lato destroThe International Center “Domus Galilaeae”, is located near the summit of the hill known as the mount of the 'Beatitudes' which rises quite rapidly almost 300 meters (900 hundred feet) above sea level, in front of Capernaum and Tabgah, the place of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Domus Galilaeae is situated about 1 Kilometer from the ruins of Korazim, on the so-called plateau of Korazim. This place was designated by local traditions as “the place of the trees of the blessings”. The Center is found near the road heading towards the east, which in antiquity united Damascus with Galilee, passing through Korazim and then Capernaum: the so-called “Via Maris”, one of the major routes of communication built by the Romans, which followed the coastline of the lake.

The place of the Sermon of the Mount and of the institution of the 12 apostles.

The Gospel of Matthew, after the temptations in the desert, tells of the return of Jesus to Galilee (ch.5,1-20);, after having spoken of the mission of Jesus in northern Galilee and in the Decapolis, and after the institution of the first apostles, it writes:

«Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the mountain and, after he sat down, his disciples came near him. Then, he began to speak...»

and he pronounced the Sermon of the Mount. In the parallel Gospel of Luke instead (Ch. 6,12), always within the context of his mission in Galilee, Jesus

«went up the mount to pray and spent the night in prayer...when it was daylight, he called the disciples to himself and chose twelve, to whom he gave the name apostles...going down with them...he stopped on a plateau. There was a large crowd gathered...and, lifting his eyes he said...»

The two versions appear contradictory only apparently, since Luke refers to the habit of Jesus of withdrawing to isolated or high places to pray alone and from which he descended to find a place more level where he could speak to the crowd gathered there from all of Judea. Both versions in Greek use the expression:

«the mount»

An expression which indicates a precise place, well-known to the readers. The context indicates that «the mount» (to oros) was found near Capernaum. From the most ancient testimonies, the primitive Church identified the place of the discourse and the institution of the twelve exactly on the mount that rises right behind Capernaum and Tabgah.

After the invasions by the Persians and then, soon after, by the Arabs, the precise references were lost, particularly concerning the location of the very same Capernaum, Tabgah and Korazim. Scholars at the beginning of the 1900 considered different hypotheses about which was the mount of beatitudes: some proposed the horns of Hattin (Qurun-hattum) or Mount Tabor. In the last decade, such hypotheses have fallen since they lacked verisimilitude, but, above all, thanks to the campaign of archeological excavations promoted by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Between 1905 and 1915 great portions of Capernaum were brought to light. In 1925 they were able to identify with certainty the ruins of Korazim, and in 1932 the ruins of the Byzantine Church in Tabgah, which pointed the place of the multiplication of the five loaves, were discovered.With these precise archaeological references, scholars are now in agreement that the mount of Beatitudes is the place of the institution of the twelve and where the Sermon was proclaimed. More difficult is rather to locate the precise place from where the sermon was pronounced. Egeria, in the IV century, gives some precise indications as she writes her itinerary.

«not far from Capernaum...on the mount nearby...there is another height specula [1] on which the Lord went up to proclaim the beatitudes...».

At the time of the Crusades, the Compendium De Situ Urbis Jerusalem, written around 1130, refers that the place of the sermon of the mount was one mile up from Tabgah. Soon after, in 1172, Theodoric, refers generically that Jesus pronounced the sermon on the mount near Tiberias. Burchardus instead, in 1283 is much more precise: he refers that the location of the Sermon, according to local traditions, was the mount that is found coming from Safed, following the way towards the east (which is exactly the way which passes near the project Domus Galilaeae) and which is found near Tabgah. From here, Burchardus writes, that a magnificent panorama can be enjoyed of the whole lake and of the whole region of Galilee to Hermon and Lebanon. In modern days, Bedouin traditions are being re-evaluated, which are the most ancient and uninterrupted local traditions, and also they are the only ones able to fill the gap between the era of the Primitive Church and that of the Crusades. In this perspective, several modern scholars are in favor of identifying the place of the sermon, exactly with the plateau where the center Domus Galilaeae is being built. Clemens Kopp, who has studied the local Bedouin traditions, proposes three arguments in favor of this hypothesis. He writes:

«very strong reasons maintain that the sermon of the mount was pronounced near the blessed trees:

  1. The very ancient Bedouin tradition is backed by an accurate analysis of all the ancient and medieval sources. The Bedouins identified a millenary group of trees as Es-sajarat el-mubarakat which translated means: “The trees blessed by the Messiah” (Issa). These three bi-millenary trees- a terebinth, an oak, and a spina Christi, or thorn of Christ- were to be found exactly on the property where Domus Galilaeae is being constructed, until 1913, and they were venerated by the Bedouins because of the memory of the presence of the Messiah. In 1913 a Bedouin, however, had the audacity to cut two down, the oak and the Thorn of Christ. This provoked the indignation of the Bedouins that lead to the sale of the land to the Custodian. On this land today there is left only the terebinth tree.
  2. The location of the blessed trees was also called by the Bedouins deir makir, which recalls the Greek makario~ (makarios, blessed, and is translated “the monastery of the beatitude” where according to the Bedouin tradition there was a monastery of hermits.
  3. This corresponds with the description of the Gospel. Kopp writes: «the place allows one to stay in solitude, but at the same time, it is easily reachable for the people who come from the road, that begins near the lake and goes up along the Wadi ed-dshamus. The height slopes gently towards the wadi and it is for this reason that there are plateaus for larger crowds... [2]

The only place on the mount of beatitudes where you can enjoy the uninterrupted view of the whole lake of Tiberias, of the Jordan and even of Hermon, is that of the blessed trees. Also Bernabe Meistermann and P. Lievin de Hamme mention this Bedouin tradition according to which it was close to these plurimillenial trees, that Issa pronounced the sermon of the mount.