Situation and characteristicsThe "place of the seven springs", known in Arabic as Tabgha and in Hebrew as En Sheva, is the traditional site of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 8,1-9). The access to the site (12km/7.5mi from Tiberias) is on the right of the road to Capernaum, which turns right off the road running north from Tiberias.HistoryThe first church on the site, an aisleless building measuring 15.50m/51ft by 9.50m/31ft, was built in the fourth century. In the fifth century it was replaced by a larger three-aisled cruciform basilica. The mosaics of this second church, excavated by Mader and Schneider in 1932, were housed in a new church built over them, adjoining which a monastery was founded by German Benedictines in 1956. The third church in turn was demolished and replaced by a new one, built in 1980-82 by the German Holy Land Association of Cologne.
Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves
The new Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves in Tabgha was designed by the Cologne architects Anton Goergen and Fritz Baumann.The mosaics in the nave and north aisle are in simple geometric designs, while those in the five spaces between the columns depict a variety of birds (geese, herons, etc.). The most interesting mosaics, however, are in the transepts, those in the north transept being almost completely preserved. The artist was evidently familiar with the Nile delta, and may even have come from there, for he depicts the flora and fauna of that region - flamingoes, snakes, herons and ducks, in a setting of lotus flowers, reeds, etc. The mosaics in the south transept, which are only partly preserved, are on similar themes, and also show a Nilometer, a device for measuring the level of the river.The altar in the sanctuary is built over the stone on which tradition has it that Christ stood during the multiplication of the loaves. In front of it is a mosaic depicting a basket containing loaves flanked by two fishes.
Chapel of the Primacy (St Peter's Church)
200m/220yds farther along the road to Capernaum from the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves in Tabgha a footpath goes off on the right and, passing a Byzantine structure enclosing a spring, runs down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Chapel of the Primacy, also known as St Peter's Church. A chapel built here in the fourth century was destroyed in 1263; the present chapel, in black basalt, was built by the Franciscans in 1933. This simple aisleless building commemorates the appearance of the risen Christ to his disciples on the shores of the lake, when he gave Peter primacy over the church with the thrice repeated injunction: "Feed my lambs ... Feed my sheep ... Feed my sheep" (John 21,15-16). The rock at the east end of the chapel is supposed to be the table at which Christ dined with the disciples. The rock-cut steps leading down to the lake on the south side of the chapel were described by the pilgrim Aetheria about 400 as "the steps on which the Lord stood".
Monastery of the Sermon on the Mount
Between the roads leading to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Chapel of the Primacy in Tabgha, immediately north of the Capernaum road, are the remains of the small Monastery of the Sermon on the Mount, founded in the fourth century at about the same time as the first Church of the Multiplication and Chapel of the Primacy. On the south side of the complex are the conventual buildings, on the north side the church, the apse of which, with benches for the priests, projects beyond the enclosure wall. This little aisleless church measures only 7.20m/24ft by 4.48m/15ft. The narthex and nave had mosaic pavements (remains in the archeological park at Capernaum). The square sacristy on the north side is entirely hewn from the native rock. The church, built of basalt, with an altar of white marble, existed until the beginning of the Muslim period (seventh century); in 1938 it was replaced by a new church higher up on the Mount of the Beatitudes.