deep interest in the issue of Christian origins, analyzed 454 plaster fragments from the 4th century domus ecclesiae and provided an interpretation of the wall decorations and graffiti carved by ancient pilgrims.

The most recent series of excavations, carried out between 2000 and 2003 under the direction of Father Stanislao Loffreda ofm, focused on the urban area to the east of Peter’s house and the synagogue. The results of these excavations were presented by Father Loffreda in Cafarnao V: an extensive photographic documentation of the excavations that allows the reader to gain an overall appreciation of the archaeological excavations carried out at Capernaum ,and the enormous underlying scientific effort.



Since 1968 Father Stanislao Loffreda ofm has been entrusted with carrying out research on the ceramics and other objects found in Capernaum, and the results of his investigations have been brought together in four volumes. The first of these (Cafarnao II) is dedicated to ceramics and appeared in 1974. It was followed by three additional volumes - Cafarnao VI, Cafarnao VII, Cafarnao VIII – which provide a thorough documentation, graphical as well as contextual and typological, of the findings, notably those relating to ceramics. As a result of his studies, it is now possible to date with certainty the various phases of life in the village, as well as to assemble a complete “corpus” of the ceramics used on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.



In 2007 the volume Cafarnao IX written by Bruno Callegher appeared, dedicated to the coins from the urban area of Capernaum recovered between 1968 and 2003. In conjunction with his studies that have appeared in “Liber Annus”, Callegher has published a substantial portion of the coin finds in Capernaum, both individual coins as well as coin hoards, facilitating a better definition of the chronological framework of Capernaum’s development and the particular contexts in which it occurred, and opening up a number of new issues, ranging from trade in the region to the viability of the site over time.

  • CORBO V., Cafarnao I. Gli Edifici della città, Jerusalem 1975.
  • LOFFREDA S., Cafarnao II. La Ceramica, Jerusalem 1974.
  • SPIJKERMAN A., Cafarnao III. Catalogo delle monete della città, Jerusalem 1975.
  • TESTA E., Cafarnao IV. I graffiti della Casa di San Pietro, Jerusalem 1972.
  • LOFFREDA S., Cafarnao V. Documentazione fotografica degli scavi (1968-2003), Jerusalem 2005.
  • LOFFREDA S., Cafarnao VI. Tipologie e contesti stratigrafici della ceramica (1968-2003), Jerusalem 2008.
  • LOFFREDA S., Cafarnao VII. Documentazione grafica della ceramica (1968-2003), Jerusalem 2008.
  • LOFFREDA S., Cafarnao VIII. Documentazione fotografica degli oggetti (1968-2003), Jerusalem 2008.
  • CALLEGHER B., Cafarnao IX. Monete dell'area urbana di Cafarnao (1968-2003), Jerusalem 2007.

The Synagogue

Among the numerous events in Jesus’ public life in Capernaum, the Evangelists indicate that it was in the village synagogue that the Master taught on the Sabbath days and healed the demon-possessed and the paralytic (Teaching – Mark 1:21-22; Matt 7:28; Luke 4:31-32; John 6:22-33,48-59; Healing – Mark 1:23; Luke 4:33-37).

The Gospels provide important details on the synagogue that Jesus frequented: it had been built by a Roman centurion at the head of a detachment of soldiers, and the ruler of the synagogue was named Jairus (Mark 5:21-24,34-43; Matt 9:18-19,23-26; Luke 8:40-42,49-56).

The archaeological excavations carried out over the past forty years have shown that the synagogue, as it has come down to us, was built in the fifth century AD. The more than 20,000 coins found to date beneath the floor of the synagogue, perhaps donated by the faithful over time as a votive offering, along with pottery, indicate that the construction of the synagogue was completed in the last quarter of the fifth century.

Raised above an artificial platform, the synagogue built in Capernaum in the fifth century is the most ornate synagogue so far uncovered in Galilee.
In marked contrast to the black basalt used for building local houses, the synagogue was constructed in late Roman form and decorative style using white limestone. It has been partly reconstructed by Franciscan architects making use of the original blocks that were scattered over the site.

Segments of the large archway and tympanum that originally crowned the facade of the prayer room have been reconstructed on the ground in an area lying behind the synagogue; the sculpted lintels that decorated the entrances to the synagogue and the courtyard have, on the other hand, been replaced in situ.

La sala di preghiera ha pianta rettangolare (23x17,28 m) ed è pavimentata in lastre di calcare bianco; è suddivisa in una grande navata centrale circondata su tre lati da sedici colonne ritmate al di sopra di un basso stilobate che contorna la sala. I piedistalli sorreggono le lisce colonne di calcare con base attica, coronate da capitelli di stile corinzio. Secondo la ricostruzione di p. Orfali e di Watzinger, il colonnato sorreggeva un architrave sul quale poggiavano le colonne dell’ordine superiore, terminato da un fregio e da una cornice riccamente decorati. Le due scale esterne retrostanti la sala, che in parte ancora si conservano, sarebbero dunque servite come accessi alla galleria superiore, il matroneo.

The prayer room had a regular floor plan (23 x 17.28 m) and was paved with slabs of white limestone; it was divided into a large central nave surrounded on three sides by sixteen rhythmically-spaced columns resting on a low stylobate that skirted the room. Pedestals supported the smooth limestone columns with Attic bases that were crowned by Corinthian capitals. According to the reconstruction by Fathers Orfali and Watzinger, the columns supported an architrave, on which the columns of the upper gallery rested, that terminated in a frieze and a richly-decorated cornice. The two external staircases at the back of the room, which are still partly preserved, would have served to give access to the women’s gallery on the upper level.

One column capital, preserved today in the exhibition in the park, has three carved Jewish symbols : a menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum, a shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn used during religious ceremonies, and a mahta (incense shovel).
The columns with matched pedestals located at the two corners to the north are heart-shaped, and are similar to others found in various sites in the Middle East.

Two inscriptions can be seen on the two central columns at the front of the entrance: the one of the right is in Greek and was commissioned by two representatives of the community that built the synagogue: “Herod (the son) of Monimos and his son Justus together with their children erected this column.”
On the left-hand column is an inscription commissioned by the Department of Antiquities in pious memory of Father Gaudenzio Orfali, who carried out investigations at the synagogue in 1921 and initiated its reconstruction.
Another inscription in Aramaic can be found in the area and belongs to the synagogue. The inscription reads: “Alphaeus, the son of Zebedee, the son of John, made this column. May it be for him a blessing.”

Two rows of stone benches are set along the east and west walls of the room: they were intended to be used by the men of the community during religious functions, while the women went upstairs to the women’s gallery.
The rolls of the law, the Torah, were read during religious meetings, and otherwise were kept in the Aron Kadesh (“holy ark”, or chest) to the south on the principal wall, turned to face Jerusalem. In this regard, traces of two tabernacles can be seen on each side of the principal entrance; they were later replaced by a more elegant structure which occupied the entire width of the central nave.

