The Lakeside

Following along the path leading to St. Peter’s Memorial one comes to the lakeside. From there a wide panorama opens, and on clear days one can see all the way to the Golan Heights which descend to the lake, 212 meters below the level of the Mediterranean Sea.

The small village of Capernaum is located on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Tiberias). Three kilometers to the south are the fountains of Tabgha where the multiplication of the loaves and fishes took place (John 6:1-15) and where Peter received his primacy (Matt 16:18), while five kilometers to the north the Jordan River feeds into the fresh waters of the Sea of Galilee.

Capernaum was a small village of fishermen. Their catch would most likely have been sold in the markets of the nearby towns: Magdala, the native city of Mary Magdalene, and Chorazin, on the hills overlooking Capernaum, which along with the nearby Bethsaida, where Jesus healed a blind man (Mark 8:22-26), and Capernaum itself, was cursed by Jesus for its failure to repent (Matt 11:20-24, Luke 10:12-16).

Further to the south on the western coast lies Tiberias, which became capital of the region in 20 AD, while on the opposite coast one could have seen, above a promontory, the lights of the vast city of Susita (Hippos in Greek) in the territory of the Decapolis. It was either in this city, or in the lower-lying Kursi, that the Gospel story took place in which Jesus drove the demons into a herd of swine, which then rushed down a steep bank into the lake (Matt 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39).

Today fishing in the lake is forbidden in order to allow marine life to regenerate, but for centuries it was one of the principal economic activities along the lake. The call to Simon Peter and Andrew to follow Jesus took place on these very shores, while the two brothers were casting their nets into the sea (Matt 4:19; Mark 1:17).

Traces of the port of Capernaum were found during the excavations by the Franciscans. Today the beach is a tranquil spot, provided with simple facilities for welcoming pilgrims who wish to pause in prayer.

The Lakeside