The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes: His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (Mark 8:4)
Monday-Saturday 8:30 to 5; Sunday 10 to 5
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is also known as the Church of the Multiplication. It is located in Tabgha, which is on the northwest shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. This Benedictine Church is located near the junction of highways 87 and 90, just north of Tiberias. Though the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is fairly modern structurally, it stands where the 4th century church once stood. There is an exquisite mosaic preserved from the original chapel. The stone table that the famous meal was supposedly served is also part of the ornamentation of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
This large piece of limestone sits under the altar at the front of the sanctuary. Visitors are not allowed to touch this commemorative table, as pilgrims used to chip away at it for a souvenir. On the floor right by the altar is a restored mosaic of two fishes and a basket of bread, again memorializing the miracle Jesus Christ performed when he fed over 5000 people with only two fishes and five loaves.
There is also a mosaiced floor of special interest as it is the oldest extant Palestinian Christian art! In an age when repeated geometric pattern was the extent of tile work, this artist created free-flowing design. Prominence is given to the bell-shaped lotus flower, though the floor mosaic includes many plants and animals. The lotus flower is not found near the Sea of Galilee, so we can assume the Palestinian artist was influenced by the Hellenistic styles popular during the 4th century. The rest of the plants depicted are native to Galilee and are detailed enough visitors can identify each plant!
There are a few other Byzantine era structures preserved in the modern Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. Visitors can still see the basalt paving stones of the atrium and a portion of the frieze in the apse. The actual foundation of the 4th century church is under glass for protection.
The miracle of Jesus Christ feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves happens just before Jesus Christ walked on the water in Mark 6. The only location listed is a remote place on the shore of Galilee. When the 5000 followers came up to Jesus and his disciples getting off a boat, there were no villages nearby. So the location, Biblically, is simply off the shore of the Sea of Galilee far from the next town.
It is possible that the current location of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is where the feeding took place. It was a natural place for picnics, even back in the Byzantine period. It has rolling hills and shade trees in abundance. It is necessarily the spot? We’ll never know.
The original Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes was built in 350. It was quite small and faced a different direction than the modern structure. A Spanish pilgrim named Egeria visited the church in the late 4th century and wrote about the limestone table, the altar and the lovely scenery.
In 480, the church was enlarged by the patriarch Matryrios. This is when the beautiful floor mosaic was added. The mosaics were repaired in the 6th century, but the church was destroyed in 685.
The Deutsche Verien vom Heilige Lande bought land where the future Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes would sit and excavated it in 1932. He was sure to place a cover over the mosaics in the mid 1930s. In 1982 the modern church was built.