Mount Berenice and the Anchor Church
Rising 650 feet above the Sea of Galilee, Mount Berenice is a highlight on Christian Israel tour itineraries. At the top of Mount Berenice, visitors can take in the expanse of the Sea of Galilee as well as a panoramic view of the entire area where Jesus conducted his Galilee ministry.
Married to Agrippa II, Berenice, the peak's namesake, was a Jewish queen of the Roman Empire in the late 1st century. The Apostle Paul’s missionary preaching to Agrippa and Berenice is recorded in the Book of Acts. In the 6th century, a large Byzantine church was established on this site. Historically, it was believed that the Byzantine church was built on top of the remains of the palace of Berenice, but excavations conducted in the early 1990s indicated otherwise.
While visiting Mount Berenice, be sure to see the extraordinary stone that was discovered beneath the church’s altar – a block that weighs nearly half a ton. Note the stone's hole, shaped like two cones whose points meet in the middle, drilled into the center. The shape of this object resembles the anchors used by boats on the Sea of Galilee, except that it’s about 10 times heavier than an average anchor from the period. Scholars believe that it symbolizes Jesus’ activities on the Sea of Galilee. Because of this artifact, the church on Mount Berenice has come to be known as the Anchor Church.
The church complex measures roughly 160’ by 90’ and includes an unusually expansive courtyard. Many small rooms with mosaic paving surround the complex. It is believed that these rooms were once occupied by the clergy who looked after the church and its many pilgrims. In order to facilitate modern excavations, the Jewish National Fund built a gravel road that is still used to provide cars and buses with access the site, located south of Tiberias.