Situated along the western side of the principal road, the synagogue was oriented towards the south, in the direction of Jerusalem, as called for in the Jewish liturgy. Two staircases on either side of the platform led to the terrace overlooking the front.
Three entrances led into the prayer room, followed by two others leading into the eastern portico. A series of pilasters spaced 10 Roman feet apart (a bit less than three meters) served to decorate, and add a rhythmic pattern to, the walls of the building.

Between the eastern side of the synagogue and the road was an open space having porticos on three sides: the courtyard. Built at a second stage, it was connected to the exterior by means of three doors opening to the north and two to the south, and also had a number of windows facing onto the road.
Two staircases permitted entry from the street to the courtyard: one at the rear and the other at the front. The latter went up to the terrace. The columns that adorned the portico were in Ionic style. It is thought that these areas were the Beth Midrash, the synagogue’s school, where scribes and rabbis provided instruction for young people to prepare them for learning the Torah.
The church was adorned both inside and out with rich and complex architectural decorations. While the internal walls would have been decorated with stucco and colored plaster of excellent quality, the numerous carved blocks found on the site evoke the image of a synagogue richly decorated with a variety of symbols, of both a Jewish religious nature and from the Roman and pagan tradition, which makes one think of a Jewish community that was very liberal with regard to the use of images.

The systematic cataloguing of all of the architectural blocks from the synagogue permitted the identification of those to be reused for rebuilding the walls: the restoration began in January 1976 and was carried out gradually over time, with works accelerating in the winter months when the inflow of pilgrims to Capernaum diminished.
Beginning in 1983 the carved blocks that had not been replaced in situ were positioned in an orderly manner along the path of the visit of the archaeological park, notably beside the synagogue and the caretaker’s lodge in the direction of Peter’s house.

The reconstruction of the upper part of the facade still involves some uncertainty, according to whether or not one assumes the presence of a women’s gallery. On the other hand, it is clear that above the central door there was an archway whose keystone had a seashell decoration centered in a wreath whose ribbons, tied in a Hercules knot, were held by eagles.

The cornices that embellished the interior and exterior of the synagogue would have been richly decorated with perforations, gadroons and acanthus leaves.
There were numerous carved designs on the cornices with Jewish symbols enclosed within leaf medallions: five and six-pointed stars, or the Seal of Solomon commonly known as the Star of David, fruits such as pomegranates and grapes (which in the Bible are among the seven agricultural products in the Promised Land), roses and still other fruits including dates.

One block has a carving of a small temple being transported on a cart: this is an ancient depiction of the Ark of the Alliance, containing the tablets with the laws given by God to Moses on Mount Horeb, being transported to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
The richness and elegance of the synagogue is shown by the attention to detail, such as the scale of the decoration employed on the windows on the facade at the center of the upper archway: two spiral columns with leafy capitals supporting a tympanum with a seashell at its center, a decorative motif used throughout the synagogue; two vines emerging from the sides of the tympanum served as its frame.

The corbels of the cornices were decorated with date palms symbolizing Judea. Traditional Roman and pagan symbols were also well represented, including eagles, laurel, lions and griffins.

Nearly all of the figurative motifs have been systematically chiseled out, leaving intact only the geometric and floral elements. This presumably indicates that an iconoclastic movement, in which the community of Capernaum must have participated, obtained the upper hand at some point following the construction of the synagogue.

From 1969 to 1974 the work of the archaeologists V. Corbo and S. Loffreda focused on the areas underneath the walls and floor of the monumental Byzantine white stone synagogue.

In the excavation trenches on the left flanks of the prayer room, beneath the gallery and the eastern portico, the remains of the residences destroyed to make space for the synagogue were found, showing that the synagogue had not been built on vacant land. These remains consist of stone floors, basalt walls, doors, staircases, water channels and fireplaces.
In contrast, beneath the large central nave a wide basalt cobblestone pavement from the first century AD was found. Based on its dimensions, this must have belonged to a public building, perhaps the actual synagogue built by the Roman centurion, which would explain the continuity in use of the same space for the purpose of worship.

Formidable walls made from squared and well-finished basalt blocks were used for the foundations of the white stone synagogue. The walls supported the perimeter of the prayer room and, in a more discontinuous manner, the internal stylobate within that same room. The Franciscan archaeologists Corbo and Loffredo were in agreement that these walls belonged to the remains of a synagogue that had preceded the fifth century one.
The walls of this synagogue in black basalt are visible today along the external perimeter of the synagogue and represent a different alignment with respect to the white limestone synagogue, which is most apparent at the southwest corner of the structure.

The dating of this synagogue remains a point of contention. Father Corbo believed that it was part of the same first century building to which the basalt cobblestone pavement found under the central nave had belonged, while Father Loffreda thought it represented an intermediate stage between the first and fifth century synagogues.

The Insula Sacra on the Peter’s House

One area in particular in the village of Capernaum has been the object of numerous interventions over the years: the insula sacra (“holy island”), which was given this name because it contains the venerated room used by the first followers of Jesus, who commemorated the presence of the Master and his teachings in the house of Simon Peter. That same venerated room, which became a pilgrimage destination for the early Christians, was reconstructed in the form of a domus ecclesiae and, later, in the form of an octagonal church.

It was in Simon Peter’s house that Jesus established his residence, the “headquarters” and outreach center for his ministry in Galilee. It was in this house that Jesus lived, healed, taught and instructed his disciples (Mark 3:20; Mark 4:10-11; Mark 3:31-35).

The different transformations have made it difficult to distinguish the oldest elements of the house. The excavations have brought to light the network of walls that formed the principal living spaces of the house, and a succession of different paved floors indicating a prolonged period of uninterrupted use beginning in the Hellenistic period. The excavations carried out in other residential areas have also facilitated a better understanding of the remains that have been found, and a reconstructive hypothesis has been put forward starting from the first attestations of veneration.

Facing the lake shore, the residence formed the southeastern extremity of a large inhabited area. The compound had its main door on its eastern side, opening onto an open space (cf. “The whole town was gathered at the door”, Mark 1:32-34; Matt 8:16-17; Luke 4:40-41). The door jamb preserves traces of the door leaves which were bolted from the inside in the evening when people went to bed.

The house was likely home to several related families (Peter, his brother Andrew, his mother-in-law) who had their own separate living spaces opening onto a common courtyard.
Immediately upon passing through the door one entered the first courtyard (northwest), with its cobblestone and beaten-earth floor, onto which a number of rooms opened. Some of the areas served as food storerooms, others for spreading out the mats for sleeping at night and for carrying out small daily tasks. A second courtyard was located to the south. Most of the day was spent in the courtyards, which were shaded by canopies and connected to one another by open passageways through the rooms. The fire-clay oven for baking bread was in one of the courtyards, and it is not difficult to imagine a daily life consisting of the women chatting away while doing the housework, the children playing, and the men resting after a night’s fishing.

