The name Tabgha is probably comes frome the Arabic corruption of the Greek name hepta pega seven springs. The warm springs here sustain lush vegetation and attracted fishermen who played an important part in the life of Jesus. Tradition tells that this site is where Jesus met several of his disciples.
‘And Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee saw two brothers Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ (Matthew 4:18-19)
Church of the Feeding
This is said to be where Jesus fed 5,000 people. ‘And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass and took the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven he blessed and brake and gave the loaves to his disciples and the disciples to the multitudes and they did all eat and were filled and they took up the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.’ (Matthew 14:19-21)
There is an audio-visual exhibition at the church.
The church was built in 350 CE on the site believed to be the rock where Jesus placed the bread and fish. It is thought that the original church was built by Joseph, the Jewish apostate who built several churches at Christian holy sites. Joseph’s church did not face due east, and the Byzantine basilica built over it in 480 CE corrected its alignment. Meanwhile the dimensions of the rock had been reduced over the years by pilgrims who would chip off pieces to take home. An inscription names the Patriarch Martyrios of Jerusalem as responsible for rebuilding the church.  Martyrios was a monk in Egypt and apparently also responsible for the mosaic floor’s design, which reflects the flora and fauna of the Nile delta. Note the peacocks and lotus plants to the left of the altar, and the Nile meter with Greek numerals (to measure the Nile’s water level) to its right.
Like many other Christian sites, the church was destroyed in 614 CE during the Persian conquest. It fell into oblivion for 1300 years. In 1892 the site was discovered, and archaeological excavations began n 1932. In 1936 a temporary church was built over the ancient one.
The new church was built in 1980 along the lines of the Byzantine basilica. The mosaic floor’s restored portion lacks illustration. Visitors can see the difference between the original and the restored portions. The floor near the altar is cut away, exposing the original floor. The mosaic bread basket has four loaves. An additional loaf of real bread is placed on the altar during communion. The twelve lamps around the apse symbolise the twelve baskets of food left after all had eaten.
The Benedictine order maintains the church and provides accommodation.
Church of the Primacy of Peter
Exit the church grounds to the main road and turn right. The second gate on the right (200 meters up the road) is the entrance to the Church of St Peter, also known as the Church of the Ascendancy. The church on the beach marks the spot where Jesus appeared to his disciples for the third time after the crucifixion and commissioned Peter.
‘The disciples went fishing and that night they caught nothing. But in the morning Jesus stood on the shore but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, Children have you any meat? They answered him, no. And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship and you shall find. They cast therefore and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes…Jesus said to them come and dine and none of the disciples asked him who are you, knowing that it was the lord….So when they had dined Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonas, do you love me more than these. He said to him Yes lord you know that I love you. He said to him feed my lambs.’ (John 27:3-75)
The church is also known as Mensa Christi (the table of Christ), in memory of the meal. It was built in the fifth century around the rock where, according to .tradition, the disciples ate. During the Crusades it was destroyed and rebuilt. The church was destroyed again in 1263 and rebuilt in 1933 by the Franciscans. Near the church is a statue of Jesus commissioning Peter.
The Salt Water Canal
Some of the springs here are hot and have high sulphur and salt concentrations. The heat promotes an environment favourable to St Peter’s fish and catfish, which are sensitive to cold. To keep the lake’s water sweet, most of the spring water is diverted into the salt water canal that circumvents the Sea of Galilee on the
westem shore, feeding into the Jordan River south of the lake.
A Note on St. Pete’s Fish
The initials of the Greek words Jesous christos theou byios soter (Jesus Christ son of God and saviour) form the acronyrn lcthys, which means fish in Greek. The fish became one of the symbols of Christianity. In the gospel Jesus told Peter to catch fish with a rod, and use the coin he found in its mouth to pay the tax (Matthew 77:24-27). Perhaps the fish he caught was of the species today known as ‘St Peter’s fish.’
The Arabic name for St. Peter’s fish is musht (comb), because its long dorsal fin resembles a comb. Fully grown it is about 40 cm long and weighs 1.5 kilo. After fertilization the parents keep the eggs in their mouths until they hatch. When the eggs hatch, the parents guard the fry for a few days. The fish’s Hebrew name, Annum, comes from the words am (nurse) and nun (fish).