Archaeologists unearthed the ruins of one of Israel’s oldest churches, built in the 4th-5th century over said to be where Jesus founded the Church on the Peter.
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18
Lead researcher Professor Adi Erlich from the University of Haifa said they hypothesize “the church was built to commemorate Jesus’ significant interactions with Peter that are documented to have taken place in the area during Jesus’ time.”
Pious tradition holds that Jesus’ interactions with Peter in the region during the time also included his founding of the Church on him.
The excavation is unique, combining a cliff, a cave, springs, and terrace built in ancient times from a previous collapse of part of the cliff on which the temple was built. Erlich said in 320 AD it became a Catholic church with its own bishop.
“Among the Christian finds were little crosses decorating the mosaic flooring of the church. The cross symbol became widespread in Christian iconography after the reign of Constantine, in the mid-4th century. One east-facing niche in the pagan temple that perhaps held a statue of Pan was reinvented as a church apse.”
Erlich also said they discovered a “very interesting stone,” dotted with etched crosses. They were most likely “I was here” graffiti carved into the rock by pilgrims who visited in the 6th-7th centuries.