It is reasonable to assume that a particular portion of the residence, which was to be the subject of all of the subsequent transformations, was where Peter’s family lived, and where Jesus was welcomed and lodged.

Of this area, portions of walls and several layers of the basalt cobblestone and beaten-earth flooring have been preserved. Fragments of pottery in common use, notably amphoras, saucepans and bowls, lead one to think of a room where daily activities common to the house as a whole were carried out.

An important transformation of the internal area took place towards the end of the fourth century: the venerated room became the focal point of a much larger and more organized sacred complex.

Through a new atrium (entrance courtyard) built to the east of the room and paved in white limestone, the faithful were able to reach the venerated place whose floor had been repaved with polychrome plaster, and which had been divided into two by a large central arcade supporting the new roof terrace. New decorative paintings covered the walls of the room: on a homogeneous cream-white background a range of aniconic subjects were depicted, including geometric panels, bands of colors, and bunches of flowers and fruits.

The Christians who came to Capernaum began to leave traces of their visit by scratching their names or the monogram of Jesus on the walls of the room. The pilgrims often came from far away: many of the graffiti are in Greek, while others are in Syriac, Aramaic and Latin.
Among these pilgrims, it should be noted, was the famous Egeria, who around 380 AD described this house of the “prince of the Apostles” (Peter) that had been transformed into a church.
The fragments of painted plaster and graffiti uncovered in the venerated room represent a remarkable discovery: their preservation is due to their having been reused to raise the height of the floor of successive churches constructed on the site.

The final stage of the rearrangement of the area was the construction of a massive protective wall separating the building from the overall village, which led to the destruction of several rooms. The access to the entire sacred area was from the north, facing onto a new arterial road.

On two sides of the new atrium leading into the prayer room, a flat area paved with beaten earth and lime was created, offering a solid surface for pedestrian circulation. A pair of rooms to the north of the venerated room probably served for storing liturgical accessories and the offerings of the faithful. The objects found in the other rooms of the insula are consistent with their continued use as residential areas.

The key transformation of the sacred area occurred during the Byzantine era when, directly above the venerated room, an octagonal church was built, a new architectural form that had come to be used for sacred places linked to the most important Christian memories in the Holy Land.

All of the rooms of the previous structure were knocked down and buried to provide space for a church built in the form of an octagon and surrounded on five sides by an open portico. A series of accessory rooms was constructed behind the eastern boundary wall.

While the passage of time that transformed the village into ruins also left its mark on the church of St. Peter, of which few vestiges remain, investigations of its architectural form and the elegance of its mosaics have provided evidence of its original splendor.

Within the sacred enclosure, entry to the church was made through an open portico that surrounded the octagonal church on five of its sides. From the portico one could also enter the side rooms, the annexes nearest to the place of worship. The portico, covered by a canopy, was decorated with a black and white mosaic having a pattern of overlapping circles with a common central “button”.
Entrance to the church was through both the main door on the west and the side doors. The church had the form of an octagon, with an ambulatory surrounding a smaller central octagon. It was probably illuminated by a series of windows and covered by a pitched roof. The few remains of the mosaic pavement display floral and plant designs on a white background, representing a typical Nile region environment.

The central octagon of the church was constructed directly above the venerated room and was paved with an ornate mosaic featuring a peacock displaying its colorful tail, a symbol of the Resurrection and eternal life. The peacock was placed in the center of a circle and surrounded by flowers enclosed in overlapping semicircles. A red and blue lotus design formed the outer frame of the mosaic. The octagon, with its high beamed ceiling, was illuminated by light entering through the windows and by large lamps hanging from the ceiling. It is reasonable to assume that the walls would have been plastered and painted in a variety of manners. No trace has been preserved of an altar fixed against the wall, and it is possible that the liturgical table was of the “mobile” type not fixed in place.

The increase in the number of faithful soon led to the need for a baptistery. The place selected for this was on the eastern side and was connected to two new areas having a triangular shape, the pastophoria, which became accessory rooms for the performance of the rite. A breach in the enclosing wall was made in order to construct a projecting apse having sufficient space for the basin used for the rite of baptismal immersion.

The need to build a memorial to St. Peter grew out of the desire to promote the revival of worship as it had been carried out in the first centuries AD. The project also took into consideration the need to safeguard and enhance this Holy Place, which preserves the memory of the Apostle’s home and of the places where Christ preached and was active. The building allows pilgrims and visitors to rejoice in the precious remains of Peter’s house and in the liturgical structures that developed around it and in function of it.

Today the pilgrim can observe the archaeological remains of Peter’s house and the successive constructions, both at a lower level along a path at street level that passes beneath the Memorial before arriving at the Byzantine octagon, and on an upper level by means of a quadrangular oculus within the Memorial through which the site can be viewed from above.

The project, designed by the Italian architect Ildo Avetta and carried out at the end of the 1980s, sought to emphasize the importance of the location by creating a structure that would invoke the profound importance of the archaeological site, its history and, above all, the events of Jesus’ and Peter’s lives. To this end, the main element of the Memorial was conceived as a ship whose hull would appear to hover above the Apostle’s house, an image alluding to the call of the Apostle Peter, who from simple fisherman became a fisher of men and head of the Church of Christ.
The execution of this truly audacious and ultramodern project, which required long and complex studies by the engineer Cesare Pocci and the collaboration of the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) of Haifa, was entrusted to the well-known Israeli construction and civil engineering company Solel Bonneh, under the continuous supervision of the engineer Anis Sruji of Nazareth.

The Memorial was consecrated by Cardinal Lourdusamy on 29 June 1990, a date that is inscribed on the facade in Latin script: BEATO PETRO APOSTOLO A.D. MCMXC DICATUM (Dedicated to the blessed Apostle Peter in the year 1990). Pope John Paul II sent a special message to mark the occasion, of which two excerpts are reproduced on the internal walls alongside the entrance.

The Village

Life in the village of Capernaum developed beginning in the second century BC. Most of the information on the Capernaum in which Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles lived comes from the Gospels. The village, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (a freshwater lake also known as Lake Tiberias), was not far away from a branch of the Via Maris, the ancient trade route linking Egypt to Damascus, as shown by the presence in Capernaum of a customs post (Matt 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and the discovery of a milestone bearing the name of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD). Capernaum was where the Centurion was stationed (Matt 8:5 ff.; John: 4:46-54) and where the taxes for the temple (Matt 17:24-27) and for the Roman treasury (Mark 2:14) were collected.

Daily life revolved around work: fishing, in particular, was one of the most remunerative activities. The brothers Andrew and Simon, later called Peter, and John and James, the sons of Zebedee, “were fishermen” (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). The latter two managed a small fishing business with boats they owned and some youths they employed (Luke 5:1-11; John 21:1-11).

