Since 1990, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29) has been celebrated with special devotion in the modern church built over Peter’s house in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed there (Mt 8:14-15, Mk 1:29-31, and Lk 4:38-39). Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse (Jn 6:22-59) was given in the city’s synagogue. The current synagogue ruins, the oldest and best-preserved ones in Israel, date to the fifth century AD, but they rest atop an earlier synagogue.
In 1894, Franciscan friars bought the unused land containing the synagogue, which was excavated by Friars Wendelin von Menden and Gaudenzio Orfali. Over the course of 19 summers, Friars Virgilio Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda of Jerusalem’s Studium Biblicum Franciscanum excavated the “house of Peter.” That structure is under a fifth-century octagonal church built over an earlier church incorporating a first century octagonal house—obviously an important spot for early Christians.
The modern octagonal church contains a central open area allowing visitors to see the fifth-century church and earlier nearby buildings. Maps, documentation, and a virtual tour can be accessed through the “Sanctuaries” link at custodia.org. Pope Paul VI visited Capernaum in 1964; St. John Paul II went there in 2000.
This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger. To subscribe to this award-winning publication, click here.
Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons