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Tiberias and Archaeology
Tiberias: The Anchor Church.
The city of Tiberias is located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. In the sixth century, at the peak of its expansion, the Byzantine emperor Justinian built a wall around the city which climbed up the steep slopes in the west and included the highest point, Mount Berenice. Here the remains of a Byzantine church with unusual cultic objects were uncovered in the years 1990-93. The church was included within the fortification wall of the city and its location affords a breathtaking view of the entire Sea of Galilee, its shores and the distant mountains.
The church complex measures 48 x 28 meters and includes an atrium courtyard, a basilical, tri-apsidal church and many rooms around the complex. The walls are of square basalt blocks coated with white plaster and the floor is paved with multi-colored mosaics.
The atrium courtyard is unusually spacious. It was surrounded by aisles resting upon square piers and was paved with mosaics in black and white frames. Beneath it is a large cistern, the ceiling of which is supported by a set of arches. Rainwater was collected from the roofs and from the courtyard and carried to the cistern via channels.
Running the length of the prayer-hall of the church were two rows of columns supporting the roofing. Two rows of semi-circular stone benches were situated along the central apse in the eastern wall. The floor of the church was in part paved with colored mosaics, depicting grapes, pomegranates and birds, and in part with marble tiles in geometric shapes.
At the center of the bema (stage) the base of a stone altar was found, and beneath it a marble plaque covering a depression containing a large, care-fully fashioned basalt stone measuring 55 x 35 x 11 cm. The bottom part of the stone is crudely worked into a conical shape, indicating that it was originally set into the ground. At the center of the stone is a drilled, biconical perforation; it is obviously a type of anchor, a smaller version of which might have been used by boats sailing the Sea of Galilee. It was placed here, and probably venerated in connection with Jesus activities on this side of the lake.
Surrounding the courtyard and the church were numerous rooms, with mosaic paving, which must have served the clergy who maintained the church and looked after the many visitors.
The church was damaged in the earthquake of 749. It was renovated on a smaller scale and had some Islamic architectural features, such as pointed arches and pairs of columns supporting them. This church, with only minor changes, remained in use during the Muslim rule of the country, a very uncommon phenomenon. The Crusaders strengthened the church structure with external butresses and also added a bell tower to its facade.
The church was destroyed when the Muslims conquered Tiberias in 1187. Its remains were visible on the surface prior to the excavations and had remained relatively well-preserved thanks to the difficult access and the distance from the city of Tiberias.
The excavations were directed by Y. Hirschfeld on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
[ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES] [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
Tiberias in Wikipedia
Tiberias (pronounced /taɪˈbɪəri.əs/; Hebrew: טְבֶרְיָה, Tverya (audio) (help·info); Arabic: طبرية, Ṭabariyyah) is a city on
the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Lower Galilee, Israel. Established in 20 CE, it was named in honour of the
Tiberias has been venerated in Judaism since the middle of the 2nd-century and since the 16th century, has been
considered one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed. In the 2nd-10th centuries,
Tiberias was the largest Jewish city in the Galilee, and the political and religious hub of the Jews of Palestine.
According to Christian tradition, Jesus performed several miracles in the Tiberias district, making it an important
pilgrimage site for devout Christians. Tiberias has historically been known for its hot springs, believed to cure skin
and other ailments, for thousands of years.
Jewish and Roman period -
Tiberias was founded sometime around 20 CE in the Judea Province of Rome by Roman-Jewish client king Herod Antipas, son of
Herod the Great, who made it the capital of his realm in Galilee. It had a Jewish majority, living alongside a
heterogeneous population. It was named in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. There is a legend that Tiberias was
built on the site of the Israelite village of Rakkat, mentioned in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 19:35). A discussion of
Tiberias as Rakkat appears in the Talmud. In The Antiquities of the Jews, the Roman Jewish historian Josephus states
that Tiberias was near Emmaus. This location is repeated in The Wars of the Jews.
Under the Roman Empire, the city was known by its Greek name Τιβεριάς (Tiberiás, Modern Greek Τιβεριάδα Tiveriáda), an
adaptation of the taw-suffixed Semitic form that preserved its feminine grammatical gender.
In the days of Antipas, the more religious (as opposed to Hellenized) Jews refused to settle there; the presence of a
cemetery rendered the site ritually unclean. Antipas settled many non-Jews there from rural Galilee and other parts of his
domains in order to populate his new capital, and built a palace on the acropolis. The prestige of Tiberias was so
great that the sea of Galilee soon came to be named the sea of Tiberias; however, what would now be called Jewish zealots
continued to call it 'Yam Ha-Kinerett', its traditional name. The city was governed by a city council of 600 with a
committee of 10 until 44 CE when a Roman Procurator was set over the city after the death of Agrippa I. In 61 CE
Agrippa II annexed the city to his kingdom whose capital was Caesarea Phillippi. During the First Jewish–Roman War
Josephus Flavius took control of the city and destroyed Herod's palace but was able to stop the city from being pillaged
by his Jewish army. Where most other cities in Palestine were razed, Tiberias was spared because its inhabitants
remained loyal to Rome after Josephus Flavius had surrendered the city to the Roman emperor Vespasian. It became a
mixed city after the fall of Jerusalem; with Judea subdued, the southern Jewish population migrated to Galilee.
In 145 CE, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai "cleansed the city of ritual impurity allowing Jews to settle in the city in numbers."