The numerous discoveries of implements used in daily life, such as basalt millstones for grinding grain (Mark 2:23; Matt 12:1; Luke 6:1) and others for treading olives or pressing grapes, provide an indication of some of the work activities that for centuries were carried out on a daily basis by the inhabitants.
The houses, grouped in quarters that were delineated by streets, were simple and built of local basalt stones mortared with mud and earth, and had stone floors (cf. parable of the woman who lost a coin, Luke 15:8-10).
Life took place largely outdoors: along the sandy shore, on the streets and in the private courtyards. Several families from the same clan would share a single house, consisting of a number of rooms that faced onto an open courtyard or were along a corridor (cf. the parable of the friend at midnight, Luke 11:1-13). The roof terrace, made from logs and leaves mixed with pressed mud, served various purposes: for sleeping during the hot nights, for drying the fishing nets, and for sun-drying fish and local fruits, such as date palms (cf. the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof: Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:17-26).

To the north, just beyond the village, was the burial area, where one can still see a mausoleum from the time of the Empire, with five stone sarcophagi and eight kokhim (oven-shaped) tombs.

The excavations have shown that life began to improve beginning in fourth century: the houses were now built or repaired using good-quality mortar, while a large number of elegant ceramic works arrived from the African coast, Cyprus and Greece. Moreover, coins that have been found in the urban area come primarily from the Imperial (295-491 AD) and Byzantine (491-648 AD) eras. It was during the latter period that the monumental constructions of the synagogue and the orthogonal church lying above Peter’s house were carried out.

With the beginning of the Arab era (seventh century AD) the village began gradually to decline in importance. Only a relatively small number of houses continued to be used, with their floors raised and their crumbling walls replaced by new ones. The Arab presence is also signaled by the presence of various graffiti containing jokes left on the stones and stylobates in the synagogue, which with the growing Islamization of the population was no longer used as a prayer room. Over time, many of the buildings that had been abandoned collapsed, and the last remaining fishermen abandoned the village no later than the 14th century.

The main street ran from north to south in the direction of the lake and formed the principal axis of the village, onto which the various insulae (blocks of houses) faced. It was intersected by a number of smaller roads and alleys that together served to delineate the various neighborhoods. Along the western side of the street two monumental Byzantine constructions were carried out, expressions of both the Jewish and Christian presence in Capernaum: the synagogue and the octagonal church.

The road, made from a mixture of small stones and gravel, followed the natural incline of the countryside, descending from the hills towards the sandy banks of the lake and serving also as a channel for runoff to flow into the lake. To date a stretch of approximately 110 meters has been brought to light.

A series of businesses and small village squares opened onto the street. Simon Peter’s house bordered the road and had its main entrance on the street side, preceded by a small open area in which crowds gathered to meet Jesus (Mark 1:32-34; Matt 8:16-17; Luke 4:40-41).

As the village expanded, a series of businesses were built on the eastern side of the street that spilled over into the road and reduced its width. For this reason the entrances to the fourth century domus ecclesiae and to the later octagonal church that replaced it were no longer on the main street, but on one of the secondary roads that marked the boundary of the Christian sacred area.

Insula 2 was developed between the synagogue and the octagonal church, in a residential area bordered on its western side by the main street and to the south and north by two smaller roads. Between the Roman and late Roman-Byzantine periods it underwent various transformations involving the opening and closing of various areas, renewing the flooring and raising the thresholds of the houses.

There were three distinct larger nuclei of residences and one of smaller size. The majority of the houses had a single protected access opening onto a public street; in some cases the door jambs have been preserved bearing traces of the fixations for the swinging doors. A number of the houses were reached through a back alleyway.

Life revolved around the open-air courtyards shaded by canopies and foliage supported on columns and beams, necessary for protection in the hot and muggy days typical of the humid lake environment. The courtyards served to connect the various rooms and allowed access via stairs to the roofs and terraces. Bread was baked in the courtyards in simple open-air fire-clay ovens, which were cylindrical in form with a large opening in the front. A horizontal series of small windows, whose frames consisted of individual basalt slabs placed on top of a counter approximately a meter above the ground, opened along the walls of the rooms facing the courtyard. The long and narrow areas that could easily have been covered by a roof were likely the most suitable places for stretching out the sleeping mats.

Millstones for grinding grain as well as mortars and pots made from basalt have been found in a number of areas within the insula. In the northwest residence (64-65), along with small millstones for grinding grain for domestic use made from two overlapping slabs, a large rotating bell-shaped millstone has been found that was probably powered by human force.

During the Arab era this part of the village continued to be inhabited. In the walls of the Arab houses many materials from old abandoned structures were reutilized, including white stones from the synagogue and thresholds from older houses that had been re-positioned after the floors had been raised. A number of basalt millstones were also used as construction materials, both as foundations for roads and as bases for columns.

The most recent archaeological investigations at Capernaum focused on the area of the village situated to the east of the large gravel-surfaced road. This is where a portion of the village from the Byzantine and Arab eras developed, in the period from the fourth to the 13th/14th centuries.
A series of small secondary roads wound between the houses in an east-west direction.
Five larger residential nuclei (L222, L359, L330, L281, L241) overlooking these roads were built using sound construction techniques, evidence of the socio-economic well-being and the high quality of life enjoyed by inhabitants during the Byzantine era.
A number of businesses occupying one or two rooms were located along the street.

A large compound was made up by two very large family houses to the south and east (L222-L359) having numerous rooms and courtyards. The entrance was located in a shared hallway which led to a large open space facing onto the main street. The two houses each had a main room whose ceiling was supported by pillars, with the other rooms leading off from this. This large room was the heart of the house, in which most of the household activities were carried out and where the bread oven was located. Stone steps rose along the walls leading to the tile-covered roofs, the terraces and the second floor of the house. In a rectangular room one can still see the central column of more than two meters in height made up of four column drums. Typical small windows arranged in series opened onto the courtyards and between the rooms of the same house.

Not far from the public road, and connected via a private door to the family house to the east, a large installation for producing olive oil was put into operation during the Byzantine era (L270). Once the sacks of olives had been hauled to the site and packed into the appropriate compartments, the workers would begin the crushing process making use of the two grindstones that were perhaps put in motion through animal traction. The resulting olive mark (pulpy residue) was than squeezed in the olive press, with the oil dripping into two bowls.

With the passage of time the residential area was modified: rooms of the houses were rearranged, doors were blocked off, spaces were reassigned to different residential units, and new entryways were opened onto the roads.

During the Arab era a series of new structures, which to a certain extent copied and reutilized older ones, was built in the area near the lake, but these were permanently abandoned around the 13th century.

The Lakeside

Following along the path leading to St. Peter’s Memorial one comes to the lakeside. From there a wide panorama opens, and on clear days one can see all the way to the Golan Heights which descend to the lake, 212 meters below the level of the Mediterranean Sea.

The small village of Capernaum is located on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Tiberias). Three kilometers to the south are the fountains of Tabgha where the multiplication of the loaves and fishes took place (John 6:1-15) and where Peter received his primacy (Matt 16:18), while five kilometers to the north the Jordan River feeds into the fresh waters of the Sea of Galilee.

