August 6, 2012

Video: The Monastery of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

The traditional site of our Saviour's Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, is an isolated dome-shaped mountain in eastern lower Galilee. It has been a site of Christian worship from the earliest times, following the example of our Lord Who "went up the mountain to pray" (Luke 9:28). A web of catacombs recently discovered under the courtyard and church of the Orthodox contains a chapel with a 3rd-century Holy Table and other important artifacts. Archaeologists surmise that these caves also served as a hiding place during persecutions. In the 4th century a church was built on Mount Tabor, and two more were built in the 5th century. Pilgrims and monastics flocked to the hallowed mountain, and over the centuries several small monasteries existed at the summit. When the Muslims recaptured the area in the 13th century, they destroyed all the Christian buildings and built a fortress over some of the ruins. In the mid-19th century Christians were permitted to rebuild. On the northern section of the summit the Roman Catholics built a monastery, and later, a hostel and Byzantine-style basilica. In 1862, on the southern portion of the summit, the Orthodox built a monastery, a large church dedicated to the Transfiguration, and a chapel dedicated to Melchizedek, the king of Salem (Melchizedek is the priest whom Abraham meets in the Book of Genesis who gives Abraham bread and wine).

Early pilgrims hiked up 4,300 steps carved into the rock to get to the summit, but now access to the summit is via a very steep and winding road which is only accessible to small vehicles. A taxi service is available at the parking lot at the foot of the mountain.