* Transfig. 1
* Transfig. 2
* Transfig. 3
* Mk 9:2-10 A
* Mk 9:2-10 B
* Old Test.
* Post Crus.
* Pictures 1
* Pictures 2
* Pictures 3
* Pictures 4
The Franciscans after 1854 - exploration
(by Teresa Petrozzi - translated by Raphael Bonanno ofm)
year 1854 was an important date in the history of Tabor: the studies of the
ruins began and a little later,slowly the Franciscans started to build.
The first discoveries were made by Melchior De Vog"u'e, a pioneer of
palestinian archaeology. He climbed Tabor precisely in 1854 and with his
trained eye noticed among the stones and oak trees the remains of two sacred
buildings. One, on the property of the Greek Orthodox was all that remained of
a small chapel four meters wide and at the maximim five or six long, with a
semi-circular apse to the east. The Roman walls, constructed with great care,
were covered on the inside with white stucco on which they painted decorations
of red grapevines. The mosaic floor had large white and black tesserae which
formed a great circle with some square-shaped decorations. De Vog"u'e saw in
the ruins an oratory of the 4th-5th c. and did not hesitate to consider it as
one of the most ancient religious buildings in the Holy Land.
The other ruins, on the Franciscan property, belonged to a construction
composed of some small underground spaces, with a vaulted roof, to which you
climbed on a stone staircase. According to De Vog"u'e it was the ruined crypt
of a crusader church which must have had three naves and three chapels. The
scholar dated it in the beginning of the 12th c. De Vog"u'e based himself on
what he saw; the excavations that followed resulted in a greater, but not
absolute, precision and the opinions of the experts were varied.
On August 6, 1858 the Latin community of Nazareth, having climbed Tabor with
the friars for the feast of the Transfiguration, decided to construct a chapel
and two or three rooms for the religious. The work began the following day in a
place that was a stone's throw to the north of the famous oratory. While
digging to lay the foundations, the workers discovered three areas, one of
which had a divano or reception room according to the arab custom, and another
which was larger (9,5 m x 4,75) with a well-preserved roof. They also found a
place where five pillars rose up and were surmounted by arches. The work was
interrupted by an epidemic but was taken up again the following spring. Fr
Angelo Veneziani, the guardian of Nazareth, had discovered an extraordinary
helper in Luis Kalil, the interpreter for the friary in Nazareth, who began to
restore the three uncovered spaces. Due to other difficulties, the work had to
be stopped again
In the meantime financial help arrived. One donation came from Canon Strauss,
the president of the Society of the Holy Sepulcher in Cologne, Germany and
another arrived from a countess in Vienna. The superiors sent some lay brother
workers to build a wall around the Franciscan property and to continue the
repairs of the ancient areas. The structures, which belonged to the Benedictine
monastery, were demolished in 1921-22 because they obscured the view from afar
of the new basilica for the pilgrims.
At the same time the works of excavation had freed at least partially the
primitive church of the Transfiguration and all of a crusader chapel. Having
obtained the authorization of the Patriarchate to erect a new sanctuary, Fr
Barnabas of Appignano, guardian of Nazareth, intended to restore the church.
The idea was set aside due to the opinion by Gu'erin, a French priest who was
also an explorer and archaeologist. He had counselled the friars "to preserve
intact and in full view, when they would execute this project, all those parts
that still exist of the ancient church, and above all to maintain the primitive
character of the apse as a sign of its antiquity and consequently of the
antiquity of the tradition relative to the true place of the Transfiguration".
The position of the apse was truly important. The great difficulties that the
architects of the primitive church and of the successive churches had to
resolve in order to put the large cross exactly in that spot, fabricated from
lead and on the eastern side of the mountain, and the fact that the floor
followed the difficult contour of the land, showed clearly their intention to
place the apse on the venerated spot.
To Gu'erin we are indebted for a good description of the ruins. The Greek
Orthodox had discovered a second and larger apse immediately to the north of
the ruins noted by De Vog"u'e. Therefore the result was that these ruins did
not belong to an independent oratory but were another nave of a three nave
church, the ancient church of St Elijah. The Greek Orthodox had built a new
sanctuary, 24 m long by 15 wide, but it did not obey the primitive design.
The second construction noticed by De Vog"u'e also had a more complex reality:
it was a church with three naves, 36m long and at least 16 wide. Under the
central nave there was a crypt, 30m long by 6 wide, to which you descended by
12 steps, partially cut into the rock. In the eastern extremity of the crypt
there was an altar half in ruins. The buildings above, according to Gu'erin,
had been demolished and rebuilt several times but the crypt, partially carved
out of the rock itself and in part constructed with very uniform stones, must
have belonged to the sanctuary dedicated to the holy Savior in the first
centuries of the Church.In the central apse there were the lower courses of the
wall which Gu'erin judged to be Roman-Byzantine; beside the entrance (south
side) you could see a chapel with a mosaic floor of multi-colored tesserae and
a grave cut into the rock and surmounted by a crusader arch. At the moment of
the discovery, the tomb held human remains.
This chapel was later confused by some authors with the ruins which De Vog"u'e
had called an oratory. The problem could have been caused by the similar
dimensions of the two small edifices, although the mosaic floors were
About twenty meters to the west of the entrance there was revealed another
small chapel of crusader structure. Both the church and the chapel were found
within the area of the large Benedictine monastery.
On the Saracen fortress Gu'erin noted impressive ruins of towers and connecting
walls and portals with pointed arches. The stones were either completely smooth
or with bosses.