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As I began to read the Gospel of Mark for this year’s preaching series, it became obvious that Capernaum was going to be a geographical focal point for the text. From chapter 1 on many significant events happen in or near Capernaum, home town of Peter and Andrew, and Jesus’ headquarters for his Galilean ministry.

So I decided that I needed to do good Vue pictures of Capernaum. Being who I am, I started with hours of Google searches looking at both articles about Capernaum and images from Capernaum. I quickly learned that the most likely site of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee has been long identified and extensively studied. A few of the good links on this were:

Bible Places
Franciscan Cyperspot

To summarize, archaeologist have found that in the first century the town consisted of a substantial number of ‘lacunae’. These were extended family housing blocks, each surrounded by a wall, with streets in between and typically a single gate into a common courtyard. The dark walls in the photo below show these lacunae.

In studying the site, two things stood out. First, there was a magnificent fourth century synagogue, still partially standing. This beautiful building shows all the impact of centuries of Roman architecture on Jewish culture. But that building was not present in the first century when Jesus made Capernaum his home. Beneath the ruins of the fourth century synagogue are dark foundations of an earlier synagogue, smaller, but on the same site. It is almost certain that this synagogue was standing at the time of Christ, and it is likely that this is where he preached in Capernaum, and that the building of the synagogue itself was funded by a God-fearing Roman Centurion of that era (see Luke 7:3-5).

The other major find at the Capernaum site was a house, or lacunae that could well have been the house of Peter. Pottery and inscriptions lead archaeologists to believe that it was used as a normal dwelling in the first century, but that shortly thereafter the largest room began to be used as a church. After that an octagonal church was built on the site, and called ‘the church of St. Peter’s house’. More recently a modern structure has been built over it, with a glass floor designed to reveal the archaeology below.

With this wealth of background, I set out to build a 3d model of Capernaum. First I sketched (based on Google Earth images) an outline of the shore of the sea of Galilee, the north-west corner of that six mile long body of water. Next I populated the topography with plants and grasses that I hope reflect the relative fertility of the Galilee area. I’m not so sure about this one, because I haven’t found a good way to learn about or model the exact plants.

But I could do much better on the houses. I modeled the dark stone ‘lacunae’ that made up the town, basing my images on some archaeological artist’s conceptions of what it would have looked like. I further modified one of these ‘lacunae’ to include the large house that was probably Peter’s. Then I placed them on the landscape.

The next task was the synagogue. Once again using artist’s conceptions, but trying to add a ‘Roman’ look to reflect the centurion’s influence, I built the synagogue as the largest building in town.

Finally, there was one more archaeological discovery that I wanted to include. In 1986, during a drought, a sharp observer identified a boat hull sunk in the recently revealed mud of the Sea of Galilee. Careful painstaking restoration revealed a boat dating to the time of Christ, roughly 26 feet long, seven feet wide and five feet deep. Such a boat, with a single mast and two sets of oars, would likely have been the kind of boat that Peter and John used to fish, and that Jesus used to cross the lake. A full scale model exists at a kibbutz on the shore of Galilee, and the boats in my Capernaum scenes are intended to imitate that full scale model. One of the boats I purchased pre-made; the others I modified from existing boats in my library.

All of this resulted in one of the best Vue models I’ve yet made. It’s pretty flexible, allowing me to position cameras almost anyplace in Capernaum or it’s approaches and get a decent scene. It’s also huge. There are over 1 billion polygons in the full-up model. I’ve created a couple of image sets from it for my web site,