Mount Tabor – ancient structures

   On top of Mount Tabor are ruins of the Crusaders/Ayyubid  fortress, ancient chapels and churches,  and other structures.

Melchizedek-cave chapel

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Aerial map
* Tower and walls
* Melchizedek
* Western Chapel


On Mount Tabor there are two large monasteries, the Franciscan and Greek Orthodox, which are covered in other web pages. In addition to the monasteries there  are additional interesting structures that are featured in this web page: ruins of the Crusaders/Ayyubid  fortress, ancient chapels and churches,  and other structures..

For more information on Mount Tabor and its sites, check the overview page.

Aerial Map:

The following aerial view shows the points of interest with the structures featured in this page.


(a) Crusader-period tower and walls:

On the north-west side of the top of the mount are the ruins of a tower which was part of the fortifications built during the Crusaders times. The massive fortress, covering a large area, was built in 1212-1213 by the Muslim Sultans of the Ayyubid state as a defense against the Crusader enclave which was based in Acre. The stones were actually dismantled from the earlier Crusaders churches and structures. This construction sparked the 5th Crusade, which primary aim was to defend the small Crusade state, but two attacks failed to capture the site. Only in 1229 the Tabor was returned to Christian control after a successful Crusade siege in Egypt. The retreating Muslims dismantled the walls and towers, leaving it in ruins.

Click on the photos  to view in higher resolution…

North-west tower

A deep defense moat surrounds the walls and the tower, as seen below near the access road to the Greek Orthodox monastery.

Tabor: North-west moat

The area behind the walls is seen below.

Tabor - north-west corner

Along the road to the Greek monastery are several layers of the 13th C Ayoubi fortress.

Crusader/Ayoubi wall

Other sections of the Crusader/Ayyubid walls are seen around the monasteries, such as the photo below on the south side of the Franciscan monastery. There are also traces of the ruins from the earlier fortifications of Josephus Falvius from the 1st century AD.

Tabor: Ruins in the south of the Franciscan monastery

(b) “Cave of Melchizedek” chapel

A bridge over the moat leads to a chapel on the north-west side, near the ruins of the tower.

Tabor: Bridge over the moat on the north-western corner

   Behind the gate is a small court yard, where the chapel is located. The ruins of the north-west tower is seen on the left side of the photo below.

 Tabor: chapel of Melchizedek cave

   The chapel, called the “cave of Melchizedek”, is based on a Greek tradition that Mount Tabor was the location of the meeting between the King of Salem and Abraham (Genesis 14), after Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from captivity after the war between the kings from the north and the kings from the basin of Sodom. According to the Bible, Melchizedek king of Salem (pre-David Jerusalem) blessed Abraham, who in return gave him 1/10th of the spoil he plundered. According to the Greek tradition, Melchizedek met Abraham on mount Tabor. Another Byzantine tradition holds that in this cave Melchizedek lived as a Hermit for several years before realizing the superiority of Abraham’s God over his own God (“Elion” – the High God).

Tabor: chapel of cave of Melchizedek

This chapel is a charming place on the Tabor, and we highly recommend to visit the place.

(c) Chapel on western side

The photo below shows another section located west to the Franciscan monastery.

Access road to the Franciscan Monastery

Along the wall, on its north side, is a rusty old gate, which may not be important, but still deserved a photo.

Gate in the wall along the access road to the Franciscan Monastery

   Along the wall, on the south side, is the Descentibus chapel. Its size is 35 x 6M, and around it are traces of ruins of several structures. The ancient chapel was  restored in 1923. According to the 3 rd C AD Hermit Johannes Fokas, this is the site where Jesus told his disciples after the transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Mark 9:9): “And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead”.

Tabor: Chapel west of the Monastery

In front of the chapel is a large water cistern, seen below on the right side.

Tabor: Chapel west of the Monastery

The inscription on top of the entrance is in Latin, and reads part of the verse from Mark 9:9 on the upper 2 lines, and additional lines from the restorers  (thanks to Cato, Ioannes and Iynx from the Latin Forum):

“Tell the vision to no man – until the Son of Man From the Dead Doth Rise

    Ancient legend testifies  that the Master warned the Apostles here in the nearby areas. To his memory the ancient Christians erected a shrine  (which) crumbled because of the ravages of time.  It was restored whole
AD 1923″

Inscription above the entrance to the chapel

Biblical references:

(a) Genesis 14, 18:20

   This text recalls the war between the 5 kings of the north against the 4 kings of the basin of Sodom, when Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from captivity. According to the Bible, Melchizedek king of Salem (pre-David Jerusalem) blessed Abraham, who in return gave him 1/10th of the spoil he plundered. According to the Greek tradition, Malchizedek met Abraham on mount Tabor.

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. “


  • Ayoubi state struggle with the Crusaders – walk with us through the sites of the Holy Land

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This page was last updated on Aug 15, 2008

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