Kursi National Park
Meet Kursi National Park
Kursi National Park contains the impressive remains of a monastery and church from the Byzantine period. According to Christian tradition, this is the site of the Miracle of the Swine mentioned in the New Testament
Points of interest
- The ruins of the Byzantine monastery and church
- A spectacular mosaic from the Byzantine period
- The Holy Rock
- The “Enchanted Bench”
- The sand verses
- Remains of the Late Roman period bathhouse
The monastery and church – the ruins that can be seen today were built in the Byzantine period. The monastery was surrounded by a stone wall (145 x 123 m), and is one of the largest in Israel. It appears that not only monks lived in the compound, but also members of a Christian sect that set itself apart from the nearby Jewish settlement on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In the courtyard of the monastery there were public buildings, houses, farm buildings, agricultural and fishing facilities, and a hostel serving pilgrims.
A dirt road led up from the lake to the monumental gate of the compound, with a watchtower alongside it. From the gate, a paved road led to a large church (45 x 23 m) – a basilica, with two rows of six columns dividing the central space of the church into the nave and two aisles. The stone columns and marble Corinthian capitals were decorated with carved crosses. The excavations uncovered a small stone chest under the site of the altar, intended for the relics of saints.
The church had a single apse, with rooms on either side of it. At the threshold of the southern room a mosaic inscription was found, stating that the mosaic floor was laid in the days of the Emperor Mauricius, in the year 585. The room was used for baptizing babies. Underneath one of the rooms at the side of the nave a burial cave was found, containing 30 male skeletons.
The mosaic – on the floor of the church, especially in the aisles, splendid mosaics were found. They do not depict or even hint at the story of the Miracle of the Swine, although such a mosaic may have existed and been destroyed, or not yet found. The mosaics depict stunningly beautiful animal and vegetal decorations: cockerels, geese, doves, cormorants, and all kinds of fish. Many of the animal figures have been defaced. The plants have fared better, and it is easy to recognize fruit trees such as citrons, figs, and pomegranates, and bunches of grapes. One of the mosaics shows a pair of doves with a basket between them. The dove in Christianity is a symbol of the holy spirit, the purity of Mary (who conceived without sin), and the spirit of Christ.
The holy rock – in 1980, an excavation was carried out around a promontory on the hillside to the east of the church. Close to the rock, a small chapel was found, its apse incorporated in a cave. Christian tradition connects the cave with the place where Jesus met the man possessed by devils.
The sand verses – a large spinning top placed in a sandbox. Visitors can spin the top to imprint in the sand the story of the Miracle of the Swine, as it appears in the New Testament, in different languages.
The enchanted bench – a wooden bench that has become known for having energetic properties that imbue visitors with a unique feeling of calm.
The remains of the bathhouse – to the north of the church, excavations carried out at the site between 2011 – 2013 found the remains of a bathhouse dated to the Byzantine period.
Kursi National ParkUseful Information
Entrance to the park closes one hour before cited closing timeSummer hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 - 08:00 Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 - 08:00 Holiday eves: 13:00 - 08:00 Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 - 08:00
Turn east at Kursi junction on Road 92 (eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee), 5 km north of En Gev, and continue around 50 m to the sign-posted turnoff to the site.
Reserving a visit to Kursi National Park
|Adult in group||₪ 13.00|
|Child in group||₪ 6.00|
|Israeli senior citizen||₪ 7.00|