Orthodox Church at Capernaum: After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. (John 2:12)
Capernaum is on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, near the ancient road from Tiberias. Capernaum lies east of Jordan. Most of Capernaum is in ruins, but the Orthodox Church at Capernaum, sometimes called the Greek Orthodox Church of the Seven Apostles, lies to the east side of this simple village. This red domed church stands out amidst the simplicity of the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. The stained glass and the exquisite paintings of Biblical events are breathtaking.
The location of the church marks the site of the relocation of Capernaum after a major earthquake in the 700s. The church is dedicated to the seven apostles commissioned by Jesus on the shores around Capernaum (Peter, Thomas Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples). This story is recounted in the Gospel of John when Jesus chooses fishermen on the side of the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus appears to his disciples there again after his resurrection.
The Orthodox Church of Capernaum was built in the middle of the ruins of an earlier Roman city called Kfar Nahum (Capernaum). The remains of the village immediately surrounding the Orthodox Church of Capernaum have not been excavated. The village surrounding the Synagogue in Capernaum, however, has been excavated and studied. The Orthodox Church at Capernaum actually owns one third of all the ruins at Capernaum. These ruins span 60 Dunams or 6 Hectares.
The village was established during the Hellenistic period, so it was built in the styles of that period. It was a suburban style with a lot of straight lines. This ancient village prospered during the Roman times and the Byzantine period. During the sixth century, the Persians conquered the village and destroyed all the architecture there.
The modern Orthodox Church at Capernaum was then built in 1931. During the early 1900s, many of the surrounding buildings were also constructed. Excavations which took place between 1978 and 1982 uncovered the original fishing village of Jesus’ youth. The houses surrounding the Orthodox Church at Capernaum were built of black basalt, which would have been abundant.
There were also the remnants of a two meter wide basalt wall running along the shoreline of Capernaum. It might have originally run along the entire lakefront of the Sea of Galilee. There is a 20 meter wide break in the wall near the Orthodox Church at Capernaum. It is framed by two stone jetties extending into the lake at right angles. It is presumed that this structure would have provided a sheltered place to anchor the fishing boats and a slip to aid in hauling the boats out of the water.