House of Peter at Capernaum

One block of homes, called by the Franciscan excavators the sacra insula or "holy insula" ("insula" refers to a block of homes around a courtyard) was found to have a complex history. Located between the synagogue and the lakeshore, it was found near the front of a labyrinth of houses from many different periods. Three principal layers have been identified: 1.A group of private houses built around the first century BC which remained in use until the early fourth century AD. 2.The great transformation of one of the homes in the fourth century AD. 3.The octagonal church in the middle of the fifth century AD. The excavators concluded that one house in the village was venerated as the house of Peter the fisherman as early as the mid-first century AD, with two churches having been constructed over it (Lofreda, 1984). [edit] First century AD The city's basalt houses are grouped around two large courtyards, one to the north and the other to the south. One large room in particular, near the east side and joining both courtyards, was especially large (sides about 7.5 meters long) and roughly square. An open space on the eastern side contained a brick oven. A threshold which allowed crossing between the two courtyards remains well-preserved to this day. Beginning in the latter half of the first century AD, this house displayed markedly different characteristics than the other excavated houses. The rough walls were reworked with care and were covered with inscriptions; the floor was covered with a fine layer of plaster. Furthermore, almost no domestic ceramics are recovered, but lamps abound. One explanation suggested for this treatment is that the room was venerated as a religious gathering place, a domus-ecclesia or house church, for the Christian community. (Loffreda, 1984) This suggestion has been critiqued by several scholars, however. In particular, where excavators had claimed to find graffiti including the name of Peter, others have found very little legible writing (Strange and Shanks, 1982). Others have questioned whether the space is actually a room; the paved floor, the large space without supports, and the presence of a cooking space have prompted some to note that these are more consistent with yet another courtyard (Freyne, 2001). [Wikipedia]

Read More