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House of St. Peter
House of St. Peter Review
For Christians, Capernaum is among the most moving places in Israel, because it's where Jesus established his base for three years and recruited some of his disciples ("Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" ). It is also the site of the House of St. Peter, the ruins of an actual home where Jesus is believed to have lodged.
Built astride the ruins of Peter's house is a modern Franciscan church, and many tourists are touched by the sight of this Christian house of worship and a beautifully manicured garden built next to the room where Jesus is believed to have slept. (There is also a red-domed Greek Orthodox monastery here, but it is seldom visited.)
Capernaum is also a site of interest to Jews, and the prosperity of the ancient Jewish community (it is Kfar Nahum in Hebrew) is immediately apparent from the remains of its synagogue, which dominates the complex. (It was excavated by the Franciscan friars in the early 20th century and partly restored.) The ancient Jewish community went to the expense of transporting white limestone blocks from afar to set the building off from the town's crudely built basalt houses. Stone benches line the inside walls, recalling the synagogue's original primary function as a place where the Torah was read. Once thought to date to the 2nd or 3rd century AD, the synagogue is now regarded by many scholars as belonging to the later Byzantine period (4th-5th centuries AD). It is certainly not the actual one in which Jesus taught, but since consecrated ground was often reused, the small earlier structure in the excavation pit in the present building's southeastern corner may have been.
Limestone reliefs that once graced the synagogue exterior represent a typical range of Jewish artistic motifs: the native fruits of the land, the biblical Ark of the Covenant, a seven-branched menorah, a shofar, and an incense shovel (to preserve the memory of the Temple in Jerusalem, where they were used prior to the city's destruction in AD 70). A small 1st-century mosaic from Magdala shows a contemporary boat, complete with oars and sails—a dramatic illustration of the many New Testament and Jewish references to fishing on the lake.
Jesus eventually cursed the people of Capernaum for failing to heed his message, saying "And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you" (Matthew 11:23-24).
If you're visiting Capernaum, dress appropriately: you won't be allowed in if you're wearing shorts or a sleeveless shirt.
- Address: Rte. 87, Capernaum
- Phone: 04/672-1059
- Cost: NIS 3
- Hours: Daily 8:30--11:30 and 3:30--4:45
- Location: Capernaum
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