The day dawned bright and clear and it promised to be a perfect day. And it really was…
After a hearty breakfast of pastries and coffee, we headed north towards the Sea of Galilee. Our first planned stop was the Horns of Hattin. Below the Horns the decisive battle between The Crusader army under King Guy and the Muslim army under Saladin took place in 1187 AD. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, King Guy made a crucial error by not stopping his army at a place where he could get water. Saladin’s army surrounded them and basically waited until they were dying of thirst before moving in and claiming complete victory. Though there is not much left of the battlefield now, the surrounding area is very pastoral with a few cows, sheep and horses milling about. We also decided not to walk to the top of the Horns as we had a few other things to do before the day was complete.
We arrived next at the Capernaum Historic Site along the Sea of Galilee. This was the area that Jesus spent much of his adult life and recruited many of his disciples. Before we started to poke around within the ancient ruins, we walked down to the Sea and just sat on the rocks for a few minutes. The day was warm and the water was calm. We imagined the disciples out on the water, fishing and coming up with nothing. We could almost hear Jesus telling them to try the other side of the boat and watching as they pulled up netfuls of fish. It was peaceful and magical at the same time. We headed back up to the ruins of the historic site. These include many ancient houses dating back to the 1st century CE. Archaeologists are quite certain that Peter’s house is among these ruins and in fact, the Catholic church that currently stands over it has a glass floor so that you can clearly see this house and the first church built on the site from the 5th century. Next to the church, the mostly intact remnants of the Synagogue, also dating from the 5th century, are clearly visible. We really did feel like we were walking in The Master’s footsteps as we wandered about.
The guide book said that you should not miss the Greek Orthodox church that stands just a few hundred meters away from the Capernaum Historic Site. Though you can throw a rock and hit the church, we actually had to drive a couple of kilometers in order to get to it. We were definitely not disappointed. The interior of the church was absolutely beautiful with colorful paintings depicting many of our favorite bible stories. The gardens were lovely as well with chickens, peacocks, and roosters wandering around the grounds adding their own voices to the human ones that were following them about. We took a few pictures and then retraced our route back to Tabgha.
The region of Tabgha, along the shore of Galilee has a number of historical significances, most notably the Church of the Multiplication (of the loaves and fishes) and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. It is believed that the Church of the Multiplication is the site where Jesus blessed the five loaves and two fish that fed the multitudes. Over the years the church has had many facelifts and though it is quite ancient, it did not have the ancient feel that many of the other churches did. The Church of the Primacy on the other hand really does have an air of authenticity to it. Also along the Sea of Galilee, this church, built in 1933 by the Franciscans over a flat rock that the Byzantines believed was the Mensa Christi, is less impressive than some of the other churches that we have seen but seems to enjoy a quietness that other churches are lacking. We spent some time here just drinking in the serenity.
We continued on our walk towards Job’s Spring. However, due to the rain over the last few days, the path was very muddy and we were unable to navigate it. Instead, we stumbled onto the walking path to the Mount of the Beatitudes and rather than go back for the car, decided to hoof it up the hill. We arrived at the top just as they were opening for the afternoon and we followed the rest of the tourists inside. The view of the Sea of Galilee from this vantage point is wonderful. Though no one is certain that this is actually THE MOUNT, it stands to reason that it definitely could be. Its proximity to Capernaum as well as the fact that it looks out over the valley of Gennesaret below where thousands of people can gather, gives the theory some credibility. The church, built in 1938 is octogonal and features one of the eight beatitudes in each stained glass window. We wandered around the beautiful gardens surrounding the church before we decided that it was time to head back down to the car. Our plan was to get to the River Jordan to the spot where Jesus was baptized but realized that it was much too late to get there before the site closed for the day. Instead, we took the long way back to Nazareth through Tiberius along the Sea of Galilee. Though there is nothing here that we really needed to see, the historical significance is that Herod Antipas built one of his palaces here to rival his father’s palace at Caesarea, along the Mediterranean. It also gave us another route home so we could see more of the beautiful countryside.
We feel that we have now exhausted the northeast side of Nazareth and tomorrow we will head to the west towards the Mediterranean. We are looking forward to another perfect day!!
The Horns of Hattin battlefield. Doesn’t look like much now, but watch the Kingdom of Heaven. Looks better in the movie.
The Sea of Galilee and Capernaum.
What is left of the Synagogue.
Ruins of typical homes from 2000 years ago.
The Church of Peter.
Greek Orthodox Church in Capernaum which was very beautiful inside.
Fishing in the Sea of Galilee.
Tabgha, the feeding of the Multitude.
Peter’s Primacy in commemoration of Peter being granted the Keys to the Kingdom.
The inscription on the plaque of the statue below says “Feed my Lambs”
The Mount of the Beatitudes.
As we were walking around the Mount of the Beatitudes we came upon a small chapel that was celebrating the Eucharist so I snuck a quick video.
We thought we were finished taking pictures for the day as we were heading down the Mount of Beatitudes back to the car when we came upon a young man sitting in a cave. He told us that according to tradition this was a quiet spot where Jesus would come to pray on his own. Is it accurate? Like most of the sites we have visited in the Holy Land is anyone really 100% sure? Does it really matter? For us it has been the experience and knowing that even if they are not the exact locations we are as close as we or anyone will ever be and for us it has been amazing so far.