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The Church of the Beatitudes

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Exploring the Church of the Beatitudes

Location - Galilee North Shore

Map Coordinates - 32.880644, 35.555887

The Church of the Beatitudes rests on the top of a mountain range called Har-Nahum, or the Eremos Highlands. In contrast to the actual site of the sermon, which is farther downhill, this church offers a greater panoramic view of Lake Galilee, where one can see all shorelines of the lake.

Completed in 1938 for a Franciscan order of nuns, it is an octagonal building with colonnaded cloisters, blending into the slope it was built on. The eight sides of the church represent the eight Beatitudes that are found in the Gospel of Matthew, and these are also written in Latin in the upper windows.

In the landscaped garden three altars are provided for group worship. However, the calm and serene beauty of this place seems to be in contradiction to Jesus’ overall message of the Sermon on the Mount, which was radical, demanding, authoritative, revolutionary and countercultural. Jesus was calling Israel to a new way of life.

Jesus taught orally, rather than by writing. Matthew notes that he sat down before speaking, a typical Jewish position for teaching.

While the Sermon on the Mount may have been delivered uninterrupted at a single event, the sermon also appears to include a collection of Jesus’ other sayings that were ultimately attached to this central core sermon. Nonetheless, the Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon ever preached. 

On the inside of the church the centrally placed altar is surmounted by a slender arch of alabaster and onyx. Around it, the seven virtues (justice, charity, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope and temperance) are depicted by symbols on the mosaic floor.

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