Banias is a place of extraordinary beauty, and it also possesses considerable historical and spiritual character. It nestles under Mount Hermon at the edge of the Hula valley, and in ancient times was known first as Panias – after the pagan god Pan – and then as Caesaria Philippi, when Herod the Great’s son, Philip built his capital here.
The Hermon spring, which flows out from under a ledge here, is one of the three sources of the River Jordan. It is joined by the waters of two other springs, before plunging over the 10m high Banias waterfall further downstream, and merging its waters with those of the Dan spring
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus and the Disciples traveled to the district of Caesaria Philippi. The Gospel tells us that, on the way he asked his disciples. “Who do you say that I am?” and when Simon Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah” Jesus chose him as the “rock” on which to build his church.
Many people believe that the Transfiguration of Jesus – which occurred six days after the visit to Caesaria Philippi – took place near here on Mount Hermon. The traditional site associated with this event, Mount Tabor, is a long way to the south west in the Lower Galilee. There is a local Druse tradition and shrine here dedicated to Elijah – who together with Moses features in the story of the Transfiguration – while in a nearby village there is a church called St. George, who was also associated with Elijah.
The church fathers also identified Banias as the place where the woman who had been haemorraging for twelve years was healed when she touched the edge of Jesus’ garment. (Matthew 9:20). Eusebius, the 4th century Bishop of Caesaria, reported seeing a sculpture in the local church in which a kneeling woman, with hands outstretched, turns to an erect figure of Jesus.