Kursi is located at the foot of the Golan Heights on the edge of the Samakh Stream on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is a pastoral picturesque site with rolling hills and the beautiful sea below. Today Kursi has been excavated and is within a national park covering 240 hectares.
A large monastery and church were constructed here during the Byzantine era to mark the site of the miracle of the swine. The site is identified with the New Testament land of Gadarenes which would have been a gentile settlement during Jesus’ lifetime. The idea that it was gentile territory is confirmed by the fact that Jesus performed the miracle of the swine here and Jews would not have been raising swine. In 614AD the monastery and church were destroyed and after being rebuilt were once again destroyed this time by fire. It was finally abandoned in the early 8th century. For about 1,300 years the site was left untouched and only in 1970 were the ruins discovered by accident when construction workers noticed Byzantine pottery shards in the earth. In addition to being identified as a Biblical site Kursi is also thought to have been a center of idol worship mentioned in the Talmud. After the site’s discovery excavation began and the remains of the Byzantine church and monastery were uncovered as well as an ancient fishing harbor on the edge of the sea; a breakwater and pool used to store live fish before they were sold. The monastery complex is the largest known Byzantine monastery in Israel.
The religious complex covered 1.8 hectares and included the church, a baptistery, fortified walls, a chapel, watchtower, bath complex, pilgrim guesthouse and oil press. One of the outstanding discoveries was a Byzantine era mosaic on the chapel floor. Another astounding discovery was made in the nearby chapel where the skeletons of 30 males were uncovered. These are thought to have been the bodies of Byzantine monks.
Miracle of the Swine
Christians will recognize the name “Kursi” as the place where Jesus performed a miracle as described in Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-29 and Matthew 8:28-34. The story is told slightly differently by each of the Gospels for example Mark and Luke write that one man was involved in the miracle and Matthew mentions two men. Each of the Gospels also spells the name of the location slightly differently.
Jesus took a boat to across the Sea of Galilee to the east coast and when he stepped out of the boat at Kursi he was confronted with a man possessed by demons. Jesus ordered the demons to leave the man’s body but the demons implored him to allow them to enter the bodies of a herd of about 2,000 swine grazing nearby. Jesus agreed and the demons left the man’s body and entered the herd of swine. The swine began to stampede down towards the shore and continued charging into the sea where they all drowned. The man herding the swine was distraught and went to tell the local people that Jesus had caused all his swine to die. The locals then asked Jesus to leave. Jesus did as they wished but asked the man who had been possessed to go home and tell the people what had happened. The man did this and returned to his home to preach about the miracle Jesus had performed. The man was a gentile and the first non-Christian to be commissioned by Jesus to spread the word of Christ.
Today the excavated archaeological site at Kursi has been made accessible to visitors and even most of the site is wheelchair accessible. Having been made a national park the site is now protected and has become a popular Christian pilgrimage site together with the many other Biblical pilgrimage sites in the region where Jesus spent his ministry. The Byzantine monastery complex has been excavated and reconstructed to some extent. Behind the monastery are the remains of the chapel which is built into a cave. There is a nearby Holy Rock and retaining wall thought to mark the exact site of the miracle.
Take route #92 on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee and you will find Kursi 5km north of Kibbutz Ein Gev.
Fridays and holiday eves: 8am-4pm
Admission: Adults 14ILS; children and seniors 7ILS; students 12ILS
Contact: 972 4 673 1983