Day 5 (Part 2) – Tabgha, Eremos and St. Peter’s Fish

Text and images on this page are from our 2014 pilgrimage. Click on the pictures to see them in larger format.

Right beside the Sea of Galilee at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes is the area of Tabgha, which means “seven springs.” It’s close to the site where the northern Jordan River dumps into the lake, warming the temperature and increasing the growth of algae, which draws the fish and makes it a prime site for fishing.

Also a prime site for fishing for men!

The earliest building in the Tabgha area is a small chapel — the Church of the Multiplication — that was built in the fourth century by a Jewish convert to Christianity. A mosaic of fish and bread in the excavated floor of the more modern church commemorates Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000. (Other than in “a solitary place,” only Luke identifies the site as further to the east near Bethsaida — Luke 9:10-17) It has a lovely, quiet courtyard that is just the spot for thinking about the Lord’s provision in our own lives.

2014-03-22 10.40.48Closer to the lake is the Church of the Primacy of Peter. Incorporating part of a 4th century church, the simple structure and beautifully landscaped grounds honor Jesus’ post-resurrection reinstatement of the Apostle Peter, commissioning him to “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19) A place of Christian pilgrimage since at least the late 300s AD, it encloses a large rock that is said to be the “table” (Mensa Christi in Latin) that Jesus used to feed the disciples a fish breakfast.

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The outside of the church is built of the local black basalt stone as are the rocks that are probably part of the ancient harbor.

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A great way to end the visit was walking along the shore and wading in the Sea of Galilee. Even “Flat Stanley,” who was brought along by literacy volunteer Lindsay Hyland, joined in the fun.

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While some of us continued to rest under the flowering trees, the adventurous among us climbed up the hillside to the Cave of Eremos. (In Greek, eremos means deserted or solitary, and Scripture tells us that Jesus often went to such a place to pray.) As with Tabgha, Christian pilgrims began visiting this site at least as early as the 4th century, and deceased archeologist Bargil Pixner was convinced that just above it was the most authentic spot for Jesus’ delivering the Sermon on the Mount. Some scholars also think that it’s more likely Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer somewhere in this area rather than near the traditionally honored site on the Mount of Olives.

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A visit to the Galilee isn’t complete without having at least a bite of the tasty St. Peter’s Fish. A form of Tilapia that originated in Africa, most of the modern day catch served in tourist restaurants is actually “farmed” on the local Kibbutzim. Still, it’s quite an experience to eat something that’s kind of watching you do it.

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Click here for more pictures of Tabgha, Eremos and fish lunch.

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