Church of the Transfiguration: After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. (Mark 2:9)
Hours: Sun-Fri 8am to noon and 2pm to 5pm
Closed Saturday and during services
The Church of the Transfiguration, also called Church of the Savior, is located on Mount Tabor in Galilee. Mount Tabor overlooks the Jezreel Valley. Cars and buses are not permitted up the mountain, so hikers can walk the 4,300 steps built in the 4th century specifically for Christian pilgrims. There is also a biking option on the narrow path on the north side.
As early as the 4th century, Christians identified a rock at the top of Mount Tabor as the place Jesus Christ transfigured before Peter, James and John (three of his disciples). This is the event mentioned in the Gospels when Jesus Christ’s face starting the shine, and his clothes turned bright white in front of his friends.
The Church of the Transfiguration is a Franciscan church built in 1924, though it stands in the same location as earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches. In the crypt, the west door is blocked by the new entrance. Just south of that entrance there is a 12th century wall tomb and a mosaic floor, which was carefully relaid in 1924.
Just west of the Church of the Transfiguration is a small chapel in ruins. It is thought that this chapel was probably a private chapel of the abbot during the 12th century. The entrance is in the south wall which is lined with benches. Two steps lead to the sanctuary.
Due to the high location, Mount Tabor was often used as a fortress. It was around 358, when the Mount was actually considered as the place of the transfiguration. Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem was the first to look at the evidence for the preference of Mount Tabor over Mount Hermon as the location of Jesus Christ’s transfiguration.Within 40 years of his assertion, there was a church on the site.
By the 500s, the Byzantines had built three churches on the mountain. They were either all called the Church of the Transfiguration or perhaps one was erected for Jesus Christ, another for Moses and the third for Elijah. This is a possibility, because the Bible records Elijah and Moses appearing before Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration.
In the 7th century, there is a Monastery of the Transfiguration, built very close to where the Church of the Transfiguration now resides. There were Greek monks mentioned in the 9th century worshipping on Mount Tabor. During the Crusader period, hermits lived in the hills, and the place of Jesus Christ’s Transfiguration was of great importance.
During the 12th century, the Byzantines built the Church of the Transfiguration, enclosing the three smaller chapels. For the next hundred years, invaders took Mount Tabor and fortified most of the sacred land. The Greek Monastery was destroyed, but the Church of the Transfiguration remained intact. In fact, Christian pilgrims continued to make the trek to visit this holy place.
Unfortunately, in 1263 the Mumlaks destroyed the Church of the Transfiguration. It remains in ruins for hundreds of years, as Christians in the 14th century are recorded as placing flags high atop the ruins to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration.
The Franciscans were permitted to live on Mount Tabor starting in 1631. They mainly just lived within the ruins until they discovered the former Church of the Transfiguration in 1854. They began the reconstruction, which was finished 1924.