Christians have been visiting the house of Peter at Capernaum in Galilee since the dawn of pilgrimage journeys. Thanks to the testimonies they left behind, we know just which dwelling became Capernaum’s first Christian house of worship.
Peter’s house, where Jesus healed his mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:29-31), was built in the first century BC, and was a simple dwelling, like many others archaeologists have unearthed in this small fishing and farming village. In the coming generations the faithful left no less than 131 inscriptions on its walls. Jesus’ name appears frequently, as does Peter’s, along with crosses, pilgrims’ names and blessings. Eventually, in the mid-fourth century, a large church was built here, with Peter’s house as its centerpiece, and some years ago a modern church also went up. These walls, old and new, attest to continuing Christian reverence for the site of one of the best-loved healing stories of Jesus’ Galilee ministry.
From St. Peter’s house, visitors can see another landmark, to the north beyond the modern boundary wall of Capernaum: the red-domed Greek Orthodox church of Capernaum. Excavations here by the Israel Antiquities Authority from 1978 to 1982 shed new light on Capernaum’s history, showing that it was not finally abandoned at the end of the Byzantine Christian period as was previously believed, but continued to flourish up to early Medieval times. The monks who live there are contemplative and therefore there are no visits to the site.