Church of the Multiplication
|Church of the Multiplication|
Exterior of the Church
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, shortened to (The Church of the Multiplication), is a Roman Catholic church located in Tabgha, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The modern church rests on the site of two earlier churches.
"Not far away from there (Capernaum) are some stone steps where the Lord stood. And in the same place by the sea is a grassy field with plenty of hay and many palm trees. By them are seven springs, each flowing strongly. And this is the field where the Lord fed the people with the five loaves and two fishes. In fact the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has now been made into an altar. Past the walls of this church goes the public highway on which the Apostle Matthew had his place of custom. Near there on a mountain is a cave to which the Savior climbed and spoke the Beatitudes."
The church was significantly enlarged around the year 480 with floor mosaics also added at this time. These renovations are attributed to the patriarch Matryrios. In 614 Persians destroyed the original Byzantine church and the exact site of the shrine was lost for some 1,300 years. In 1888 the site was acquired by the German catholic society (Deutsche Katholische Palaestinamission) which was associated with the Archdiocese of Cologne. An initial archeological survey was conducted in 1892, with full excavations beginning in 1932. These excavations resulted in the discovery of mosaic floors from the 5th-century church, which was also found to be built on the foundations of a much smaller 4th-century chapel. The current church was built to the same floor plan as the 5th-century Byzantine church. Since 1939 it has been administered by the Benedictine order as a daughter-house of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem.
The interior of the church has a central nave and two aisles. The sanctuary is backed by an apse with transepts on either side. Under the altar is a block of limestone found during excavation, that is venerated as the stone on which the miraculous meal was laid.
One of the main highlights of the church are its restored 5th century mosaics. These mosaics are the earliest known examples of figured pavement in Christian art in the Holy Land. The mosaics in the two transepts depict various wetland birds and plants, with a prominent place given to the lotus flower. This flower, which is not indigenous to the area, suggests the artists use of a Nilotic landscape popular in Roman and early-Byzantine art. All the other motifs depict plants and animals from the Galilee. The mosaics found in front of the altar depict two fish flanking a basket containing loaves of bread.
Fifth Century Remains
Also preserved in the modern church are the sill of the left entrance to the atrium, basalt paving stones, and part of the apse frieze. The foundations of the original 4th-century church can also be seen under a glass panel to the right of the altar. Basalt presses and a font are also displayed in the courtyard.