Church of Fishes and Loaves Mosiac
Church of Fishes and Loaves Mosiac

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 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 Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, shortened to (The Church of the Multiplication), is a Roman Catholic church located in Tabgha, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel just below the Mount of Beatitudes. The modern church rests on the site of two earlier churches. This is set at the location where Jesus fed the 5000 people as told in the Gospel of  Mark.

Church of Fishes and Loaves
Church of Fishes and Loaves

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand – Mark 6:30-44

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

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 distribute to 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.

What to See

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 mosaic floor. It is the earliest known example of a figured pavement in Palestinian Christian art.

The main mosaic 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.

For more information about Galilee Area

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