Thursday , 13 June 2024


Historic Migdal – Magdala

The ancient city of Migdala Nunia was a prosperous fishing village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The name Magdala Nunia means “fish tower” and probably referred to towers used for drying fish caught in the Sea of Galilee, by which its situation near the lake and plentiful fisheries appear to be indicated.Flavius Josephus reported that fish processed in Magdala was sold in the markets in Rome. It was also known in biblical times for flax weaving and dyeing.

In the Talmud

According to the Talmud, Magdala was a wealthy fortified city that was destroyed by the Romans because of the moral depravity of its inhabitants.

Magdala was also known by its Greek name, Taricheae, which indicates the preparation of salted fish.This name means in Greek: “the places where the fish are prepared”.

Taricheae was a major campaign camp/fortress of Josephus during the Jewish Wars (66-73 CE). Josephus gives an account (Bell. jud., III, x) in the Jewish Wars  of the defeat of Taricheae, a town in Galilee situated on the lake near Tiberias. The Jewish rebels engaged the Romans in a disastrous sea battle. Titus (son of Vespasian), placed a siege over the city and finally captured it, and completely ruined it, killing its 40,000 defenders. The city did not recover. The fishing industry was replaced by a textile industry, and the place was renamed Migdal Tzabaya, the latter word means dyeing.

In the New Testament

The New Testament relates that Jesus visited Magdala: “And he [Jesus] sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala” (Matthew 15:39).

Magdala was the home of Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus.  “And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons” (Luke 8:2) and (Mark 16:9). Mary Magdalen is revered as a saint by the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. She is named in the Gospels as being present at Christ’s crucifixion and the first recorded witness of the Resurrection.

This site is of tremendous importance for all the Christian sects – to be able to stand where Jesus may have stood and also to reconnect with the Jewish roots of their faith.

Franciscan Magdala

In 1908, a small group of German Catholics who identified the site as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene settled there for one year and later sold the property.

In 1912 the Franciscans (Custody of the Holy Land) acquire parts of the site including a Byzantine-monastery wall. The Franciscan compound, surrounded by a protective wall is in use only as an archaeological site. Beginning in the 1960s, Franciscan archaeologists discovered Magdala’s ancient port and a city grid, with paved streets, water canals, a marketplace, villas and mosaics — one depicting a sailing boat. The discovery of the massive foundations of a tower may account for the city’s name. The tower may have been a lighthouse. Both Magdala in Aramaic and Migdal in Hebrew mean “tower”.

Legion of Christ Magdala Guesthouse (in planning)

Father Juan Solana and the Legion of Christ initiated the Magdala project in 2005 to build a Catholic pilgrimage center, institute for women and retreat in the Galilee.

First Century Synagogue 

A salvage dig of the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of the Legion of Christ hotel revealed an ancient synagogue believed to date back some 2000 years, from 50 BCE to 100 CE. co-directed by Israel Antiquities archaeologist Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar in collaboration with Marcela Zapata from the Anáhuac University of Southern Mexico City. As archaeologists continued to dig, they discovered an entire first century Jewish town lying just below the surface. The ruins include a synagogue,  a Byzantine church with a mosaic of a fishing boat and ancient perfume vials. A coin minted in Tiberias in 29 CE was found inside the synagogue, proving that the synagogue was from the first century. All this was a mere twenty inches beneath the topsoil. Incredibly, no other towns had been built over it in the centuries since.

The question is if the Holy Temple still functioning in Jerusalem why would there be a menorah symbol of the Temple here? It raises questions about the role of the synagogue at that time. Since the Magdala Stone is about the right size for laying down a Torah scroll, it may have been used as a reading table.

Magdala -
Rosette found in Magdala synagogue

First Century CE Villa

Magdala -
Mosaic floor in 1st C CE Villa in Magdala

Ritual Bath – Mikveh

Ritual bath - mikveh -
Ritual bath – mikveh

The Magdala Stone

In the middle of a 120 sq.m. main hall, archaeologists discovered an unusual stone carved with a seven-branched menorah. It is the first of its kind to be discovered from the early Roman period. Many archaeologists call this discovery the most significant archaeological find in the past 50 years.

The Magdala Stone -
The Magdala Stone

Duc In Altum

The beautiful Duc In Altum, which opened in 2014, provides a place for worship, mass, and prayer. Duc In Altum draws its name from Luke 5:4 where Jesus instructs Simon Peter to “launch into the deep” or “put out into deep water”.

Duc In Altum exalts the presence of women in the Gospel, in the hometown of Mary Magdalene. The Women’s Atrium features eight pillars, seven of which represent women in the Bible who followed Jesus, while the eighth honors women of faith across all time.

  • Mary Magdalene – follower of Jesus and present at his crucifixion (Luke 8:2)
  • Susana and Joanna, the wife of Chuza – followers of Jesus (Luke 8:3)
  • Mary and her sister Martha – followers of Jesus (Luke 10:38)
  • Salome, the mother of James and John – supporter of Jesus and wife of Zebedee (Matthew 20:20)
  • Simon Peter’s mother-in-law – healed by Jesus, then supporter of Jesus (Matthew 8:15)
  • Mary, wife of Cleopas – follower of Jesus and present at his crucifixion (John 19:25)
  • Many other women – the many women who followed and supported Jesus (Mark 15:41)
  • Unmarked Pillar – for women of all time who love God and live by faith

The Boat Chapel

With a view of the Sea of Galilee, and a unique boat-shaped altar, this chapel commemorates Jesus preaching from the boat. It has room for up to 300 people.

Mosaic Chapels

Each chapel depicts a biblical event in the life of Jesus near the Sea of Galilee: Walking on Water (Matthew 14: 29-31), Fishers of Men (Matthew 4: 18-20), Mary Magdalene (Luke 8: 1-2) , Daughter of Jairus (Mark 5: 41-42)

Encounter Chapel

Encounter between Jesus and the hemorrhaging woman. The floor is that of the original first century market place of the Magdala port. (Mark 5: 25-29)

Magdala Visitors Center (in planning)

A Visitors Center is being developed to service the guests of Magdala. Magdala will provide multi-lingual staff, audio tour narrations, and mobile apps to assist visitors from around the globe.

Magdala Visitors Center (in planning) -
Magdala Visitors Center (in planning)
Magdala: Hotel on left, Duc in Altum in background, synagogue in foreground -
Magdala: Hotel on left, Duc in Altum in background, synagogue in foreground, market on right.

Directions: Drive from Tiberias  4 KM north along the road. After the junction, which is just below the Arbel cliffs, there is a right turn to the beach where the site is located.

About Israel and You

Cameling in the holy land since forever
Skip to content