 The Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, also fled from Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire,
and after several moves eventually settled in Tiberias in about 150 CE. It was to be its final meeting place before
its disbanding in the early Byzantine period. Following the expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem after 135, Tiberias and
its neighbor Sepphoris became the major Jewish centres. From the time when Yochanan bar Nafcha (d. 279) settled in
Tiberias, the city became the focus of Jewish religious scholarship in the land. The Mishnah along with the Jerusalem
Talmud, (the written discussions of generations of rabbis in the Land of Israel – primarily in the academies of Tiberias
and Caesarea), was probably compiled in Tiberias by Rabbi Judah haNasi in around 200 CE. The 13 synagogues served the
spiritual needs of a growing Jewish population.
In the sixth century Tiberias was still the seat of Jewish religious learning. In light of this, Bishop Simeon of Beth
Arsham urged the Christians of Palestine to seize the leaders of Judaism in Tiberias, to put them to the rack, and to
compel them to command the Jewish king, Dhu Nuwas, to desist from persecuting the Christians in Najran.
In 614, Tiberias was the site where during the final Jewish revolt against the Byzantine Empire, some of the Jewish
population supported the Persian invaders; the Christians were massacred and the churches destroyed. In 628 the Byzantium
army retook Tiberias and the slaughter of the Christians was then reciprocated with a slaughter of the Jews.[citation
Middle Ages -
In 636 CE Tiberias was the regional capital until Bet Shean took its place following the Rashidun conquest. The Caliphate
allowed 70 Jewish families from Tiberias to form the core of a renewed Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the importance of
Tiberias to Jewish life declined. The caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty built one of its square-plan palaces on the
waterfront to the north of Tiberias, at Khirbet al-Minya. Tiberias was revitalised in 749 after Bet Shean was destroyed in
an earthquake. Jewish scholarship flourished from the beginning of the 8th century to the end of the 10th., when the
oral traditions of ancient Hebrew, still in use today, were codified. One of the leading members of the Tiberian masoretic
community was Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, who refined the oral tradition now known as Tiberian Hebrew. Ben Asher is also
credited with putting the finishing touches on the Aleppo Codex, the oldest existing manuscript of the Hebrew scriptures.
The Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi writing in 985, describes Tiberias as "the capital of Jordan Province, and a city in the
Valley of Canaan...The town is narrow, hot in summer and unhealthy...There are here eight natural hot baths, where no fuel
need be used, and numberless basins besides of boiling water. The mosque is large and fine, and stands in the market-
place. Its floor is laid in pebbles, set on stone drums, placed close one to another." According to Muqaddesi, those who
suffered from scab or ulcers, and other such diseases came to Tiberias to bath in the hot springs for three days.
"Afterwards they dip in another spring which is cold, whereupon...they become cured."
In 1033 Tiberias was again destroyed by an earthquake.
Nasir-i Khusrou visited in 1047, and describes a city with a "strong wall" which begins at the border of the lake and goes
all around the town except on the water-side. Furthermore, he describes
"numberless buildings erected in the very water, for the bed of the lake in this part is rock; and they have built
pleasure houses that are supported on columns of marble, rising up out of the water. The lake is very full of fish.  The
Friday Mosque is in the midst of the town. At the gate of the mosque is a spring, over which they have built a hot bath.
 On the western side of the town is a mosque known as the Jasmine Mosque (Masjid-i-Yasmin). It is a fine building and in
the middle part rises a great platform (dukkan), where they have their Mihrabs (or prayer-niches). All round those they
have set jasmine-shrubs, from which the mosque derives its name."
During the First Crusade it was occupied by the Franks, soon after the capture of Jerusalem and it was given in fief to
Tancred, who made it his capital of the Principality of Galilee in the Kingdom of Jerusalem; the region was sometimes
called the Principality of Tiberias, or the Tiberiad. In 1099 the original site of the city was abandoned, and
settlement shifted north to the present location. St. Peter's Church, originally built by the Crusaders, is still
standing today, although the building has been altered and reconstructed over the years. In the 12th-century, the city was
the subject of negative undertones in Islamic tradition. A hadith recorded by Ibn Asakir of Damascus (d. 1176) names
Tiberias as one of the "four cities of hell." This could have been reflecting the fact that at the time, the town had
a notable non-Muslim population. In 1187 Saladin ordered his son al-Afdal to send an envoy to Count Raymond of Tripoli
requesting safe passage through his fiefdom of Galilee and Tiberias. Raymond was obliged to grant the request under the
terms of his treaty with Saladin. Saladin's force left Caesarea Philippi to engage the fighting force of the Knights
Templar. The Templar force was destroyed in the encounter. Saladin then besieged Tiberias; after six days the town fell.
On July 4, 1187 Saladin defeated the Crusaders coming to relieve Tiberias at the Battle of Hattin, 10 km outside the city.
At the beginning of the 12th century the Jewish community numbered about 50 families; and at that time the best
manuscripts of the Torah were said to be found there. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (Maimonides), a leading Jewish legal
scholar, philosopher and physician of his period, died in 1204 and was buried in Tiberias, now one of the city's important
Yakut, writing in the 1220s, described Tiberias as a small town, long and narrow. He also describes the "hot salt springs,
over which they have built Hammams which use no fuel. Tabariyyah was first conquered by (the Arab commander) Shurahbil in
the year 13 (634 AD) by capitulation; one half of the houses and churches were to belong to the Muslims, the other half to
In 1265 the Crusaders were driven from the city by the Mamluks, who ruled Tiberias until the Ottoman conquest in 1516.
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