A gleaming white limestone church stands today on the Byzantine foundations of the fifth-century basilica built to commemorate the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Enclosed within the church are the beautiful mosaics illustrated in this article.

The church was reconstructed to resemble its original appearance. Walls were rebuilt on excavated wall remains; columns were placed in their original positions. The restored column capitals were decorated following the design of a capital found at Susita, a contemporaneous Byzantine site on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee. The red roof tiles were modeled to resemble late Roman period roof tiles.

In the view of the basilica shown here, we are looking across the atrium at the narthex, illuminated by light from five arched windows in the church’s east wall. An ancient black basalt olive press discovered among the church’s ruins in 1932 now presides over the rebuilt atrium.

While trying to be faithful to the fifth-century appearance of the church, the restorers did make two changes. The mosaic of the loaves and the fishes was moved in front of the altar from its original position behind the altar. The outer shape of today’s basilica differs from that of the fifth-century church because the hospice rooms, originally wrapped around the west and south sides, were not reconstructed. In these rooms pilgrims stayed overnight while visiting the three chapels erected at holy sites in Tabgha, each commemorating an event during Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee: the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, the sermon on the mount, and the reappearance of Jesus after his crucifixion (see map below).