Mount Tabor: the Transfiguration of Jesus

Amy Rodighiero6 August 2021

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. Come with us on a virtual tour of Mount Tabor, one of the most charming and serene contemplation sites of the Holy Land. It’s a treasure chest of history and tradition. You don’t want to miss it!

JEZREEL VALLEY

Mount Tabor, a 588 meters high hill, 8 kilometres from Nazareth, is one of the most imposing uplands in Yizreel – or Jezreel – valley, of Galilee and of the Holy Land in general.

The southern borders of this piece of land, contented by many from ancient times as it’s very fertile, are drawn by Mount Carmel, the biblical home of Elijah. Here the prophet challenged and won over the Canaanite worshippers of the god Baal, the phoenician god of the thunder.

Another interesting landmark to see is Megiddo. In the Apocalipse, the Neolithic archaeological site is identified as the place where the final battle of the Armageddon, or “mount of Megiddo” in hebrew, will take place.

TABOR: THE HOLY MOUNT

The most important of the Jazreel valley holy places is for sure the mount of the Transfiguration. In order to get here, you have to follow a narrow, bended street whose starting point is in Dabburiya village. According to the Gospel, it is here that Jesus, on his way back from mount Tabor, exorcised a possessed young man.

What makes Mount Tabor special is its dome-like shape and the fact that it rests in the middle of a plain: it is an isolated mountain. “Isolated” is exactly how it is described in the Gospel, never called by its name: “Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1).

Here Jesus’ clothes became luminescent, he spoke with Elijah and Moses, a cloud came and the voice of God proclaimed him as his son. Origene, one of the fathers of the church, in his commentary to Psalms of the II Century AC, confirmed Mount Tabor to be the site where the transfiguration took place.

HOW PILGRIMS WALK JESUS’ PATH TOWARDS THE TRANSFIGURATION

We will now follow Jesus’ path: in order to get to the top of the mount, you have to pass through the Gate of the Wind, the opening to the huge fortification walls rebuilt by crusaders after the Romans destroyed them.

What comes next is a lovely stroll through the ruins ofthe medieval dominican friary. The archaeological site, still excavated to this day, can show us what the contemplative life of the religious community residing here was like: you can still tell apart the chapel, the Capitol hall and the refectory.

You will now face the majestic modern basilica. The building, the first one designed by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, recalls the structure of sirian-roman churches. The facade, made by three “sheds”, reveals how the interior is divided into a central aisle and two lateral ones.

It’s a delicate homage to Luke 9: 28-36 where Peter, after assisting to Jesus’ transfiguration and his dialogue with Elijah and Moses, proposed to build three sheds: one for his Master, one for the prophet and one for the bearer of the Tables of the Law.

THE ANCIENT FOUNDATIONS OF THE LUMINOUS BASILICA

The basilica was built upon the ruins of three byzantine churches covered and protected by the crusaders’ church. It was designed in order to capture the concept of divine light. The use of thin marble slabs and honey-coloured alabaster for the windows and the original roof, only covered by marble, were intended to make the aisles light up with the same divine light of the Transfiguration.

Walking down the central aisle, you’ll end up in front of a huge staircase leading to the byzatine crypt Here, under the altar, there is the exact point where, according to the tradition, the event took place. Today, August the 6th, we are celebrating the transfiguration.

The two lateral chapels, dedicated to Elijah and Moses, are decorated with marvellous frescoes while the heart of the basilica is embellished with mosaics. Milions of micro gilded tiles are creating, once again, a sublime luminous effect.

Blinded by the light, it’s now time to climb down from Mount Tabor following the procession after the Mass. You’ll pass bythe byzantine chapel of the Descendentibus, named after the apostles descending from the Tabor. They were ordered by Jesus not to tell anyone about what they just saw, not until his resurrection.

Maybe silence is a good practice to follow in touring this place: you’ll better enjoy the slow ascend, the contemplation of a place venerated by christians since ancient times.

