James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.
© 1998

Capernaum is an archaeological site (called Tell Hum) along the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, a few miles west of where the Jordan River flows into the sea. During the first century AD the town of Capernaum was the center for Jesus' ministry in the Galilee. It is mentioned sixteen times in the gospel accounts.

The primary visitor's site at Capernaum is operated today by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land while the Greek Orthodox church maintains an adjacent site. The Franciscan site contains remains of an ancient synagogue as well as an early house-church and a Byzantine octagonal church.

The "THEN" photos were taken in 1964; the "NOW" photos in 1990 and 1995.

THEN
NOW

These views show the entrance to Capernaum. The 1964 photo (left) appears to be looking toward the sea while the 1990 photo is of an entrance that runs parallel to the shoreline. The conclusion is that these are two different entrances.

THEN
NOW

These photos show the main hall of the synagouge. It was constructed in the form of a basilica and was partially reconstructed by the Franciscans in 1925. The columns along each side of the hall were added between 1964 (above, left) and 1990 (above, right). Archaeologists are uncertain about the original date of construction. Some believe it was in the second-third centuries AD while others believe in a later fourth-fifth century date.

This is a 1995 view of the back of the main hall of the synagogue.

THEN
NOW

In 1865-66 the British archaeologist Sir Charles Warren first noted the existence of ruins of a church between the synagogue and the shoreline. This area was excavated further in this century; the excavation was completed in 1968 (before the "THEN" photos were taken). Beneath the octagonal church, a house was found that had been venerated as a special place, possibly as early as the latter part of the first century AD. An inscription containing the name "Peter" and other Judeo-Christian graffitti, lead to the identification of an early house-church. The Byzantine octagonal church was built in the middle of the fifth century AD over the ruins of the house-chuch. The entire complex has become known as the Church of St. Peter.

The photo above, left, shows the foundation of the octagonal church as it appeared in 1964. By 1995 many changes had taken place. The photo at the right, taken in 1995, shows several of the walls which comprise the Church of St. Peter. All of thses ruins are now under a modern, octagonal Church of St. Peter built in the early 1990s and shown in the photo below.

View larger versions of the 1964, 1990 and 1995 photos:

The 1964 photos were taken by Dr. Marshall Welles. The 1990 and 1995 photos are by the author.
Photos may be reproduced only with the consent of the author.