Capernaum was a small village of fishermen. Their catch would most likely have been sold in the markets of the nearby towns: Magdala, the native city of Mary Magdalene, and Chorazin, on the hills overlooking Capernaum, which along with the nearby Bethsaida, where Jesus healed a blind man (Mark 8:22-26), and Capernaum itself, was cursed by Jesus for its failure to repent (Matt 11:20-24, Luke 10:12-16).

Further to the south on the western coast lies Tiberias, which became capital of the region in 20 AD, while on the opposite coast one could have seen, above a promontory, the lights of the vast city of Susita (Hippos in Greek) in the territory of the Decapolis. It was either in this city, or in the lower-lying Kursi, that the Gospel story took place in which Jesus drove the demons into a herd of swine, which then rushed down a steep bank into the lake (Matt 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39).

Today fishing in the lake is forbidden in order to allow marine life to regenerate, but for centuries it was one of the principal economic activities along the lake. The call to Simon Peter and Andrew to follow Jesus took place on these very shores, while the two brothers were casting their nets into the sea (Matt 4:19; Mark 1:17).

Traces of the port of Capernaum were found during the excavations by the Franciscans. Today the beach is a tranquil spot, provided with simple facilities for welcoming pilgrims who wish to pause in prayer.

Pilgrimage Celebration

At the Shrine in Capernaum, three annual memorials celebrated:
 

  1. The Feast of the Promise of the Eucharist, the 3rd Friday of Easter;
  2. The Solemnity of St. Peter the Apostle, June 29th;
  3. The Solemnity of Capernaum, the City of Jesus, the 2nd Saturday in October.


The annual pilgrimage to Capernaum, “The City of Jesus” will commemorate three different salvific events: after his Baptism; after the arrest of John the Baptist; and before his departure for Jerusalem.

Essentially, the Gospel passages regarding the activities of Jesus in Capernaum, can be summarized into three stages:  Jesus who preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom of God; Jesus who calls the first Apostles; Jesus who heals disease and forgives sins.

The Gospel passages of Capernaum are particularly linked to the Synagogue, the House of the Apostle Peter and to the lakeshore.
Through our celebrations, we intend to memorialize precisely this: faith in the Gospel, the call to follow Christ, the Sacramental life of the Church.

The lake and e the city of Jesus

The area surrounding the Sea of Galilee can be considered today to represent a unique sanctuary, for this is the land where Jesus lived and where his nature of God and man was completely manifested. It has been said that wherever Jesus placed his foot, there a sanctuary was created.
The beauty of the area, with its thriving vegetation and “paradisiacal” atmosphere, offers the pilgrim the possibility to enter fully into the story of Jesus’ life, for this is where Jesus’ self-revelation occurred and where he dedicated himself to being a teacher, a worker of miracles and an exorcist.
Jesus passed through these places so many times, walked in these very sites, performed miracles here, and was repeatedly reflected in the waters of the lake. His voice reverberated among the inlets along the shores of the lake, proclaiming the Word of God, and it almost seems as if it has been etched into this marvelous countryside. It is remarkable how here one can recognize the slow pace of our Lord’s daily life, in his daily activities, in his experience of God made man. But it is equally extraordinary how here he was manifested in all his divinity, how here he gave us his example of Charity, Truth, Life and Way and at the same time manifested his power through miracles and healings. This is why we can affirm that this is the Lake of Jesus, bearing witness to his divinity and his saving action.

“A Cafarnao la casa del principe degli apostoli è stata trasformata in chiesa: le sue pareti restano ancora oggi come erano una volta. Là il Signore guarì il paralitico. Là c’è anche la sinagoga in cui il Signore sanò l’indemoniato.” 
Pietro Dacono (sec. XII) testo attribuito a Egeria (sec. IV).


Capernaum, together with the whole lake, is a particular place of grace. It is the Galilean village most frequently visited and served by Jesus. Here Jesus selected his disciples and called them to him one by one, making them witness to his own greatness through his life and his works. Here Jesus announced the Holy Eucharist with his discourse in the synagogue on the Bread of Life.
Jesus lived here his daily life; here is where he took the decision to reside in the house of his disciple Peter, where he met his apostles, where he was sought by all those who wanted to receive his grace and healing from his own hands. Peter’s house became a new meeting point, the center of a new community that was established around him, after the rejection he had twice received in the synagogue.
Jesus always returned to Capernaum after his voyages in Galilee, a sign of how much he loved living in this city and making it the center of his mission.

Those who come from all parts of the world to visit this holy place, and do so with courage and humility, receive a gift of joy and serenity, immersing themselves in a natural environment of great beauty.
In the spirit of the pilgrims the miracle can be renewed, as if they were there in person among the multitude who followed him and listened to him.

The Bread of Life

Gospel of St. John (John 6: 24-59)

"When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, 15 which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."
So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? ur ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day.
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day."
The Jews murmured about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring 18 among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats 19 my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum."

BIBBIA CEI 2008

The food that perishes and that which gives eternal life

In the synagogue in Capernaum Jesus identified the faith in him, who had been sent by the Father, as the work that God wanted from all men. But the Galilean crowd thought his miracles were insufficient to justify such a faith. They demanded a miracle at least equal to that of the manna that Moses had caused to fall from heaven.
No, Jesus corrected them. It was not Moses but God who sent the Israelites the manna they ate. And it was also God who presented his envoy to all men in order to satisfy their aspirations for eternal life. And Jesus is the true bread of life. And Jesus is the true bread of life. And he who does not believe in him is guilty because, in the Messianic Era, to believe it sufficed to be attracted by the grace of God.
Then came the reference to the Eucharist, to his flesh that will be offered in sacrifice for humanity. He who receives this true sustenance will receive eternal life from the one whom the Father has established to be the giver of life.
Many of the disciples found this discourse to be mysterious and difficult to accept. However, the Cross and the consequent glorification of the Crucified One was to show that the Eucharist, in the same manner as the prophetic words of the Spirit, is truly able to give life.
Not a few of his disciples, the Evangelist tells us, abandoned Jesus. But Peter, in the name of the Apostles, reaffirmed his belief in him as the Messiah whom God had sent and consecrated and whose words transmitted eternal life to whoever accepted them.

(M. Adinolfi – G. B. Buzzone, Viaggio del cuore in Terra Santa, Casale Monferrato 2000, pp. 56-57)

“Jesus Christ Our Lord, who with his ineffable love gave himself for us.” (Thomas of Celano, First Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapter XXX, [FF86])

In the Church, as in Franciscan spirituality, the mystery of the incarnation of Christ and of the gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist is both the center and culmination of the celebration of the Love of the Father for his children. This proclamation made by Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum reveals everything about his mysterious gift to men, but the consequences of these words led many of his followers to turn away. Jesus had not been understood by everyone, indeed by some was considered a fool. What the people were seeking were his miracles and healings, rather than the freshness and profundity of the message he had come to announce to all people: a message that required a more radical response and that announced his all-encompassing love for humanity, and one that was based neither on miracles nor on a God revealed through power and force.
Jesus’ Eucharistic discourse in the synagogue in Capernaum proclaimed to those who followed him, the day after the multiplication of loaves and fish, what the nature of the true bread was that did not perish. Jesus’ proclamation that only those who ate his flesh and drank his blood will have eternal life represented a difficult test of faith for his disciples. Faith was required from the disciples that time and every time. When each of us faces the consecrated bread and wine it is necessary to have the gift of faith for welcoming Christ, and in him is eternal life.

