Mosaic floors from the 1,500-year-old lost 'Church of the Apostles' built over the homes of Jesus' disciples Peter and Andrew are discovered in Israel
Archaeologists excavating a Byzantine-period structure in Biblical Bethsaida believe they have found new evidence proving the ancient ruins are of the long-lost Church of the Apostles.
The team unearthed a stunning mosaic flooring made of tiny yellow, red and orange tiles that bear two inscriptions written in ancient Greek.
The flooring, dating back 1,500 years, mentions a deacon and a building project, along with a half medallion and words of the bishop, according to a press release.
Much of the text is missing, but DailyMail.com translated part of the ancient language to read: 'In the years [or times] of our master, his holiness our bishop.'
Not only could the find prove the existence of the legendary church, but it would lead the team to the location of the home of Jesus' famed apostles, Peter and Andrew - as the Church of the Apostles was said to have been built atop their residence.
Excavations were led by Steven Notley of Nyack College and Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College of the Galilee, who have been working at the site since 2016.
In 2019, the team announced the discovery of remains they said belonged to the Church of the Apostles.
The Byzantine church was found near remnants of a Roman-era settlement, matching the location of Bethsaida as described by the first century AD Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Aviam said.
While mentions of the church can be found in Christian text dating as far back as the year 725 A.D., there has been no confirmation of its existence, leading some to doubt whether it was ever real.
The ruins, however, fit the account of Saint Willibald, a native of England and the Bavarian bishop of Eichstaett, who visited the area around 725 A.D. during a pilgrimage and said that a church at Bethsaida had been built on the site of Peter and Andrew's home.
He reported: 'And thence they went to Bethsaida, the residence of Peter and Andrew, where there is now a church on the site of their house.'
According to Willibald, says Aviam, Bethsaida lay between the biblical sites of Capernaum and Kursi.
Aviam told AFP in 2019: 'The plan is of a church, the dates are Byzantine, the mosaic floors are typical... chancel screens, everything that is typical of a church.'
'Between Capernaum and Kursi there is only one place where a church is described by the visitor in the eighth century and we discovered it, so this is the one,' he said.
It is believed the church was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 A.D. and was mysteriously 'buried' by the seismic event, Haaretz reports.
And from then, the Church of the Apostles was lost and eventually forgotten.
Notley and Aviam, however, believe the mosaic floor could be the proof they need to convince the world that the Byzantine structure is indeed what was mentioned by Saint Willibald.
Apostle Peter and Andrew: Brothers called by Jesus to be the 'fishers of men'
Peter, whose original name was Simon, is recognized as the leader of Jesus’ 12 disciples.
Born a Jewish fisherman, Peter was married and one of Jesus’ closets companions.
Peter is referred to as the ‘gatekeeper’ of heaven, with troves of artwork depicting him in front of the Pearly Gates to decide who is allowed in heaven and who should be cast down to hell.
The Bible says Peter was with Jesus when he walked on Water and was present at the Last Supper.
He also denied knowing Jesus three times following the crucifixion.
Andrew was Peter’s younger brother, who met Jesus at the same time.
And like his brother, Andrew was also a fisherman by trade.
The Bible says Jesus told the brothers that they would be fishers of men.
Very little is known about Andrew, but it is said he traveled to Greece to preach Christianity, where he was crucified at Patras on an X-shaped cross.
The inscriptions, which are incomplete due to pieces of the floor missing, are dedicated to a bishop who reigned when the church was renovated.
Aviam told Haaretz suggests the church had to have significance if it people put the time into fixing it at one point.
The other inscription highlights the deacon who constructed the complex.
The team is not only excited about possibly finding the legendary church, but if this is it that means they have also found the home of Peter and Andrew.
Christians recognize Saint Peter, originally a fisherman, as one of the first followers of Jesus and the leader of the early Church following the ascension.
The Catholic Church also venerates him as its first pope.
The Apostle Andrew is said to have been the first apostle Jesus called and the first apostle to claim Jesus was the Messiah.
And he was also Peter's brother.
In the Bible, John 1:44, it states that Bethsaida is the city of Andrew and Peter.
However, issues arise later in the book of Mark, chapter 1 verse 29, which says the brothers were from Capernaum, which Willibald said is a city along the way to the Church of the Apostles.
WHAT WAS BETHSAIDA? THE BIBLICAL CITY THAT MAY HAVE BEEN HOME TO THE LEGENDARY CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES
A fishing village that once sat on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee is said to be the site where Peter and his brother Andrew were born.
The two were among Jesus’s first disciples.
The site where Bethsaida existed during the first century is now in the Buteiha Valley Nature Reserve.
After its establishment, the ancient village was later re-founded by the Jewish tetrarch Herod Philip and re-named Julias.
By that time, it had grown much larger and came to be a polis.
Recent excavations appear to have uncovered the ancient site.
Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College said this season's dig at nearby El-Araj confirmed it as the site where Peter and his brother Andrew were born according to the Gospel of John.