Mensa Christi – Franciscan Church
Christian Israel tours often stop in the Arab city of Nazareth to see Mensa Christi (Latin for “The Table of Christ”). Also called The Rock Church or El-Balata Church in Arabic, this Franciscan church was built in 1861 and is located west of the Sea of Galilee, just south of Cana. The church here is most notable for the large chunk of chalk rock upon which, after rising from the dead, Jesus ate a meal with eleven of his disciples, as told in the Book of Mark.
In the church’s interior, visitors will see a large slab of rock that serves as the altar. Hung on the wall behind it is a painting of the post resurrection meal being consumed on the very same rock table. The rock measures approximately 12’ x 9’ x 30’ and features a relatively wide, flat top. While standing at the rock, it is possible to spot graffiti marks left by other pilgrims who have visited this site since the 1600s.
The church can only be reached by foot on a long and steep walkway typical of the narrow alleyways found in Arab villages throughout Israel. In preparation for the influx of Christian pilgrims in the year 2000, the church was partially refurbished. Mensa Christi is kept locked, but for those who brave the walk, the keys to the churchyard and an entrance door are available from the Daniel family, who live across the street.
As you’ll learn at the site, the original chapel was built here in the late 1700s. The Franciscans rebuilt the current structure in 1861. A tablet above the entrance marks the year the building was completed. As on other Franciscan churches, the Five Cross symbol that was adapted by the Franciscans from the Crusaders is prominently featured on the same tablet above the entry.