The Church of Beatitudes
The Church of Beatitudes is a Franciscan church located at the southern slope of mount Eremos, which means a place of solitary or uninhabited in Greek. Today the name Mount of Beatitudes is more common. The Church of Beatitudes overlooks the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and it is not too far from Capernaum, Tabgha, Bethsaida, and Chorazin – all places where Jesus taught and preached.
The Sermon of the Mount
The name “Church of Beatitudes” is based on the tradition that this is the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 – 7:28), starting with eight beatitude and continuing with powerful fundamental teaching of how Jesus sees life in relation with God. According to Matthew, it was the first time Jesus taught, right after John baptized him in the Jordan river and the end of his fasting for 40 days in the desert, after which he began his ministry.
The church we are visiting today was built by the Franciscans in the 20th century, uphill from the ruining of a 4th-century Byzantine church founded at the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The 4th-century pilgrim, Egeria, tells us that Jewish-Christians from Capernaum used a cave located at the hillside, at the seven-springs near Tabgha, and not too far from the current church, as the place of the Sermon on the Mount.
Some scholars believe the magnificent view over the Sea of Galilee, the proximity to the surrounding villages, and the nature of the hillcrest that allows gathering large crowds around Jesus support the tradition that this is the place of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Church of Beatitudes
The church of the Beatitudes is an elegant octagonal building – 8 sides, one for each beatitude proclaimed by Jesus at the opening of his Sermon on the Mount. The church inside is set with an altar in the middle while long benches surround it in a circle. Along the walls, there are long and narrow windows that bring the outside view inside the church.
The church blends in the nature surrounding it and does not dominate it. The Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi designed it, and the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini partly financed the construction work. This is why there was an inscription dedicated to Mussolini stating that the church was built in the 15th year of his rule. In 1970, the inscription was replaced with “Lavs Tibi Chiste” – We Adore You, Christ.
I hope this video shall help you experience how it feels to be there and maybe also imagine how it felt to be at this place during the Sermon on the Mount by our Lord Jesus. More importantly, I hope it will help you think about the meaning of Jesus’ teaching.