The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter: Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. (John 21:12-13)
Hours: 8am to noon, 2pm to 5pm
The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter is a simple Franciscan chapel with remains of the original church from the 4th century. It is located in Tabgha, which is a small village on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. It is dedicated to the morning when Jesus had a fish breakfast and welcomed Peter back to the “fold” after his denial of Jesus to the crowd after his capture.
This modest chapel is made of grey stone, with a simple tower on one side. It sets along the northwest shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. The walls of the original 4th century church can still be seen at the base of the chapel walls on the west end. The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, like the former church, incorporates the Mensa Christi (table of Jesus) in its interior. This is the spot followers believe Jesus served the fish breakfast at the reinstatement of Peter.
There are rock-cut steps on the lake side of the chapel. There are six double heart-shaped, double-columned blocks known as the Twelve Thrones. They give homage to the twelve apostles, though these columns can be completely under water if the level is high in the Sea of Galilee.
Besides the beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee, there are Byzantine water towers near the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter. They were originally used to raise the water level in nearby springs and force it through a series of irrigation tunnels. There is also a Crusader building just outside the chapel.
In John 21, in the Bible, Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Peter and several others had gone out that night to fish, albeit unsuccessfully. A man (later to be recognized as Jesus) told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and it worked! They then caught lots of fish.
Recognizing Jesus, Peter wades to shore, and the others follow. Jesus has prepared fish over a fire and provided bread. After they all eat breakfast, Jesus commissions Peter to “feed my sheep,” thus reinstating him after Peter’s denial of Christ.
In the late 4th century, a Spanish pilgrim named Egeria visited the area and mentions the stone steps where Jesus stood. He doesn’t mention the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, but one was built a few years later by the end of the 4th century.
In the 9th century, the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter was actually called the “Church of the Coals,” referring to the coals Jesus used to cook the fish. By this time the twelve pillars had been added for the apostles. The original church was destroyed in 1263. The current Franciscan chapel was built in 1933.