Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Tabgha  

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (also known as the Church of the Multiplication) is a church in Tabgha (ancient Heptapegon) on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The church is modern but stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches. It preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid.

Church of the Multiplication interior

The miraculous feeding of five thousand people is described in Mark 6:30-44, just before Jesus walks on water. The Gospel account of the loaves and fishes does not specify where it took place; only that it was in a "remote place" (6:32,35) on the shores of Galilee.
According to Mark's account, Jesus and his disciples had gone out in a boat to this remote place for some peace and quiet, but the crowds ran ahead "from all the towns" and met him when he landed. By then it was dinnertime and they were not in a village where food could easily be bought, so Jesus fed them all by miraculously multiplying his disciples' five loaves and two fishes.
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.
Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. (Mark 6:40-44)
It is possible that this is the actual site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, but not terribly likely. Scholar Jerome Murphy O'Connor attributes the selection of the site to pilgrims' associations with the area.
It was perhaps inevitable that this well-watered area with its shade trees on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Byzantine pilgrims ate their picnics, should have been identified as the location of two episodes involving the consumption of food, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the conferral on Peter of the responsibility of leadership after a fish breakfast. Then it became convenient to localize the Sermon of the Mount on the small hill nearby. (Oxford Archaeological Guides: The Holy Land, p. 277)


Mosaic of loaves and fishes with the sacred stone under the altar. On the right is a glass cover protecting the remnants of the ancient church. On the left is an inscription identifying Patriarch Martyrios of Jerusalem as the founder of the church.

A church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand was first built on this site in c.350. The church was small (15.5m x 9.5m) and on a slightly different orientation than the later versions. The Spanish pilgrim Egeria visited this church in the 380s, and reported:
By the sea is a grassy field with plenty of hay and many palm trees. By them are seven springs (heptapegon), each flowing strongly. And this is the field where the Lord fed the people with the five loaves and two fishes. In fact the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has now been made into an altar. People who go there take away small pieces of the stone to bring them prosperity, and they are very effective. (trans. J. Wilkinson)
The church was significantly enlarged around 480 an inscription attributes its building to the patriarch Matryrios (478-86) which included the addition of the splendid floor mosaic. The mosaics were repaired in the 6th century and the church was destroyed around 685 AD.
The site was bought by the Deutsche Verien vom Heilige Lande and excavated in 1932; a protective cover was built over the mosaics in 1936. In 1982 this was replaced by the modern Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes that stands today, which is a faithful reconstruction of the original.
Under the altar table is a block of limestone (1 x 0.6 x 0.14m) venerated as the table of the Lord. This is unlikely to be the same one Egeria saw in the 4th century (see History, above), and of course pilgrims are no longer permitted to chip away at it! In front of the altar is a lovely restored mosaic of two fish flanking a basket of loaves.

The main mosaic covers the two transepts and the intervals between the pillars (the rest of the floor has a mosaic in a simple geometric pattern, mostly restored). The principal mosaic was clearly designed by a great master who was able to create a free-flowing design without need of any repetitious pattern.
The mosaic depicts birds and plants, with a prominent place given to the bell-like lotus flower. This flower is not found in the area and indicates the influence of the Nilotic landscapes then popular in Hellenistic and Roman art.
However, all the other motifs depict flora and fauna from Galilee - the level of detail allows the identification of each species. There are charming "ducks in love" in the lower center and a depiction in the upper left of the round tower (nilometer) that was used to measure water level. Also visible are the Greek letters for the numbers 6 to 10.
A few other parts of the 5th-century Byzantine church are preserved in the modern church, including the sill of the left entrance to the atrium, some of the basalt paving stones of the atrium, and part of the frieze in the apse. The foundations of the original 4th-century church can be seen under a glass panel. Old basalt presses and a font are displayed in the courtyard.

The figurative floor mosaic in the Church of the Loaves and Fishes.
Besides its sacred importance as the place of a miracle of Jesus, the main highlight of the Church of the Loaves and Fishes is this beautiful 5th-century figurative mosaic floor. It is the earliest known example of a figured pavement in Palestinian Christian art.

Sesuai dengan laporan Eteria, Yesus memang mempergandakan roti dan ikan di tempat yang kini disebut Tabgha. Hal ini terbukti dari penggalian arkeologis yang dilakukan di situ. Peristiwa penggandaan roti ajaib itu dilestarikan dengan didirikannya sebuah gereja pada awal abad IV. Tetapi karena gereja pertama itu hancur akibat gempa bumi dahsyat pada tahun 419, maka pada pertengahan abad V dibangunlah gereja kedua dalam bentuk basilika. Diketahui bahwa gereja kedua itu panjangnya 30 meter dan lebar 20 meter. Gereja dihiasi dengan mosaik-mosaik yang indah. Burung yang digambarkan pada mosaik itu melambangkan manusia, ular melambangkan setan, sedangkan burung flamingo melambangkan Kristus. Mosaik yang mengabadikan pergandaan roti (bakul berisi roti dan ikan), dapat disaksikan di depan altar, dibuat pada abad V atau VI. Gereja yang ada sekarang dibangun atas fundamen konstruksi dari zaman Bizantium. Gereja ini maupun biara di sampingnya diurus oleh para biarawan OSB (St. Benediktus) dari Jerman. Seluruh kompleks ini dibangun berkat sumbangan umat Katolik Jerman.


Names: Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes; Church of the Multiplication; Church of the Loaves and Fishes
Type of site: Church; early Christian site; traditional biblical site; Footsteps of Jesus
Ownership: Benedictines
Dates: Founded c350 AD; expanded with mosaics in 5C; modern church built 1982
Size: 5C church complex was 56 x 33 m
Records: 5C mosaic floor is the earliest example of a Palestian figural pavement in church art
Location: Tabgha (Heptapegon), near junction of Highways 90 and 87, about 10km north of Tiberias, north shore of Sea of Galilee, Israel
Coordinates: 32.873532 N, 35.549408 E
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30-5; Sun 10-5









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