There are only a few places around the Sea of Galilee best suited to preserving the traditions of Jesus and His disciples. Tabgha is one of them.
Located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, not far from Capernaum, Tabgha teems with natural beauty — the colorful bougainvillea, the babble of pleasant springs, and abundant shade trees. The beach at Tabgha was quite familiar to Jesus and His disciples. It’s easy to envision Jesus speaking from a boat in one of the little bays, the crowds listening intently on shore.
The name Tabgha is a variation on its ancient Greek name, Heptapegon, meaning “seven springs.” Because of its warm springs, it was and still remains the ideal place to catch some tasty local tilapia, known today as St. Peter’s Fish. While it is probably more readily known for Christ’s miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish to feed a multitude (Matthew 14:13-21), it is also remembered for Jesus’ third appearance to His disciples after His Resurrection, where he tested and commissioned the apostle Peter (John 21).
Two churches commemorate these events and visitors often find these places serene locations for meditation, prayer, and Bible study:
- Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes stands on the site of a 4th-century church. Visitors can see vibrant and pristine Byzantine mosaics of local flora and fauna, as well as a variety of wildlife. The most prominent mosaic is located near the altar. It commemorates the miracle for which the church is named, showing a basket of loaves flanked by two Galilee mullet. A rock, located beneath the altar, is believed to be the site where Jesus placed the loaves and fish when He blessed them.
- Church of the Primacy of Peter overlooks Tabgha’s tranquil Galilean shoreline. The modest black basalt exterior stands starkly against its lakefront backdrop. Built in 1934, the Franciscan-run chapel is where Jesus is believed to have made His third appearance to His disciples after the Resurrection. In keeping with the biblical account, the chapel incorporates a large portion of stone at the altar, representing Mensa Christi (“table of Christ”), upon which Jesus is said to have served His disciples a fish breakfast after they landed on shore with a miraculous catch.
Of particular note to visitors is a bronze statue located in a garden outside the church which commemorates the commissioning of Peter as leader of the apostles by Jesus.