The Franciscan Wedding Chapel
Exploring the Cana Wedding Chapel
This site is always part of our live Octagon Tour.
Location - Cana
Map Coordinates - 32.746933, 35.338536
Merged Gospels story - 25
This is the Franciscan Catholic Wedding Chapel, where it is believed that Jesus turned water into wine. From the Bible, Cana was also known for two other reasons. It was the hometown of the Apostle Nathanael, who is also called Bartholomew, and there is a church very close by that is said to have been built over Nathanael’s home.
Another miracle occurred here. During a later visit, Jesus healed the son of a nobleman who rode in from Capernaum near this very spot (John 4:46-53).
Is this the real Cana?
Two locations lay claim to being the real Cana of Galilee – this village, which is called Kafr Kana, meaning the village of Cana - and then there is an uninhabited ancient mound about eight miles north of here, called Kherbet Kana, which means the ruins of Cana. How do we know which place is the real Cana? We have five clues.
1. In the year 570 AD there was an anonymous pilgrim from Piacenza, Italy, who wrote about himself walking from ancient Sepphoris, which is west of here, to this spot. He says,
After walking three miles, we arrived at Cana, where the Lord was present for the marriage, and we sat at the same place, there I, the unworthy, wrote the names of my parents. There are still two vases.
By “vases” this pilgrim is talking about the stone water pots that Jesus used in the miracle where He turned water into wine.
It just so happens that this church (and the adjacent Orthodox Church of Cana) is exactly three miles from Sepphoris, just like the Piacenza pilgrim said, whereas the ancient mound known as Kherbet Kana is almost five miles away from Sepphoris to the north. Right there, we have our first clue that this is the real Cana.
2. There are other ancient historians who later tell us that there was a church right here in the sixth century, which means that the Byzantine Christians in the sixth century recognized this spot as the Biblical village of Cana.
3. There is an Orthodox church right next door that has exactly two stone water pots made out of granite. There is even a water pot made out of limestone in this Franciscan church as well. In contrast, no water pots have ever been found at the ruins of Kherbet Kana.
4. This pilgrim from Piacenza also mentions that there was a spring nearby that provided the water, by which the six water pots were filled during the wedding feast that Jesus attended. That spring is still here today, but there is no spring at the ruins of Kherbet Kana.
5. During his travels in the Holy Land in 1893, the famed English artist David Roberts came to this place, and he noted that the women of the village would go to this spring every day. What’s more, the name Cana means reeds, and there are still reeds visible nearby this church.
All of these clues reinforce the notion that this is the site of Biblical Cana. Today, right outside this courtyard there are shops that sell wine from Cana to remind tourists of the miracle that took place here.
Many ancient items have been discovered here including a winepress, a plastered cistern and many clay vessels of various dates. Archeologists have also discovered a third to fourth-century Aramaic mosaic inscription.
The inscription says, “Honored to be the memory of Yoseh, son of Tanbum, son of Butah, and his sons who made this mosaic. May it be a blessing for them. Amen.
The Stone Jar.
The stone water pot in the Franciscan Wedding Chapel.
In the crypt of this church there is a limestone jar that is exactly the same size as the ones spoken of in the Gospel of John (see John 2:6). These water pots had to be very large, because, according to the Gospel of John, each one had a capacity of "twenty to thirty gallons." When you consider that all the water pots were filled to the brim, that means that there was somewhere between 120 to 180 total gallons of water that were turned into wine. I think that the Apostle John made sure that we knew how large they were in order to emphasize the magnitude of this miracle.
If you run the math, you learn that Jesus produced the equivalent of over 700 bottles of new wine - and not just any new wine, but the best wine at the marriage.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not the only stone water pot that has been found in this area. There is a Greek Orthodox church next door, and there are two stone water pots in that church as well, although those water pots are made from what appears to be granite, whereas the Franciscan water pot is made from limestone. I believe that when the Pilgrim of Piacenza Italy spoke of seeing two stone water pots, he was describing the ones at the Orthodox Church next door. This pot may have been a third one of the six total mentioned in the Gospel of John, or this one may have come from a different source, since it is cut from limestone, and not granite, and it is shaped differently.
On the south side of the church we see an excavation of an ancient dwelling that was used sometime between the 1st and 4th century AD. Also discovered in this area were the walls of a synagogue, whose door faces south toward the Temple in Jerusalem, like almost all of the first-century synagogues did. If there was a synagogue here, then this could also have been the spot where Jesus’ Jewish wedding feast miracle occurred.
Ruins discovered at the Cana Wedding Chapel.
The Biblical Story (John 2:1-11).
The Biblical story that took place here is found in the second chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus came to this wedding, along with his family and disciples. In total, He brought about 13 people, and this may have been the largest single group that attended the wedding.
The Wedding Feast at Cana.
According to the prevailing custom at the time, the wedding festivities began on the third day of the week and lasted seven days. But in the course of these festivities, the host of this particular wedding ran out of wine, causing great embarrassment. Because of the size of Jesus’ entourage, that may explain why His mother, Mary, singled Him out, and said, “They ran out of wine,” as if to say, “Our group drank the most wine. What can You do about it?” It was at that point that Jesus miraculously created more wine out of water from the nearby spring.
The Meaning of the Story.
It’s pretty simple to figure out what Jesus was doing here. The wine is symbolic of the new covenant that He was about to bring to everyone in the world. The fact that He produced so much, even up to the brim of the water pots, means that there would be more than enough grace for every person on earth.
How did we conclude this? In the first three books of the New Testament, and a little bit later in Jesus’ ministry, He compared His Gospel to new wine. Remember from this story that the head waiter of the feast said, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then an inferior one. But you have kept the good wine until now.” In the eighth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, this writer says that the new covenant of Jesus is superior to the old covenant, because the old covenant was based entirely on Jewish laws.
This was Jesus’ first miracle, where He demonstrated to His disciples that He was not just a teacher, nor an ascetic who led a retired life in the desert like John the Baptist. It was here that they learned that He was also a miracle worker. In a very mysterious way He was showing them how He would soon change the entire world.
Did you know that there are actually two marriage suppers mentioned in the New Testament? The last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation talks about another marriage supper that Jesus will also attend, but in that one He is not a guest. He is the bridegroom, and His Church is the bride.