The Franciscan devotion to Jesus, the Word of God made man, and to the places sanctified by his passage produced a style of prayer that arose from the desire to conform to the image of the poor and crucified Christ. The celebration of the events of Jesus’ life materializes in the Holy Eucharist. The celebration of the votive mass of the Holy Eucharist in Capernaum represents a concrete proof of the devotion of the sons of Francis to Jesus, present in his body and blood. In the Holy Land there in fact exists a very close relationship between history and archaeology, between devotion and liturgy, so strong as to be capable of serving as the foundation stones of the spiritual tradition.
It was the first century Christians who identified the Holy Places, those places in the Middle East that had had the honor of welcoming the passage of the only-begotten Son of God, of his Holy Mother, of the Apostles, and of witnessing the events of the Old Testament. The Holy Places are the witnesses that speak in a concrete manner of the historic events that proclaimed the Word of God. Beginning in the fourth century AD, large basilicas arose throughout the Christian world at the sites of the tombs of the martyrs. In the Holy Land, it is geography that testifies to the presence of Christ: the churches of the Holy Land, the Martyria, are thus reliquaries for preserving not bones, but rather those portions of the Earth that bore the imprint of the passage of the God made man.
The constant celebration throughout the centuries in all of the Holy Places of the mysteries of Christ has produced both written and handed down practices of prayer and veneration in these Holy Places that have come to represent a liturgical and devotional heritage. This has not occurred, however, in respect to Peter’s house and the synagogue in Capernaum since, as a result of the degraded condition of the village of Capernaum, there was no continuing tradition of worship at the site. Following the arrival of the friars to the Holy Land in the 13th century, the first seeds of a rediscovered and recovered tradition were planted, as they began to go to this Holy Place in order to venerate the house of the Apostle Peter and the synagogue. The first celebrations in the ruins of Capernaum, attested to in the 15th century, took the simple form of the prayer Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory for gaining an indulgence. Later, in the 17th century, the reading of the Gospel (John 6:24-59) was added. After the sanctuary of Capernaum was acquired in 1890, the friars began to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the synagogue. Today, two solemn events are celebrated: the feast of the Holy Eucharist and that of St. Peter the Apostle. In addition, two pilgrimages are carried out, one during the Octave of Pentecost and the other during the Octave of Corpus Christi.
It is lovely to recall how, in the collect prayer dedicated to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Capernaum, the Church calls on the faithful to be worthy of participating in the Bread of Life, calls on them to have the faith to welcome the gift of the Body of Christ, calls for hope in eternal life, calls for the charity to conform themselves to Christ in their individual donations to the friars. In the prayers, God is acknowledged to be the source of all good, and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to be the greatest gift for man. Participation in the Bread of Life is also requested of God so that it may be a source of life for others. Participation in love must build brotherhood among men. The prayers stress that the force to implement this charity represented by brotherhood must have its source in the word of eternal life and in the communion with the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Miracles

Gesù si manifesta a Cafarnao attraverso la sua predicazione, ma anche attraverso i suoi miracoli e le sue guarigioni. Gesù non vuole manifestarsi con le sue opere di guarigioni, non vuole farsi pubblicità, ma i miracoli che lui compie lo rendono popolarissimo, in questo modo si avvicinerà a lui una grande folla che chiederà a lui la Grazia. Inoltre nei miracoli è possibile rilevare l’importanza della missione di Gesù, “Egli prese su di se le nostre infermità” (Is 53, 4), cioè che Gesù si fa servitore esprimendo concretamente l’amore, principio e fine dell’attività di Gesù. Tra i miracoli più emblematici ricorderemo quello della Suocera di Pietro, quello del Paralitico, del servo del centurione, dell’emorroissa e della figlia di Giairo.

 

  • The Centurion's Servant

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 8: 1-13)

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I will do it. Be made Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully."
He said to him, "I will come and cure him."
The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
And Jesus said to the centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.

Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 7:1-10)

When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, "He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us."
And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

 

  • Peter’s mother-in-law

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 8: 14-17)

Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him.
When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: "He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases."

Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 1: 29-31)

On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 4: 38-39)

After he left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. 16 Simon's mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.

 

  • The Paralytic

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 9: 1-8)

He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven."
At that, some of the scribes 2 said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming."
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.

Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 2: 1-12)

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven. "Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" - he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."
He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 5: 17-26)

One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set (him) in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles 7 into the middle in front of Jesus.
When he saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts?Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'' - he said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."

 

  • Jairus’ daughter

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 9: 18-19)

While he was saying these things to them, an official 14 came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 5: 35-43)

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. (At that) they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 8: 49-56)

While he was still speaking, someone from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer."
On hearing this, Jesus answered him, "Do not be afraid; just have faith and she will be saved."
When he arrived at the house he allowed no one to enter with him except Peter and John and James, and the child's father and mother.
All were weeping and mourning for her, when he said, "Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed him, because they knew that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called to her, "Child, arise!"
Her breath returned and she immediately arose. He then directed that she should be given something to eat.
Her parents were astounded, and he instructed them to tell no one what had happened.

 

  • The bleeding woman

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 9: 20-22)

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured.

Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 5: 25-34)

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to him, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 8: 40-48)

When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And a man named Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came forward. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter, 14 about twelve years old, and she was dying. As he went, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, 15 who (had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and) was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.
Jesus then asked, "Who touched me?" While all were denying it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you." But Jesus said, "Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me."
When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace."

 

The Call

The first action carried out by Jesus in his public ministry was a “vocation”: the calling of the first two disciples. Jesus called them by their name, he called on them to follow in his way, asking them to leave behind everything they had for the news that was to be proclaimed and the mission in which they would participate. In the first place this call required a conversion, in other words a turning of one’s own self towards Jesus and following him with the wish to conform oneself to his person. The vocation already contained a first revelation, in the name of each one of them, and Jesus gave the name Peter to Simon because his mission and his call would be that of being the rock on which the Church of Christ would be founded. The Apostles were then called one by one by their name, so that they could be identified in their uniqueness.
The first experience of one who receives the call is a strong and intimate relation with God; only this type of relation could allow the disciples, who felt loved, to choose to follow Jesus absolutely. The promise that Jesus made to Peter and Andrew was a very major one and required a complete renunciation and faith on their part. They had to leave behind their own habits and their own views, in order to receive life as a gift from God in its entirety, in order to receive the call as a new road to follow leaving aside their own personal projects. One can speak of two types of calls: one that required faith from the disciples, and another that called them to perfection, to follow unconditionally in the way of the Teacher.

