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Capernaum, House of Peter, Jesus' Home Base

One of the most important places in the life of Jesus, Capernaum (Hebrew: Kfar Nahum) was a quiet fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Located close to the ancient border of Galilee and Gaulanitis formed by the Jordan River, the village served as a border crossing, and a Roman tax collection station was set up for merchants passing through from the beyond the Jordan.  Gospel tradition reports that the village was home to the apostles Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John who were all fishermen. Matthew, who had a tax collection office in Capernaum was called by Jesus to be a disciple as well.  Leaving his mountain village Nazareth Jesus moved to Capernaum and made the village his home base during his ministry.  Jesus taught in the local synagogue on Sabbaths and the New Testament account describes Jesus performing several healing miracles in the village.  Jesus probably met Mary Magdalen here as she was from the nearby village of Magdala.  

Excavations by a German and then an Italian team associated with the Franciscan Order were carried out from 1905 to the present.  The earliest remains of Capernaum date to the Hasmonean period, around 160 BC.  The villagers used the locally available black basalt field stones to erect simple structures built around one or two courtyards. Peter's house had two courtyards, one of which served as the center of domestic activity, suggested by the presence of a taboon (a mud fireplace), the other was perhaps reserved for goats and sheep to be penned for the night. Peter's family compound probably had three generations or more living in it and space requirements grew with the family. While all the buildings in Capernaum are believed to be  only of single story, I show the large square building facing the street with a second story made of mud bricks, as unworked field stones without mortar could not be stacked up that high.  This building of Peter's family compound became a shrine shortly after the time of Jesus.  Upon Christianity's rise to power under Constantine the Great, around 320 AD, the same building was altered to accommodate pilgrims and the entire compound was walled in by an enclosure wall. A little over a hundred years later an octagonal church was erected over the site with its center positioned directly over the large square building which had formally stood there.  The new octagonal church with its rich mosaic floors rivaled the lavishly decorated synagogue built in the center of the  town from imported white limestone blocks.  There is a chance that the synagogue was built on top of an older one, whose stone floor was discovered under it, where Jesus taught on Sabbaths.

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