Sunday, February 7, 2016
The Church of the Primacy of Peter is a Franciscan chapel that incorporates part of a 4th-century church. It is located at Tabgha on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee and commemorates Jesus' reinstatement of Peter after a fish breakfast on the shore. (John 21)
The chapel is small and made of grey stone, with a modest tower in one corner. At the base of the chapel's walls on the west end, the walls of the late 4th-century church are clearly visible on three sides.
Like the early church, the modern chapel incorporates a large portion of the stone "table of Christ" (Latin: Mensa Christi) at the altar. This is where Jesus is believed to have served his disciples a fish breakfast after they landed on shore (John 21:9).
On the lake side of the church are the rock-cut steps mentioned by Egeria as the place "where the Lord stood." (John 21:4). It is not known when they were carved, but it may have been in the 2nd or 3rd century when this area was quarried for limestone.
Below the steps are six heart-shaped double-column blocks known as the Twelve Thrones, which can be under water when the lake level is high. Originally designed for the angle of a colonnade, they were probably taken from disused buildings and placed here to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. ( Luke 22:30 )
Just beside the church is a small Crusader building. Also nearby are Byzantine water towers that were designed to raise the water level of the powerful springs so that they flowed into a series of irrigation canals and mill-streams.
Around 381 AD, the Spanish pilgrim Egeria visited the area and reported that next to the Church of the Loaves and Fishes "are some stone steps where the Lord stood" (John 21:4). Egeria does not mention a church here, but one was built on the site by the end of the 4th century. It was roughly the same size and shape as the original Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and its east end enclosed a flat rock identified as the table on which Jesus offered breakfast to the disciples (John 21:9).
In the 9th century, the church is referred to as the Place of the Coals. This name refers to the incident of Jesus' preparation of meal for the apostles, building a charcoal fire on which to cook the fish. (John21:9)