Archaeologists say they've found the Church of the Apostles

Church built over home of Peter, Andrew

By Doug Criss, CNN
Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins

The southern rooms of the church, part of a monastery complex, are the only parts of it that have been excavated so far.

(CNN) - An ancient church long-rumored to be built over the house where the apostles Peter and Andrew lived has been found near the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

A group of excavators -- affiliated with Kinneret College in Israel, Nyack College in New York and the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins -- said they made the discovery in June.

The church is believed to be from the Byzantine period, according to a news release from the center, and was found near the Jordan River estuary on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The archeologists have been excavating the site for four years and will need another year to completely dig out the remains of the church, said R. Steven Notley, a New Testament professor at Nyack College who blogged about the excavation.

"The Church of the Apostles (as we have begun to call it), built over the house of Peter and Andrew, must have been a magnificent structure," Notley wrote. "It will take another season to fully uncover it."

The group unearthed a mosaic floor, which Notley called "clear proof that the church stood here in the Byzantine era."

Church was built over home of two brothers

The existence of the church was mentioned in the travels of a Bavarian bishop named Willibald, who passed through the area around the Sea of Galilee in 725.

"On his way, he passed through a place called Bethsaida where he saw a basilica built over the house of Peter and Andrew," according to the news release from the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins.

The southern rooms of the church, part of a monastery complex, are the only parts of it that have been excavated so far.

According to the Bible, Peter and Andrew were brothers and the first disciples of Jesus Christ. The two were fishing on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus asked them to join his ministry.

Peter and Andrew "left their nets, and followed him," according to a passage in the Book of Matthew.

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