The disciples encountered Jesus while they were carrying out their daily lives. It was in this context that Jesus turned to Peter and Andrew, calling on them to follow him while they were working, while they were busy in their daily lives.
Similarly, the language Jesus used with his disciples was typical of that which they used in their daily lives. He turned to them saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” From that moment, what had been a simple fisherman’s life on the Sea of Galilee became a new vocation, a mission to proclaim the Love of God, and they left behind their nets, their boats and their families in order to follow Jesus.
In addition, we should take note of the fact that those called came as a pair, two brothers were called: Peter and Andrew. This was because the basis of brotherhood is the relationship between two people, and the vocation was to be fulfilled within community life. The mission, to which they would be sent, could be carried out completely only if they shared and experienced the life of the community. And here we can see a new passage: the called disciples are sent to bring the proclamation of the Gospel and Jesus’ love for all mankind. The mission is the expression and natural result of feeling loved and called by the Lord. As has already been said, the vocation and the mission were community ones, because the community was both the point of departure and arrival for each one; indeed, it was only through their relationship with their brothers that the disciples were able to experience sonship, inasmuch as it is not possible to see yourself as a child unless you also discover yourself to be a brother. It was in this context that the Church was born, the first community of faith whose faith was rooted in Jesus.

 

The true Church: Mary and Peter

Mary the mother of Jesus also came to Capernaum, with Jesus and for Jesus (John 2:12; Mark 3:31ff.; cf. La T.S. 1990, 242-46). Here she was revealed to us and presented as “the Virgin who listens” (MC 17), as “the first disciple of her son” (Red. Mater 20): first in every sense, in time and quality (LG 58). Here, in Simon Peter’s house, she certainly met the Prince of the Apostles, thus initiating the dual Marian and Apostolic-Petrine traditions of the true Church that were emphasized by St. Bridget of Sweden in the 15th century (Revel. IV,139s) and, closer to our own time, by John Paul II (Disc. 22.12.1987).

( L. Cignelli, La grazia dei luoghi santi, Jerusalem 2005, pp. 45-46)

Mary: the mother of Jesus

“It was a case of harmonious joint action: she prayed, Jesus acted; Jesus prayed and performed miracles, she cooperated, with all the sacrifice it entailed.” (G. Venturini, La Donna di Nazareth, Genova 1988, p. 105).
The information the Bible provides regarding Mary’s stays in Capernaum is, as is usually the case, not in great detail, but it is nonetheless boundless in terms of its content and always rich with surprises. We can draw on it without end (Sal 119,96; Sap 7,14) for our edification and consolation (Acts 20:32; Rom 15:4).
Her first stay is referred to by an eyewitness: St. John the Apostle, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26), the disciple most like the Master, in the view of both St. Ephrem the Syrian (De virg. 25,9) and Maria Valtorta (o. c. 11,54 and 434).
“After this, he and his mother, his brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days” (John 2:12). It was thus a brief visit, of “only a few days”; in all likelihood she stayed in the house of Simon Peter (Mark 1:29; 2:1); and there is no record of any untoward episode having taken place. Capernaum, like Nazareth, had not yet disappointed Jesus; this would come later (Luke 4:22ff., 10:15; Matt 11:23ff.).
It goes without saying that the Lord and, with him, his Mother came to Capernaum, as earlier they had to Cana and other places, uniquely for the purpose of doing good (Luke 1:39ff., 4:31ff.; Acts 10:38). "Everything done by Jesus is a mystery and serves our salvation”, as St. Jerome noted (In Marcum 11, 1-10).
As for the Madonna, on this her first visit to Capernaum she continued the work she had officially begun in Cana: that of Mediatrix of all graces and educator of the brothers and disciples of the Son. So Mary, the faithful woman, redeemed the feminine vocation and raised it to the sublime: sowing everywhere kindness and joy (Luke 1:39ff.; John 2:1ff.); while Eve, the unfaithful woman, had sowed discord and pain (Gen 3:6ff.; Sir 25:12ff.). Naturally, here as elsewhere, the Mother did everything in perfect harmony with the Son. The two appear in the Gospel as indivisible, as they will be in the Liturgy and in the authentic life of the Church. And this is what the mystics, those poets of the spiritual world, have always taught.
Thus Mary devoted herself totally to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, “serving the mystery of Redemption” (LG 56), doing everything, so to speak, on tiptoe. On the other hand her presence, discreet though it was, was still visible. The inhabitants of the village were thus able to see her and come to know her, at least by sight, to such an extent that one day they were able to say: “Do we not know ... his mother?” (John 6:42).
Her second stay is referred to in the Synoptic Gospels, specifically in that of St. Mark who provides the fullest account of it. We will thus draw largely from his account. But first an introductory remark.
Jesus was a son different from the others and, what is more, he was challenged by the religious and political leaders of the country (Mark 2:6ff., 3:2, 6, 22ff.). His Mother followed him as she was able, and hastened to him each time that her maternal telepathy warned her of any danger. At a certain point the troublesome Prophet was even accused of being out of his mind (Mark 3:21). In practical terms,we know that the difference between a madman and a criminal is slight: both are subject to confinement for representing a danger to the public order...
Hence the worry of his relatives, in particular, his mother, for whom “all her thoughts were always and only directed towards her Son, the Son of God” (St. Bernadine of Siena).

“His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.’ But he said to them in reply, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35).
Naturally we must distinguish between the Mother and the Lord’s other relatives who, unfortunately, did not believe in him (John 7:6); she, on the other hand, is the “blessed” believer par excellence (Luke 1:45), so much so that one day the Son himself was to give her as a “mother” and support to the new family that he was forming (John 19:26ff.). He on his part cannot be outdone in generosity (Mark 10:29ff.). As the Mother leads us to the Son and gives him to us (John 2:5), so the Son leads us to the Mother and gives her to us (John 19:26). And the true believers, when they receive Jesus from Mary, so they receive Mary from Jesus (Luke 1:42ff.; John 19:27), thereby becoming participants in his filial blessedness. The Virgin Mary is in fact the most exquisite gift of the Heavenly Father to the Son made man and, through him, to all believers. “Who was more beautiful and sweeter than Mary?” (St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows). She was above all “the best of mothers” (Pope Pius IX).
This is precisely how the Catholic Church, guided by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), has always understood the event in question and another similar one (Luke 11:27ff.): “In the course of her Son’s preaching she received the words whereby in extolling a kingdom beyond the calculations and bonds of flesh and blood, He declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mark 3:35; Luke 11:27ff.) as she was faithfully doing” (cf. Luke 2:19 and 51) (LG 58): She who was “the Virgin who listens” (Mar. cultus 17), “the first disciple of her Son”, the first in time and quality (Red. Mater 20), in sum “the first in the class” (G. Meaolo).
In turn, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, with her keen intuition, pointed out the Madonna’s joy in Jesus’ words on spiritual kinship: “O Immaculate Virgin, most tender of Mothers, in listening to Jesus, you are not saddened. But you rejoice that He makes us understand how our souls become his family here below. Yes, you rejoice that He gives us his life, the infinite treasures of his divinity !… How can we not love you, O my dear Mother, on seeing so much love and so much humility?”(“Why I love you, o Mary!”, translation from the original French available on website of the Sanctuaire de Lisieux, HYPERLINK "http://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/Why-I-love-you-o-Mary.html" http://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/Why-I-love-you-o-Mary.html)
The Madonna is a mother and, as such, is free from jealousy and rivalry: it is pure love for us, the sons in the Son (Gal 3:26), and is given to each according to his need (Acts 1:14, 4:35). This is why “the Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother” (LG 53), “most loving mother” (Paul VI, Disc. 21-11-64), and imitates her “as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (LG 53).

