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Mount Tabor and the Church of the Transfiguration

Mount Tabor

Mt. Tabor is at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 17 km west of the Sea of Galilee and 9km east of Nazareth. The dome of the Church of the Transfiguration stands out on the skyline. Its elevation at the summit is 575 m (460 m above the valley). Mount Tabor is strategically located on the main north-south ancient trade route and also on the east-west section of Via Maris (Yizrael valley to Sea of Galilee).
Jewish Rabbis called it the “navel of the world”. The Israelite tribes gather on Mount Tabor commanded by Deborah and Barak to battle Sisra.(Judges 4-5)
Mount Tabor has often been surmounted by a fortress. It was later refortified in 66 AD by Josephus during the First Jewish Revolt, but fell to Roman Emperor Vespasian in 67.

The Transfiguration

According to Christian tradition, Mount Tabor (Har Tavor in Hebrew) was the site of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9:28-36), although other traditions place it on Mt. Hermon. Many biblical scholars now question the Mt. Tabor tradition. Mount Tabor’s location does not fit well into events before and after the Transfiguration. At the time, a Hasmonean fortress stood on the summit. Mount Hermon as a more likely location.

 

The Church of the Transfiguration (or Church of the Savior)

The date of the earliest church on Mt. Tabor is unknown. The Anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza saw three basilicas in 570. By 570, three Byzantine churches are recorded as standing on Mt. Tabor, or perhaps one large church with chapels dedicated to Christ, Moses and Elijah. Mamluk Sultan Baybars destroyed all the religious buildings on Mount Tabor in 1263, and the mountain became a royal hunting park for the Mamluks. Mount Tabor remained deserted for nearly 400 years until the Franciscans negotiated permission to settle there. In 1631, Fakhr al-Din granted the Franciscans permission to live atop Mount Tabor.

On the south-east side of the top of the hill is the Latin – Franciscan monastery and Church of the Transfiguration. The ambitious Fransicans rediscovered the ruined Crusader church in 1858 and began reconstruction. The current church, the tallest in the compound, and the hostel (Casa Nova), were built in 1921-1925 and belong to the Franciscans. It was designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. A bas-relief of the architect is set into a wall on the right of the entrance. Its entrance is flanked by chapels dedicated to Moses and Elijah, who were seen with Jesus during his Transfiguration. There is a crypt under the church.

The Greek-Orthodox Monastery

On the north-east side of the top of the hill is the Greek-Orthodox monastery. The present Greek Orthodox building was constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Greek Orthodox church, often not open to visitors, honours Elijah. It too is built on the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches. In the Greek area is the Church of St. Elias, built in 1845. It is a three-aisled basilica with four bays and the lower part of its apses may be early 12th century. The wall paintings were added in 1912.

Church of St. Melchizedek

Representing the ascetic hermit tradition on Mount Tabor is the Church of St. Melchizedek, located on the northwest side of the upper plateau. The name derives from a 4th-century tradition in which Melchizedek spent seven years as a hermit on Mount Tabor before meeting and blessing Abraham. Most of the present church dates from the 19th century, but reuses older masonry.

Outside the Church of the Transfiguration

Mt. Tabor
Mt. Tabor

Interior of The Church of the Transfiguration

 

Catholic Mass in Church of the Transfiguration

 

Chapel of Elijah

 

  • The church complex is open 8am-11am and 2pm-5pm daily.
  • Entry is free.
  • Modest dress is required for entry (no sleeveless tops, short skirts, or skimpy shorts).

See also:

Mount Tabor in the Eyes of Tourists

About Israel and You

Cameling in the holy land since forever