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. Come with us on a virtual tour of Mount Tabor, one of the most charming and serene contemplation sites of the Holy Land. It’s a treasure chest of history and tradition. You don’t want to miss it!

JEZREEL VALLEY

Mount Tabor, a 588 meters high hill, 8 kilometres from Nazareth, is one of the most imposing uplands in Yizreel – or Jezreel – valley, of Galilee and of the Holy Land in general.

The southern borders of this piece of land, contented by many from ancient times as it’s very fertile, are drawn by Mount Carmel, the biblical home of Elijah. Here the prophet challenged and won over the Canaanite worshippers of the god Baal, the phoenician god of the thunder.

Another interesting landmark to see is Megiddo. In the Apocalipse, the Neolithic archaeological site is identified as the place where the final battle of the Armageddon, or “mount of Megiddo” in hebrew, will take place.

TABOR: THE HOLY MOUNT

The most important of the Jazreel valley holy places is for sure the mount of the Transfiguration. In order to get here, you have to follow a narrow, bended street whose starting point is in Dabburiya village. According to the Gospel, it is here that Jesus, on his way back from mount Tabor, exorcised a possessed young man.

What makes Mount Tabor special is its dome-like shape and the fact that it rests in the middle of a plain: it is an isolated mountain. “Isolated” is exactly how it is described in the Gospel, never called by its name: “Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1).

Here Jesus’ clothes became luminescent, he spoke with Elijah and Moses, a cloud came and the voice of God proclaimed him as his son. Origene, one of the fathers of the church, in his commentary to Psalms of the II Century AC, confirmed Mount Tabor to be the site where the transfiguration took place.

HOW PILGRIMS WALK JESUS’ PATH TOWARDS THE TRANSFIGURATION

We will now follow Jesus’ path: in order to get to the top of the mount, you have to pass through the Gate of the Wind, the opening to the huge fortification walls rebuilt by crusaders after the Romans destroyed them.

What comes next is a lovely stroll through the ruins ofthe medieval dominican friary. The archaeological site, still excavated to this day, can show us what the contemplative life of the religious community residing here was like: you can still tell apart the chapel, the Capitol hall and the refectory.

You will now face the majestic modern basilica. The building, the first one designed by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, recalls the structure of sirian-roman churches. The facade, made by three “sheds”, reveals how the interior is divided into a central aisle and two lateral ones.

It’s a delicate homage to Luke 9: 28-36 where Peter, after assisting to Jesus’ transfiguration and his dialogue with Elijah and Moses, proposed to build three sheds: one for his Master, one for the prophet and one for the bearer of the Tables of the Law.

THE ANCIENT FOUNDATIONS OF THE LUMINOUS BASILICA

The basilica was built upon the ruins of three byzantine churches covered and protected by the crusaders’ church. It was designed in order to capture the concept of divine light. The use of thin marble slabs and honey-coloured alabaster for the windows and the original roof, only covered by marble, were intended to make the aisles light up with the same divine light of the Transfiguration.

Walking down the central aisle, you’ll end up in front of a huge staircase leading to the byzatine crypt Here, under the altar, there is the exact point where, according to the tradition, the event took place. Today, August the 6th, we are celebrating the transfiguration.

The two lateral chapels, dedicated to Elijah and Moses, are decorated with marvellous frescoes while the heart of the basilica is embellished with mosaics. Milions of micro gilded tiles are creating, once again, a sublime luminous effect.

Blinded by the light, it’s now time to climb down from Mount Tabor following the procession after the Mass. You’ll pass bythe byzantine chapel of the Descendentibus, named after the apostles descending from the Tabor. They were ordered by Jesus not to tell anyone about what they just saw, not until his resurrection.

Maybe silence is a good practice to follow in touring this place: you’ll better enjoy the slow ascend, the contemplation of a place venerated by christians since ancient times.