The Topography

It is clear from the archaeological evidence that Capernaum was relatively large city compared to the other villages along the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was situated on the trade route Via Maris which connected Mediterranean coastal cities with Damascus.  That is why a garrison of Roman army stationed there and a tax collectors, one of whom, Matthew, became Jesus' disciple. (Mt.9:9)

Fishing was the main industry in the area. There were seven anchorages in Capernaum. 

The Sea of Galilee view
The Sea of Galilee view

 Where did Jesus live during the years of His ministry? 

 "Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;  and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles

The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,

And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”


Following the narrative of the Gospel of John we can trace the topography of His travelings between Galilee and Judea. ( John 1:43)

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me. 

Then Jesus visits Cana. John 2:1-2

 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

After the wedding ... (John 2:12)

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

Then He goes to Jerusalem. (v.13)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

He leaves Jerusalem after the feast. (John 3:22)

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized

The spirit of competition arose among the disciples of John and of Jesus. He has to leave Judea. (John 4:3-4)

So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria.

After successful events in Samaria Jesus decides to go back to Cana. (John 4:46)

 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum

Healing of the official's son John counts as the second Jesus' miracle. (v.54)

 As the Feast of Tabernacles approaches Jesus obliged to the Law of Moses ascends to Jerusalem again. ( John 5:1) 

"After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem

 His activity, sermons and healings on Sabbath day make staying in Jerusalem extremely dangerous and so He has to leave." (John 6:1)

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias

 Afterwards back to Capernaum. (John 6:16)

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.

Jesus walks on the surface of the water towards the boat...

John 7:1.

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him".

 It is important to understand that John does not mean "all the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill Jesus". The same Jews in Galilee obviously did not want to kill Him. John probably means Judeans who lived in Judea.

Miracles in Capernaum

At the entrance
At the entrance

The Gospel calls Capernaum His town.

"Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city."

(Matthew 9:1)

There were so many miracles Jesus performed in Capernaum.

He thought it would lead people to believe in His calling.

 He healed a paralytic.

"And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

(Matthew 9:2)

 He healed a woman with the blood issue.

"And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well."

(Matthew 9:20-22)

 He opened the eyes of two blind people.

"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, it shall be done to you according to your faith.”And their eyes were opened."

(Matthew 9:27-30)

 He healed a man with a dry hand on Sabbath day.

And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.  After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored."
(Mark 3:4-6)
 He cleansed man from the leprosy.

"While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him."

(Luke 5:12-13)

 He healed a demon-possessed man.

 "As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him.  After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."

(Matthew 9:32-33)

 And He even healed Peter's mother-in-law from fever and afterwards stayed  and lived in her house.

 "And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them."

(Mark 1:29-31)

 He healed a servant of a Roman official who was praised among the Jews. He built them a synagogue.

 "And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “[Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health."

(Luke 7:1-10)

Jesus was surprised by the simple faith of this heathen.


The etymology of  the name "Capernaum" perhaps derived from  the phrase "village of Nahum".  (Kfar is village in Hebrew). Population of this town in Jesus' times was around 1500 people.

Gospels of Luke and John tell that Capernaum was home town of Jesus' disciples Simon and his brother Andrew, James, John, tax collector Matthew. The gospel of Luke informs us that town's synagogue was built by the Roman centurion (Luke 7).

The word "centurion" perhaps derived from the word centum -100. But this interpretation is widely disputed and disregarded. The word more likely means "tribe".

According to all four Gospels, Jesus chose Capernaum after leaving Nazareth. (Matthew 4:12-17).

The town was likely inhabited since the Second century BC. Jewish historian Josephus  Flavius refers to Capernaum as to a fertile spring where he stayed. It was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in the vווו AD. Then it was abandoned completely in 11-th century AD.


The ruins of Capernaum
The ruins of Capernaum

    In 1838 American scholar Edward Robinson discovered and identified ruins of Capernaum;

In 1866 British explorer Charles Wilson continued research of the town ruins;

In 1894 the ruins were recovered from the Bedouins;

The famous Franciscan explorer Virgilio Corbo built a fence around the ruins, planted palms and eucalyptuses and repaired a harbour.

In 1905 most important excavations were directed by Heinrich Kohl and Carl Watzinger.

In 1968 Stanislao Loffreda discovered  the alleged St. Peter's house!

From 1921 till 1926 the site was studied and excavated by renowned Fr. Gaudencio Orfaly. He died unfortunately in the traffic accident.  He had restored the synagogue to the height of the 1-St floor. 

In the early XX century the building was partly restored. Orfaly suggested it was built in the ו century AD.  In 1940-s Prof. of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Sukenik made a research of the site. 

In 1960-70-s Franciscans headed by the archaeologist Virgilio Corbo continued the excavations.


The synagogue

The ancient synagogue of Capernaum
The ancient synagogue of Capernaum

The synagogues appeared long before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Actually some historians assume the synagogues already existed in the period of the 1-St Temple. The excavations in the City of David in Jerusalem seem to prove this opinion.

The equivalent of the word synagogue in Hebrew will be Beit Ha-Knesset which simply means the house of assembly. The Greek phrase Domus Ecclesia also means the same thing. Domus Ecclesia is one of the first Greek terms meaning the church. 

The size of Capernaum synagogue is immense. The main hall is 23 m by 17.3 m. On the eastern side there is another hall of 21 m width and the same length. The synagogue is constructed of the limestone blocks in contrast with the rest of the buildings of Capernaum that were built from the local basalt stone. The first excavations of the synagogue were conducted by Kohl and Watzinger at the end of the 19th century. Later the whole area was purchased by the Franciscan Order who additionally excavated and restored the site. The synagogue was restored to the height of the first floor.  Inside it had been built in the typical basilica style. There are three rows of columns that stand along three walls. There was also a second story and the entrance to it has been completely restored. On the stone frame there is a relief of a structure on wheels, may be a depiction of the Ark when it was returned by the Philistines to the people of Israel. The dating of the synagogue has been disputed by the the historians.

Some archaeologists suggested it dated from 180-235 AD;

while others assumed it was from the second half of the ווו century AD;

yet Prof. Judy Magnes dated the edifice to the 1-St half of the vו century AD.


 The synagogue is made of hewn  limestone  4 feet thick. It's size is very impressive. It is the largest among the ancient synagogues in the Land.

"The House of St. Peter"

The statue of St. Peter
The statue of St. Peter

 to be continued....