Mary is a model for us, Paul VI declared, “for the way in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God (cf. Luke 1:38), because she heard the word of God and acted on it, and because charity and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions. She is worthy of imitation because she was the first and the most perfect of Christ’s disciples. All of this has a permanent and universal exemplary value” (Mar. cultus 35).
Thus from her, mother and model, we can and we must learn how to live the Christian faith, how to become a Church, in other words, a full and authentic humanity, liberated and promoted to the divine. And it is he himself, Jesus, who wishes it. At Cana the Mother sits us at the school of the Son (John 2:5); here, at Capernaum, it is the Son who sits us at the school of the Mother. He wants us to learn from her to become his family, that is “brother, sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). This occurs precisely through sharing in the “word/will of God” (Luke 8:21; Mark 3:35), which is in fact what made the true greatness of the Mother (Luke 1:45, 11:28) and which, for everyone, represents the secret of all spiritual vitality and fruitfulness, given that “all” are born and grow through the “living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23, 2:2; Psalms 33:9).
For us, therefore, to accept Mary in this way, as mother and model of life, is both our duty and interest. This means accepting the choice of the beloved disciple (John 19:27) and the nascent church (Acts 1:14): an extremely beneficial choice, which saves and “Christifies” (which says it all). Let us recall the prophetic words of Paul VI: “If we want to be Christians, we must be Marians” (Homily, 24 April 1970).

The Apostle Peter

Here he chose his first collaborators, or Apostles, with Simon Peter at their head (Luke 5:10ff.). From this man, who was to become his vicar, he took everything: person, profession, house, bringing all to perfection (Luke 4:38, 5:3ff.).
( L. Cignelli, La grazia dei luoghi santi, Jerusalem 2005, 45 )

The technical vocabulary used by fishermen is scattered throughout the texts, indicating that the reader should take seriously the image of fishing as a metaphor for Jesus’ work and as an image of the Church of that time (Augustan). Since Christ was present on the boat, this was to become a symbol of the Church (Massimo di Torino). The miracle relates to the fishing of men, through the ministry of grace that is the foundation of the Church and that continues to make it grow even until today. Jesus led the people to the Church through his preaching of the Gospel (Cyril of Alexandria). This Church was called to navigation just as Noah had been (Massimo di Torino). Just as the prophets had labored throughout the night, so would the Apostles. One boat represented the Jews and the other, overloaded, the Gentiles (Ephrem the Syrian). Peter, like the demons, recognized that Jesus was the Holy One of God, and his fear arose from the fact that he was in the presence of the holiness of the sinner (Cyril of Alexander). To fish men means to preach to them the kingdom of God in Jesus, and to bring them into this kingdom through the sacrament of the Church (Massimo di Torino).
(La Bibbia commentata dai Padri-Nuovo testamento a cura di A. A. Just Jr, Citta Nuova, Roma 2006. )

The Apostle Peter, Primate of the Apostles, the one who received his call on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, responded immediately and with generosity. The setting in which his calling took place was that of his daily life, which was thus already a sign of the mission that Simon would carry out in his life. Jesus said to him: “I will make you a fisher of men”, making reference to his future mission as head of the Church. Peter’s role will always be that of a leader, an important role within the group of the Apostles, he will always be the spokesmen and the point of reference. His relationship with Jesus changed him profoundly and it is noteworthy that this relationship became like that of a family, and his house became the center and place in which Jesus lived. This aspect shows the relationship of intimacy and familiarity that developed between teacher and disciple. Jesus entered into Peter’s house and lived there as if it were his own.
Peter was later to show himself to be weak and fragile, which only serves to make clear that Peter was the first by grace, not by merit!
It was in this context that Jesus gave a new name to the Apostle, who was no longer to be called Simon but Peter (Cephas/Rock), thus reaffirming his vocation: he is to be the rock foundation of the new community that Christ is establishing, calling on the disciples to follow him and live with him.

The Gospel revealed to the childlike

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 11, 25-27)

At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 18: 1-5)

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 9: 33-37)

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me."
 

Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 9: 46-48)

But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest."

Opening hours of the sanctuary:
8.00 - 17.00 (continuous)


Entrance fee:
5 shekels

Holy Masses:
Holy Masses can be celebrated at St. Peter’s Memorial by prior arrangement with the CIC. Those who wish may also use the open area with benches on the lakefront.

Feasts and celebrations:
Holy Eucharist
Solemnity of St. Peter
Pilgrimage during the Octave of Pentecost
Pilgrimage during the Octave of Corpus Christi

Reservations for Masses for priests and Catholic groups, certificates for pilgrimages in the Holy Land:
CIC - Christian Information Centre 
(inside Jaffa Gate, opposite the Citadel)
tel: +972 2 6272697
tel: +972 2 6272692

Contacts
Convento della Promessa Eucaristica
Minzar Terra Santa, P.O.B. 2257, 14122 Tiberias
Israel
Tel: +972. 04 / 672.10.59 (Convent)
+972. 04 / 679.20.64 (Nunnery)
Fax: +972. 04 / 671.59.06

How to get to Capernaum:
Capernaum is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee along road 87.
From Tiberias, there are numerous public buses going to the north; it is possible to get off at the Kfar Nahum Junction stop and continue on foot along the pedestrian walkway towards Capernaum (distance: 3.2 km).
Along the road are the sanctuaries of the Church of the Multiplication and the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Jesus Trail: http://jesustrail.com/
For those who wish to arrive to Capernaum on foot, a 65 km hiking trail has recently been opened from Nazareth which passes by the most important religious and historical sites
in this part of Galilee.

Accommodation:
In the Sea of Galilee region, Franciscan hospitality is available in Tiberias at the Casa Nova, on the Mount of Beatitudes, and in Tabgha at the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“Mount Beatitudes Hospice”
South Golan 12365, Israel
Tel: +972-4-6726712
Fax: +972-4-6726735

E-mail: ospbeat@netvision.net.it