Church of the Twelve Apostles at Capernaum

Church of the Twelve Apostles at Capernaum

The Church of the Twelve Apostles is a Greek Orthodox Church located on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. The church sits on what is believed to be the outskirts of Byzantine Capernaum. The church structure was built in 1931 by the patriarch Damianus. Its name reminisces Jesus’ choosing the twelve disciples in this area. In 1975, the site came under the control of the metropolitan Germanos. Germanos restored the church and planted many trees around the site, making truly an extraordinary place.

In the autumn of 1978, Germanos turned to the Israel Antiquities Authority to conduct archaeological excavations around the church. These excavations continued for 5 seasons. Excavations were assisted by Notred Dame University, Averett College of Virginia and Missouri State University. During these excavations, a two-meter-wide wall made of basalt stone was discovered. The wall was determined to serve a dual purpose of being a jetty that could protect the city from over-flooding of the town and a dock to which fisherman could tie their boats and secure their nets for fishing. Close to this area, they discovered a fish market that consisted of a large building that several pools for storing caught fish.

In the course of excavations in Area C, a large "public building" was discovered that was used from the time after the destruction of Capernaum by the Persians in 614 CE until the middle of the the 10th century CE. There were no earlier occupation levels discovered beneath the area. The same was the case in Area B, where another large "public building" was discovered that had its origins in the 7th century CE.

Areas A, located at the summit of the site, was probably the most interesting part of the excavations that took place at Greek Orthodox Capernaum. Here a massive hoard of 282 gold Umayyad dinars were discovered beneath a stone slab in a building. Further evidence at the site such as a large boulder in the middle of a street corroborate that the site was destroyed by the major earthquake of 748 CE. The excavators would conclude that this portion of the site was completely abandoned in the 10th century CE.

One of the major conclusions of the excavations showed that just prior to the Arab arrival in the 7th century CE, there was a sizable Christian community. Some of the finds in this area included pottery plates with crosses and a glass object that had the initials (Christogram) for Jesus Christi (iota and chi).

 

Source: Biblical Archaeologist, December 1983

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