Ancient Church discovered near Mt. Tabor


It seems that almost every time there is digging related to a new project in Israel, something ancient is discovered. Such was the case with the development of a new Jewish National fund sponsored playground in the Lower Galilee. A 1,300-year old church with ornate mosaic floors was discovered in the village of Kfar Kama near Mt. Tabor.

Situated in the Lower Galilee the ancient church was colorfully decorated with geometric and floral patterns of blue, black and red. Also discovered was a small reliquary, a stone box to preserve sacred relics. 

View of the church site  near Mt. Tabor
Photo courtesy: Elcas Vigman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologist Nurit Feig, who led the excavations, said that the 12 by 36 meter church contained a large courtyard, a narthex foyer, and a central hall. Interestingly while most churches were characterized by a single apse, this church had three apses or prayer niches. Earlier this week,  the Catholic Archbishop, Dr. Youssef Matta, Head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, visited the site to view the ancient remains.

Archibishop Dr. Youssef Mata visits the site
Archibishop Dr. Youssef Mata visits the site; Photo courtesy: Elcas Vigman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Additional rooms at  the site have not yet been excavated but archaeologists believe that the complex may have been a monastery.

Mosaic floor in the church. Photo credit: Elcas Vigman, Israel Antiquities Authority

In the early 1960s, a smaller church,with two chapels, also dated to the first half of the 6th century CE   was excavated inside the village of Kfar Kama. According to Prof. Moti Aviam, believed that that discovery was of the  village church, while the recent discovery is a monastery on the outskirts of town.

This new discovery  underscores the importance of early Christian settlement in this region during the Byzantine period. The area lies close to Mt. Tabor,  a prominent Christian site considered to be the location of the transfiguration of Jesus.

Prof. Moti Aviam and Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi, of the Kinneret Institute of Galilean Archaeology in the Kinneret Academic College, are  conducting extensive research on Christian settlement in the Galilee.

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