Capernaum, then a prosperous fishing village on the northwestern shore of Israel’s Sea of Galilee, was the site of many of Jesus’ healing miracles. Visitors today can stand above a house associated with one of those healings.
Capernaum, the home of four of Jesus’ disciples, including Peter, became the center of Jesus’ ministry after he had been rejected in Nazareth, his home town. According to Biblical accounts, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law in Peter’s Capernaum house. On the Sabbath, Jesus taught in Capernaum’s synagogue, where he healed a man possessed by demons. Jesus also healed a paralyzed man lowered through the roof of a Capernaum house where Jesus was preaching because crowds prevented the man from entering through the door. When a centurion came to Capernaum, Jesus healed his servant. Despite these and other healings, the Bible reports that residents of Capernaum did not repent as Jesus had expected, so he condemned them (along with residents of Chorazin and Bethsaida) to Hades, the realm of the dead.
Notwithstanding the condemnation, Capernaum continued to prosper. In the late fourth century, an ornate synagogue made of white limestone was erected over the basalt synagogue where Jesus had taught. In the fifth century, Christians built an octagonal church over the ruins of the house long identified as Peter’s. These structures were rediscovered in the late 19th century. In 1990, a memorial to Peter, supposedly suggesting a fishing boat, was perched on eight columns above the remains of Peter’s house and the ancient church. A glass floor enables visitors to see the ruins below. The partially-restored white synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, displays a plaque memorializing its connection with Jesus. The importance of ancient Capernaum to Christians around the world is reflected by a large Orthodox church just east of the ruins.