Tabgha – The Church of the Multiplication of the Fish and the Loaves

Tabgha is an area located on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is traditionally accepted by the Christian faithful as the site of the “multiplication of the fish and the loaves” in Mathew 14:13-21 and Mark 6:30-46, also referred to as the feeding of the multitudes. It is the site of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, or simply the Church of the Multiplication.

Sometimes, the church is called the Bread and Fish Church, or the Benedictine church (since it is run by the Benedictine order).

Origin of the name “Tabgha”

The name Tabgha is derived from the Greek “Hepta Pegai” or “Heptapegon”, meaning seven springs. During the Byzantine era, there were three water towers in Tabgha. The waters flowing from the natural springs were collected in the water towers and delivered via aqueducts to irrigate the fields.

Eventually, the name “Heptapegon” gradually changed to “Tabgha” by the Arabic speakers. St. Jerome referred to Heptapegon as “eremos” (“the solitude”).

The history of the church

During the 4th century devout Christians were the ones to first identify Tabgha as the Biblical site where the “miracle of the multiplication” took place (or was supposed to take place).

A Byzantine church existed where the current church stands from the fifth to seventh centuries, when it was destroyed by invading Persians. The site was excavated in the 1930’s by German archaeologists, who discovered the ruins of the original Byzantine church, including an impressive mosaic floor. The mosaics include an image of the fish and loaves, which has been reproduced on many Christian souvenir items; a Nile meter used for measuring the height of the Nile, and possibly also the Sea of Galilee; as well as images of various waterfowl. 

The contemporary Catholic Church was built in the style of the Byzantine church, incorporating some of its walls and the mosaics noted above. A table-like altar in the front of the church is built over the rock marking the site of the ‘multiplication’.

The site is reasonably wheelchair accessible.

Getting There

It is three kilometers southwest of Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee northern coast road (Road 87)

official website