Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed a 1,300-year-old Christian church that is a short distance from the traditional site of Jesus’ transfiguration.
The church, about 118 feet by 39 feet, includes “ornate mosaic floors” and was recently found in an excavation in the Israeli village of Kfar Kama, which is about a two-hour drive north of Jerusalem. Kfar Kama is a few miles from Mount Tabor, which Origen – a third-century theologian – said was the site of Jesus’ Transfiguration.
The archaeological find was announced in a press release by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Catholic Archbishop Youssef Matta of Israel visited the site.
“The new discovery hints at the apparent importance of the Christian village settled in the Byzantine period close to Mount Tabor, a site of primary religious significance for Christianity, identified as the site of the Transfiguration,” the press release said.
The excavation took place prior to the building of a playground. It was directed by archaeologist Nurit Feig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with Moti Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, according to the press release.
The church includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer and a central hall, Feig said.
“Particular to this church is the existence of three apses [prayer niches], while most churches were characterized by a single apse,” Feig said. “The nave and the aisles were paved with mosaics which partially survived. Their colorful decoration stands out, incorporating geometric patterns, and blue, black and red floral patterns.”
A “special discovery,” Feig said, was “a stone box used to preserve sacred relics.”
Additional rooms were partially uncovered near the church, and a radar inspection showed there are additional rooms yet to be excavated.
In the early 1960s, a “smaller church with two chapels was excavated” within Kfar Kama and was dated to the first half of the sixth century. Said Aviam, “This was probably the village church, whilst the church now discovered was probably part of a contemporary monastery on the outskirts of the village.”
As told in Matthew 17, Jesus’ transfiguration took place “up a high mountain” as Peter, James and John watched. Jesus’ face “shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Moses and Elijah also were seen.
Photo courtesy: ©Israeli Government/Alex Wiegmann/Israel Antiquities Authority
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.