Peter’s House

Excavations in the room venerated

The private houses of insula (called by us insula sacra) follow the same pattern as the houses of the other living quarters of the village, i. e. are characterised by small roofed rooms clustering around large courtyards. The traditional house of St. Peter was almost square in ground plan. The W wall, still preserved for more than a meter in height, measures 8.35 m in length.
The room was entered from a doorway partially preserved on the N flank near the NW corner. An L-shaped courtyard, entered from the E through a well preserved threshold, and provided with a staircase and with characteristic "terra refractaria" fire places, covered a conspicuous area of ca. 84 square meters.
The courtyard was shared not only by the traditional house of St. Peter, but by several other roofed rooms as well, suggesting that more than one family lived together around the same courtyard.
The house of St. Peter was flanked on the E side by the main NS street of the village. There was an additional open space between the street and the entrance to the L-shaped courtyard. More houses were traced in the S portion of the same insula. There again the open courtyards were the focal point of several roofed rooms. In ancient time the S houses of insula were very close to the lake shore.

The insula sacra belongs to the original nucleus settlement of the Late Hellenistic period. The long period of unbroken occupation is evidenced by a sequence of at least three superimposed stone pavements. As a matter of fact, four superimposed stone pavements were found in a trench cut by us in the L-shaped courtyard against the W wall of room n. 1. The lowest stone pavement with traces of a fire place gave only Hellenistic sherds. The first century stone pavement is the second from the bottom. Several trial trenches were dug also inside room n. 1 in order to check the history of that special room. Here too several superimposed layers of occupation were recorded, starting from the Late Hellenistic period. From the second century B.C. to the late first century A.D., the occupational layers are made up of straight horizontal lines of beaten earth mixed with daily life vessels, such as jars, cooking pots, bowls, lamps etc.

Above these earliest strata, something very unique was recorded: on the NE side of the room an area of ca. 12 square m was cleared, having a pavement of at least six superimposed layers of white plaster. Besides, some painted fragments of plaster, originally decorating the inner walls of that room were found. Last but not least, the only evidence of occupation was a good number of tiny little pieces of Herodian lamps; they were imbedded in the white plastered pavements. More Herodian lamps were found along the inner walls. The lamps can be dated typologically in the second half of the first century A.D. and certainly not later than the beginning of the second century.
The superimposed plastered pavements were kept scrupulously clean, contrarily to the previous strata; in fact no occupational soil was found between the thin layers of plaster. At the same time the almost complete absence of daily life vessels is striking.
It should be stressed that this is the only case in which a room with plastered pavements and walls has been found in Capernaum, in spite of the fact that a very large portion of the ancient village has been brought to light.

The least we can say is that the traditional house of St. Peter was used for community gatherings as early as the third quarter of the first century A.D. The religious and Christian character of those gatherings will be better understood in the light of the upper strata of the same room.

More Information: Domus ecclesiae

More Information: The octagonal church

History and archeology

Peter’s House