About Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is a Franciscan Chapel in Tabgha in Israel built in 1933 on the site where Jesus is believed to have reinstated Peter as the head of the Apostles. This was the third time that Jesus had appeared to his disciples.
Parts of the current structure of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter derive from a 4th century church that once stood there.
Church of the Primacy of St. Peter history
The modern structure was built in 1933 and incorporates parts of an earlier 4th century church. At the base of its walls the foundations of the 4th century church are visible. In the 9th century, the church was referred to as the Place of the Coals. This name refers to the incident of Jesus’ preparation of meal for the apostles, building a charcoal fire on which to cook the fish. Also first mentioned in the year 808 are the “Twelve Thrones”, a series of heart shaped stones, which were placed along the shore to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. The church survived longer than any other in the area, finally being destroyed in 1263.
The present Franciscan chapel was built on the site in 1933. This church was included in the itineraries of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II during their visits to Israel in 1964 and March 2000 respectively.
The church contains a projection of limestone rock in front of the present altar which is venerated as a “Mensa Christi”, Latin for table of Christ. According to tradition this is the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to “Feed my sheep” after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection. (John 21:1–24) It is disputed whether this table or the one enshrined at the nearby Church of the Multiplication, is the one mentioned by the pilgrim Egeria in her narrative of the Holy Land circa 380. There is also another table of Christ enshrined at the Mensa Christi Church in Nazareth.
Church of the Primacy of St. Peter today
The Franciscan chapel is small and made of grey stone, with a modest tower in one corner. It is pleasantly located right on the northwest shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.
At the base of the chapel’s walls on the west end, the walls of the late 4th-century church are clearly visible on three sides.
Mosaic decorations are displayed on the floor of the church, depicting flora and fauna of the area in vibrant colours. The best known mosaic lies near the altar and refers to the miracle the church commemorates, showing a basket of loaves, flanked by two fish.
After being rebuilt in 1933, the church has been visited by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, as well as by the thousands of Christians travelling to Israel on an annual basis.
Getting to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
Tabgha is at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes, about 3km south-west of Capernaum.
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