Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a 1,300-year-old church with exceptionally well-preserved mosaics beside the famous Biblical Mount of Transfiguration.

Perhaps one of the widespread misconceptions surrounding archaeology and history is that they are “grey” subjects, where in reality only be the passionless “teaching” of history can be called grey, for all archaeological evidence suggests the ancient world was ablaze with color. This is made evident in the recent discovery of highly detailed floor mosaics in a 1,300-year old church in Israel.

The well-preserved highly ornate mosaic floors were recently unearthed after the announcement of a new playground sparked an archaeological excavation in the Circassian village of Kfar Kama, near Mount Tabor. The project was directed by archaeologist Nurit Feig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority , with assistance from local volunteers, in collaboration with Prof. Moti Aviam of the Kinneret Academic College .

Mosaic floor of 1,300-year-old church in the village of Kfar Kama, near the Mount of Transfiguration (Mount Tabor). ( Alex Wiegmann, Israel Antiquities Authority )

An Ancient Church of Real Biblical Proportions
If you’ve ever wandered around one of the great European medieval cathedrals you would be forgiven for thinking our Christian forebears were an awfully dour lot, but to properly conceive what these early homes of god looked like you must picture an almost psychedelic blaze of geometry and clashing colors painted across the tree like pillars and sacred features like apses, fonts, and altars.

Speaking with media outlet Aleteia, the Catholic Archbishop Dr. Youssef Matta, Head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, who personally visited the site, said the mosaics and the church setting was “inspiring.” He also points out that this archaeological holy site is located close to the Biblical “Mount of Transfiguration.”

According to “Mathew 17” presented on Bible Gateway, this is the location where: “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”

Mosaic floor of 1,300-year-old church in the village of Kfar Kama, near the Mount of Transfiguration. ( Alex Wiegmann, Israel Antiquities Authority )

Unearthing Spectacularly Colorful Ancient Geometric Designs
According to a report on Archaeology News Network , archaeologist Nurit Feig said the church that has been discovered measures 12 × 36 meters (39.37 x 118.11 ft.) and “includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer, and a central hall.” The researchers were particularly impressed with their discovery of a small reliquary for holding sacred relics, which was among the most prized of the artifact finds. But it was not only what was found inside the church that impressed the archaeologists, but also its “unique architectural features” including three apses (prayer niches) – which is unusual because in most churches there is generally only one.

Aerial view of 1,300-year-old church in the village of Kfar Kama, near Mount Tabor. ( Alex Wiegmann, Israel Antiquities Authority )

However, the most valuable archaeological treasure recovered at this 1,300-year-old site didn’t come in the form of gold, silver, or priceless gems, but in the nave and the aisles that were found to be paved with spectacularly colorful geometric mosaics displaying blue, black, and red floral patterns, which Nurit Feig said was a “special discovery.”

Interpreting the Nature of the Early Christian Holy Site Near the Mount of Transfiguration
While the main focus of the excavation focused on the central body of the 6th-century church, the archaeologists expanded outwards and discovered a series of rooms adjacent to the church. Ground-penetrating radar also determined the existence of further buried rooms that have been scheduled for excavation, but all of the accumulated evidence so far leads the researchers to conclude that “it is quite possible that this large complex was a monastery.”

What this church represents in a broader archaeological context, say the scientists, is that it “hints at the apparent importance of the Christian village settled in the Byzantine period close to Mount Tabor, a site of primary religious significance for Christianity, identified as the site of the Transfiguration.” And according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [July 28, 2020] the discovery of the church in Kfar Kama, with its incredibly well preserved mosaics, will contribute greatly to what is already an extensive research project into the history of this early Christian settlement in Galilee .