Travelers passing through the lower Galilee can’t help but be impressed by the splendor of a dome-shaped mountain that towers above the plain. Great stories of the Bible are restored here, like the battle with the king of Hazor recorded in Judges 4 &5. Deborah gazed out at the approaching chariots of the Canaanite army led by Sisera, and called Barak, to gather the tribes and carry out a pincer movement, surrounding and destroying the Canaanite army. The mountain was natural as a stronghold place, a place of beauty and abundance.
Today the steep road is accessible only by taxis which are usually available at the bottom. The beautiful church is surrounded by the ruins of the immense Crusader monastery of almost 1000 years ago. When the church was built about 50 years ago, the roof was of translucent alabaster, now covered over. The alabaster windows still give a sense of subdued glory. In the rear, incorporated into the present edifice are two ancient chapels to Moses and Elijah. Later Christians accomplished what the disciples could not: they have built three tabernacles here!
The rounded shape of Mt. Tabor dominates a vast region near Nazareth. It is known among Christians for the Gospel story of the Transfiguration of Christ, which tradition places on Mount Tabor. There are many references to this mountain in the Bible. It formed the boundary of the territories ruled by the tribes of Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali; Hosea mentions the mountain when he is admonishing the leaders of Israel for their cult of idols and their corruption.
One of Israel’s most exquisite churches is found on the heights of Mt. Tabor. A Franciscan sanctuary built in the 1920’s, the Church of the Transfiguration was erected over ruins of a Byzantine chapel. Here, prolific architect Antonio Barluzzi utilized a 4th-7th century style that imparts to this church a special flavor. The theme of the artwork in the church is metamorphous things that change or highlight the glorified Jesus.
The modern Basilica of the Transfiguration commemorates the miraculous event recounted by Matthew. In front of the church are the remains of ancient churches. The façade of the Basilica is flanked by towers and is open in the center where a great archway is supported by pillars. The interior, which is in three parts, has in the apse a modern mosaic representing the Transfiguration.
At the foot of the mountain is the little village of Naim. Here Jesus raised the son of the poor widow from the dead.