(Ar., eṭ-Ṭabgha, a version of the Greek name Heptapegon, “seven springs”),

site located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, 3 km (2 mi.) west of Capernaum (32°52′ N, 30°32′ E; map reference 2017 × 2532). The ancient remains and an impressive modern reconstruction of the church that commemorates the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Mt. 14:14 and parallels) and two other small chapels are found at Tabgha. The one to the north, probably dedicated to the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5), was excavated by Bellarmino Bagatti and includes a chapel with several rooms around it, dated to the Byzantine period. To the south, on the rocky lake shore, are the remains of a very small chapel excavated by Bagatti and Stanislao Loffreda (1981), dated to the Byzantine and Crusader periods. The chapel probably memorializes the postresurrection appearance of Jesus to Simon Peter (Jn. 21).

The most important building at Tabgha was the Church of the Loaves and Fishes. The site was excavated in 1911 by Karge and then in 1932 by Mader and A. M. Schneider (1934). In 1936 Schneider uncovered the earlier chapel and in 1979–1980 Renate Rosenthal and Malka Hershkovitz, for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, carried out some probes in the eastern part of the church (Rosenthal and Hershkovitz, 1980). The first chapel was built in the mid-fourth century and is one of the earliest churches in the Galilee. It is a single-apsed, one-room structure (15.5 × 9.5 m) with three pilasters on each side. It is possible that this is the site mentioned by the fourth-century Christian pilgrim Egeria as the place of the miracle of the “loaves and fishes.” She describes only an altar without mentioning a large church, however.

At the end of the fifth century a large basilical church was erected, surrounded by rows of rooms on the south, north, and west. The entire complex is 56 m long and 33 m wide. The church itself (25 × 19 m) has a transept hall. The chancel screen not only separated the bema from the rest of the church, but also the entrances to the pastophoria on both sides of the apse. In the center of the bema, in front of the altar, a mosaic depicts a basket of bread, stamped with a cross, symbolizing the “loaves.” A large stone, once part of the earlier phase of the apse, was considered a relic, probably believed to be the mensa Christi (“altar used by Christ”). Two Greek inscriptions were found, one on the bema and the other at the door to the prothesis, that give the name of the mosaic maker and probably the name of Martyrius, the patriarch of Jerusalem from 478 to 486. In one of the rooms to the north, parts of olive presses were found. The southern wing of the complex was badly ruined, but it is possible that it contained more rooms. This wing and the existence of an oil press might identify this part of the complex as a monastery, rather than just a pilgrims' church.

[See also Basilica; Churches; Monasteries; Mosaics; and the biography of Bagatti.]

Bibliography

  • Loffreda, Stanislao. Scavi di et-Tabgha: Relazione finale della campagna di scavi 25 marzo–20 giugno 1969. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Collectio Minor, 7. Jerusalem, 1970.
  • Loffreda, Stanislao. The Sanctuaries of Tabgha. 2d ed. Jerusalem, 1981.
    Less technical presentation than the above volume
    .
  • Pixner, Bargil. “The Miracles Church at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee.” Biblical Archaeologist 48 (1985): 196–206.
    Good illustrations of the ancient and modern churches
    .
  • Rosenthal, Renate, and Malka Hershkovitz. “Tabgha.” Israel Exploration Journal 30 (1980): 207.
  • Schneider, A. M. The Church of the Multiplying of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha on the Sea of Gennesaret and Its Mosaics. London, 1937. Translation of the original German edition (Paderborn, 1934).
  • Shenhav, Dodo J. “Loaves and Fishes Mosaic near Sea of Galilee Restored.” Biblical Archaeology Review 10.3 (1984): 22–31.

Mordechai Aviam