Saint-Pierre’s birthplace may be discovered by archaeologists

In a stunning claim, archaeologists believe they have uncovered the home of Peter and Andrew, primary disciples of Jesus Christ.

A team led by archaeologists Mordechai Aviam and Steven Notley has unearthed a large Greek inscription in a Byzantine-era basilica from 1,200 years ago. The inscription refers to the donor “Constantine, the servant of Christ”, as well as an intercession naming St. Peter “head and commander of the heavenly apostles”.

Constantine was Emperor of Rome (306-337 AD) and was the first Christian ruler of the empire. The inscription is framed by a round medallion which forms part of a larger mosaic floor made up of tiles called “tesserae” which once adorned the church’s sacristy. The floor also features swirling flower patterns.

A 1,500-year-old mosaic believed to sit above Peter and Andrew’s house in the Galilee, Israel, in October 2021. Archaeologists had first discovered mosaic floors from a legendary lost basilica which is said to have been built over the house of Jesus’ apostles Peter and Andrew in biblical Bethsaida.

As used by Christian writers of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire, the title “leader and commander of the apostles” refers to the apostle Peter.

“This find is our strongest indicator that Peter had a special association with the basilica, and it was probably dedicated to him. Since Byzantine Christian tradition consistently identified Peter’s house with Bethsaida, not Capernaum as is often ‘today it seems likely that the basilica commemorates his home,’ said Notley of Nyack College in New York.

Mordechai Aviam cleans the inscription in Galilee
Archaeologist Mordechai Aviam cleans the inscription in Galilee, Israel, August 2022. Archaeologists from Kinneret College in Israel and Nyack College in New York discovered a large Greek inscription while excavating what it is called “Church of the Apostles”, a Byzantine period Basilica of el Araj/Beit haBek which is said to have been built over the house of the apostles Peter and Andrew.
Zachary Wong/Zenger

Archaeologists have dubbed the site the “Church of the Apostles”. The excavations took place in Israel’s Betiha Nature Reserve, undertaken by Nyack College and Kinneret College of Israel, and were sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, the Museum of the Bible, the Lanier Theological Library Foundation, and HaDavar Yeshiva.

This is part of efforts to research the Biblical Jewish village of Bethsaida and its connection to the modern Beit HaBek (al-A’raj) region.

“One of the objectives of this excavation was to verify whether we have a layer from the 1st century at the site, which will allow us to propose a better candidate for the identification of the biblical Bethsaida. Not only did we find significant remains from that period, but we also found this important church and the monastery around it,” said Mordechai Aviam of Israel who led the excavations.

According to the team, the discovery of the ancient inscription underlines the belief that the basilica is the same as that described by Bishop Willibald of Eichstätt, an 8th century AD Catholic clergyman who wrote that the church was built on the house of Pierre and André.

As Willibald traveled from Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee to the village of Kursi, he spent the night at a place which he is told “is Bethsaida whence Peter and Andrew came. There is now a church where their home used to be.”

Roman artifacts found at the site appear to support the testimony of Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus, who wrote his seminal work “Jewish Antiquities” during the first century CE that the village of Bethsaida is became a polis or a Roman city bearing the name of Julias.

Inscription Church of the Apostles in Galilee
The inscription discovered from the Church of the Apostles, in Galilee, Israel, in August 2022. Archaeologists from Kinneret College in Israel and Nyack College in New York discovered a large Greek inscription during excavations of this so-called Church of the Apostles, a Byzantine-era Basilica in el Araj/Beit haBek believed to have been built over the house of the Apostles Peter and Andrew.
Zachary Wong/Zenger

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Peter was the first to declare the messiahship of Jesus and was therefore considered the chief apostle. The Catholic Church considers St. Peter to be the first of a line of popes existing to the present day. The importance of St. Peter is demonstrated by St. Peter’s Basilica on the Vatican Hill in Rome, above the place where he was crucified.

According to excavators of what they believe to be the Church of the Apostles, “It appears that his house was also commemorated in Bethsaida.”

Archaeologists are clearing the site and hope to find more inscriptions confirming that it is a shrine to the first pope, as well as his ties to ancient Israel.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.