Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed the remains of a large 1,300-year-old church near Mount Tabor in northern Israel. The newly discovered church is a short distance from the traditional site of Jesus’ transfiguration as recorded in the Gospels.
The Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with the Kinneret Academic College discovered the historic church while conducted an excavation in the Israeli village of Kfar Kama.
The excavation is part of a larger archaeological project on churches in the Holy Land and the eastern Mediterranean. The Israel Science Foundation is funding the initiative.
Lead archaeologist Nurit Feig described the findings.
“The church, measuring 12×36 [meters], includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer, and a central hall. Particular to this church is the existence of three apses (prayer niches), while most churches were characterized by a single apse,” Feig said.
Archaeologists discovered “ornate mosaic floors,” in geometric patterns, including blue geometric red tiles. A saint’s reliquary was also unearthed, but there is no indication to which saint’s bones were found inside the small stone box.
Archaeologists also said there were additional rooms at the site that have yet to be excavated. This has led researchers to believe that the church may have been part of a larger monastery.
Third-century theologian Origen said that Mount Tabor was the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the first century. It is where Jesus took his disciples Peter, James, and John when they witnessed the Savior’s face and clothing shine with bright rays of light. Moses and Elijah also made an appearance.
“The new discovery hints at the apparent importance of the Christian village settled in the Byzantine period close to Mount Tabor, a site of primary religious significance for Christianity, identified as the site of the Transfiguration,” the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release said.
Prof. Moti Aviam of the Kinneret Academic College says the current excavation project is trying to find some connections between the village of Kfar Kama and Byzantine history.
“If Kfar Kama in antiquity was an important town, what is the connection to villages around it? What is the connection of the town to the monks?” he asked. “We’re trying to collect all the evidence from the field. All the information is important to build the story of the Galilee of the Byzantine period.”