A group of archaeologists claim to have found the Church of the Apostles—which has been said in Christian tradition to have been built above the homes of Jesus’ disciples Andrew and Peter—near the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
Archaeologists from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at Kinneret College, Israel, and Nyack College in New York teamed up to excavate a site at el-Araj near the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee when they found evidence of the church’s existence.
Professor Steven Notley of Nyack College, the lead archaeologist, told Fox News that the group found evidence of marble from the church’s chancel screen and small, glass blocks used to construct church wall mosaics.
Notley told the International Business Times el-Araj is also the site of Bethsaida, an ancient Jewish fishing village which later called Julias under the Roman empire.
“These discoveries already informed us that the church was waiting to be found somewhere nearby,” the professor said. “It is always remarkable to bring these beautifully decorated floors to light after being buried for almost 1,500 years,” he explained.
At this point, only the southern rooms of the church have been excavated. But an overhead view of the excavated structure supports the theory that this place once served as a church because of the structure’s “central nave with two aisles,” Professor Mordechai Aviam from Kinneret Academic College told Haaretz.
Other discoveries at the dig included mosaic flooring, roof tiles, and a piece of a chalk carving containing a cross.
Early Christian pilgrims mentioned the Byzantine church, including Bavarian bishop St. Willibald in 725 A.D.
“[Willibald] states that the church was in Bethsaida built over the house of Peter and Andrew, among the first disciples of Jesus,” Notley told Fox News.
The church seems to have been built nearly 500 years after the apostles lived in the fifth century, but archaeologists have not set a precise date on how far back the ruins went.
Notley said the church identification will stay theoretical until excavators can find an inscription.
“It would be normal to find an inscription in a church of the Byzantine period, describing in whose memory it was built, for instance,” he says.