I finally took a trip to the Mount of Beatitudes on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee a couple of days ago, on a quite beautiful February afternoon.
It isn’t known where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, or indeed even if he did so: the passages that constitute the long address presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke may have been delivered on different occasions and retrospectively combined by the Gospel writers as a narrative device to gather together a set of related teachings.
I don’t know. But I don’t see any reason to doubt that Jesus may well have preached here. The Mount is a hill close to Capernaum – where he spent much of his Galilean ministry – that forms a natural ampitheatre. The tradition that Jesus addressed crowds here goes back at least 1700 years, when a Byzantine church was built on the summit.
Please click the thumbnails to see the images at their full size. The photos are also available on Flickr.
Though one would be hard-pressed to call the ‘Mount’ anything other than a hill, the summit offers wonderful views of the Sea and its northern shore. Today the hilltop is occupied by a complex of Franciscan buildings and gardens, the central feature of which is a pleasingly understated chapel. It is interesting to note that – like the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth – the chapel has fascist associations: it was built in 1938 under Mussolini’s regime. One of the countless ironies and complexities of this land.
Whatever: the Mount and its gardens are rather beautiful, particularly when visited on such a luminous day.