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Cana of Galilee - Facts

The toponym found in the Old Testament refers to a locality belonging to the tribe of Aser located near the city of Sidon (Js 19,28) which locality is generally identified with the village of the same name 10km to the Southeast of Tyre.

The Gospel of John places the first of the signs performed by Jesus in the locality of Cana of Galilee where he changed the water into wine during a marriage celebration:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had likewise been invited to the celebration. At a certain point in time the wine ran out, and Jesus' mother told him, "They have no more wine." Jesus replied, "Woman, how does this concern of yours involve me? My hour has not yet come." His mother instructed those waiting on table, "Do whatever he tells you." As prescribed for Jewish ceremonial washings, there were at hand six stone jars, each one holding fifteen to twenty gallons. "Fill those jars with water, "Jesus ordered, at which they filled them to the brim. "Now," he said, "draw some out and take it to the waiter in charge." They did as he instructed them. The waiter in charge tasted the water made wine, without knowing where it had come from; only the waiters knew, since they had drawn the water. Then the waiter in charge called the groom over and remarked to him, "People usually serve the choice wine first; then when the guests have been drinking awhile, a lesser vintage. What you have done is keep the choice wine until now." Jesus performed the first of his signs at Cana in Galilee. Thus did he reveal his glory, and the disciples believed in him. (Jn 2, 1.11)

In the same village Jesus performs his second miracle, from a distance, when he cures the servant of the roman centurion:
So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household.This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee (Jn 4,46-54). Nathaniel, one of the disciples of Jesus, was from Cana of Galilee (Jn 21, 2).

The historian Josephus Flavius recounts how he, during the first Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-70 AD) stayed for some time "in a village of Galilee named Cana" (Life 16, 86).

We find also that in this village there lived the members of the family of Eliashib, one of the 24 priestly families (mishmarot).

St. Jerome distinguished Cana of Js 19,28 from the Cana of Galilee of John, making it clear that during this period (IV century) Cana of Galilee was identified with a particular village (Onomasticon 117, 3: "est hodie oppidum in Galilaea gentium").

Cana of Galilee lies on the way which passes from Nazareth to Sephoris. St. Jerome writes about this. He tells how his disciple, St. Paula, visited Cana when she went from Nazareth to Capharnaum. She, together with her daughter, wrote to Marcella and stated that not far from Nazareth they visited Cana where Jesus changed water into wine and from there they continued by Tabor. (Epist. XXXI)

The pilgrims, including St. Jerome, commemorated the first miracle of Jesus and the beginning of his public ministry, in a locality of Galilee quite near the town of Nazareth. Initially they (Anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza, Willibaldus) mention a church and later on (medieval period) the ruins of the same. The Anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza wrote in 570: "after walking three miles (from Diocesarea-Seforis), we arrived at Cana, where the Lord was present for the marriage, and we sat at the same place, there I, the unworthy, wrote the names of my parents. There are still two vases, I filled one of them with water and out of it I poured wine; full as it was I placed it on my shoulder and placed it on the altar; then we washed at the spring for the blessing" (Itinerarium 4, 4-5).

St. Louis, King of France, during the second half of the 13th century, traveled from St. JohnĠs in Acre and went through Sephoris. He reached Cana of Galilee and from there Mount Tabor and then reached Nazareth. He did all this in one single day.

A Franciscan, Niccolo` da Poggibonsi, in 1347, wrote that "the village of Cana of Galilee is not large . . . within it there is a church where Christ changed water into wine". The Poggibonsi friar also spoke about a spring from which water was drawn which was used to fill the water jars in which Jesus changed the water into wine. (Baldi Ench. N. 258).

In 1551-64 Farther Boniface da Ragusa found the church in ruins and the Moslems were showing pilgrims the place where the miracle took place.

Today we have two localities which maintain the name of the Gospel village: the ruins of Khirbet Qana and the village of Kefer Kenna. Khirbet Qana, lies on an isolated hilltop at al-Battuf to the North of Seforis, on the road which joins Acre with the Lake of Galilee. Here the explorers had noted the remains of a small village with tombs and a columbarium. A multi-plastered grotto reveals traces of a medieval cult. and there is no spring nearby.

The village of Kefer Kenna lies 6km to the North of Nazareth on the road which goes down to Tiberais on the Lake of Galilee. At the centre of the village, where today rises the Church built by the Franciscans in 1881, archaeological remains have come to light in different archaeological soundings . Just outside the village there is a spring while roman tombs were found at the peak of Karm el-Ras to the west of the village. Other monumental remains at the centre of a roman enclave were found on the peak of Khirbet Kenna which the locals call el-Dayr - the monastery.

In 1641 the Franciscans tried to acquire some remains at Kefar Kenna, an intricate deal carried out with patience and sacrifice which went on for almost two hundred years and was concluded only in 1879 thanks to the support of the governor of Damascus, Midath Pascia. During these years the friars were using an Arab house close to the ancient ruins, which house was enlarged in 1881 by Fr Aegidius Geissler, which was later on renewed with a new façade in 1901. The main altar of the Church was consecrated on 30th September 1906 by the Archbishop of Bergamo, Mons. Giacomo M. Radini Tedeschi who was accompanied by his secretary, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII who on this particular day wrote: "I am leaving Cana, but not without leaving a greeting, a cordial vote: (...) May the Lord make that this new altar which today was consecrated and dedicated to the 'mysterium initii Signorum Jesu' calls around it all the dispersed souls and gathers them in the unity of the catholic faith, in the favoured and constant practice of the Christian life".

The Custody of the Holy Land undertook important reconstruction at the shrine of Cana. The project was completed for the Great Jubilee of 2000: a building for divine worship with two levels - the lower one for the use of the shrine and its activities, there can be found the architectural remains of past ages. Pilgrims and visitors can view and ponder them there. The upper level is reserved for the parish functions and activities.

Before beginning the restructuring project, it was decided to have a thorough exploration of what lay underground. This has likewise been done in other undertakings of this type. The responsibility was given to Father Eugene Alliata, a professor of Archaeology at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of the Flagellation at Jerusalem.


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Created / Updated Monday, March 28, 2005 at 17:39:01 by J. Abela, E. Alliata, E. Bermejo
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