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26 December 2011

Mount Tabor

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The Basilica of the Transfiguration

After having announced the Passion to his disciples, Jesus took Peter, James and John up this mountain where he was transfigured.

Terra Santa Convent
- Basilica of the Transfiguration
- P.O.B. 16 - Mount Tabor
- 16100 Nazareth

Tel.: +972. 4 662.07.20
- Fax: +972. 4 673.54.66
- E-mail:

Sanctuary Visiting Hours

8:00am to 11:45am
- 2:00pm to 5:00pm.

The Christian tradition

The gospel does not specify on which "high mountain" Jesus was transfigured before his favorite disciples. In his Catechism for Baptismal Candidates (347 AD), Saint Cyril of Jerusalem is the first to indicate Mount Tabor: "We present two witnesses who were in God’s presence on Sinai: Moses... and Elijah... They were present with the one who was transfigured on Mount Tabor and spoke to his disciples of the exodus he would accomplish in Jerusalem." Three churches were built on this mountain (commemorating the three tents that Peter wanted to raise for Jesus, Moses and Elijah) where the monks would pray continuously, each in turn, day and night (the Armenian monk Eghisce, 7th century).

The modern church (built by A. Barluzzi in 1924) takes up the lines of the religious buildings that preceded it, whose remains can be seen in the crypt and underground areas beneath the church, as well as in the chapel next to the entry porch on the south side and in the sanctuary. The chapels, to the north and the south, are dedicated to Moses the Lawgiver and Elija the prophet, respectively. The ruins of a Crusader period (12th century) Benedictine monastery were brought to light by Father B. Meistermann at the end of the 19th century and can be seen in the archaeological park in front of the church. In particular, the chapter room and and a chapel can be recognized. Running some three kilometers around the flat summit of the mountain are the remains of the wall of a mighty Saracen fortress (13th century).

Halfway between the basilica and the main door of the Saracen fortress (Bab el-Hawa), a small oratory known as the Descendentibus ("of the Descent") was rebuilt to commemorate the gospel words "as they were coming down from the mountain" (Matt. 17:9). At the foot of the mountain, in the Arab village of Dabburieh are the remains of a Crusader church in memory of the miraculous healing of a demon-possessed boy (Matt. 17:14-18).

The magnificent view from Mount Tabor offers a vision of natural beauty and important biblical sites. In the Old Testament, Mount Tabor was regarded as sacred by the northern tribes of Israel (Zebulon, Naftali and Issachar, of which it marked the border) (Joshua 19:22), was a powerful and eloquent image in the writings of the prophets (Jeremiah 46:18 and Psalm 88:13), and was famous for Barak’s victory over Sisera’s army by the counsel of the prophetess Deborah (Judges 4:6).

The Site

The summit of Tabor

1. Gateway of the Wind
- 2. "Descendentibus" oratory
- 3. Greek Orthodox church dedicated to Saint Elijah (more recently, to the Transfiguration).
- 4. Casa Nova and Franciscan convent.
- 5. Ruins of Crusader Benedictine monastery.
- 6. Basilica of the Transfiguration
- 7. Chapter room and refectory of the Benedictine monastery.

Emir of the Lebanese Mountain, Fakhr ed-Din, who gave the summit of the mountain, with the ruins of the fortress and the sanctuary of the Transfiguration to the Friars Minor in the 17th century.

Biblical texts

The Transfiguration of Jesus

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

(Matthew 17:1-9)

About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

(Luke 9:28-36)

The demon-possessed lunatic

When they came to the crowd a man approached, knelt down before him, and said, "Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him." Jesus said in reply, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me." Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and from that hour the boy was cured. Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" He said to them, "Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting

(Matthew 17:14-21)


Guide:In the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus, God the Father revealed the incomparable beauty of Christ, the Lord of history and Savior of every person. With our hearts and minds illuminated by faith in Jesus, let us direct our prayer to the Father: All: Hear us, O Lord

1. For the Church, that she may always be a reflection of the divine beauty of Jesus, her Spouse and Lord. Let us pray:

2. For all those who announce the Good News, that their ministry may be prepared and accompanied by the loving contemplation of the face of Christ. Let us pray: 3. For all Christians, that they may docilely accept the Father’s invitation and faithfully follow the words and example of the Lord Jesus. Let us pray:

4. For the people of the promise, that they may recognize in Jesus the Messiah who was announced by the Law and the Prophets. Let us pray:

5. For us and for all Holy Land pilgrims, that we may know how to accept and live the entire mystery of Christ that transverses the Way of the Cross to reach the glorious Resurrection. Let us pray:

Guide:Holy Father, who in Jesus Christ loves us all, draw our hearts and minds to you so that our entire existence becomes a luminous testimony to our communion of love with you. Through Christ Our Lord. All: Amen.