A 1,300-year-old church with ornate mosaic floors, apparently part of a monastery, was discovered in Kfar Kama, near Mount Tabor in the Galilee, exciting the Head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel who personally came to visit the site.
The church was chanced upon during an excavation conducted prior to the construction of a playground in the town, as is the case of many important archeological discoveries in Israel that were randomly uncovered during construction projects.
Archaeologist Nurit Feig, who headed the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the building includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer, and a central hall.
This church has three apses or prayer niches, while most churches were characterized by a single apse.
The nave and the aisles were paved with mosaics which partially survived. Their colorful decoration incorporates geometric patterns, and blue, black, and red floral patterns.
A special discovery was the small reliquary, a stone box used to preserve sacred relics.
A series of rooms were partially uncovered adjacent to the church. According to a ground-penetrating radar inspection operated by Dr. Shani Libbi, there are additional rooms at the site yet to be excavated.
The researchers believe that it is possible that this large complex was a monastery.
Excited by the discovery, the Catholic Archbishop Dr. Youssef Matta, Head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, personally visited the site and was inspired by the ancient remains.
In the early 1960s, a smaller church with two chapels was excavated inside Kfar Kama and was dated by the finds to the first half of the sixth century CE.
The new discovery indicates to the apparent importance of the Christian village settled in the Byzantine period close to Mount Tabor, a site of primary religious significance for Christianity, identified as the site of the Transfiguration.
In 1876, when the Circassian Shapsug tribe first settled in Kfar Kama, they used the stones of the ancient village to build their houses.