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A city of Galilee

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Cana, a city of Galilee, Palestine, famous throughout all ages as the scene of our Lord’s first miracle, when He turned water into wine at the Marriage Feast (John, ii). It is mentioned by the same Evangelist in two other passages, once (iv, 46) in connection with another miracle, when He cured the ruler’s son at a distance, and once (xxi, 2) as the birthplace of Nathaniel, or St. Bartholomew. No direct indication can be gathered of its locality, except that it was not far from either Nazareth or Capharnaum, and higher than the latter city, as indeed all the land west of the plain of Genesareth is; and that an ordinary traveller from Jerusalem to Nazareth would pass through or near it. It is not mentioned by either of the Synoptists, nor indeed anywhere else in the Scriptures. An old tradition identifies the site of Cana with the modern Kefr’ Kenna, a village of about 600 inhabitants. This lies some four or five miles northeast of Nazareth, on the road from thence to Tiberias, at the foot of a short, steep hill. The tradition dates back at least to the eighth century, and probably a good deal earlier, while the site fulfils all the requisite conditions mentioned above. At the time of the Crusades, or before, there was a church which was believed to be on the spot where the miracle of Our Lord was worked. This site is now in the hands of the Franciscans, who have built a large new church. In recent years some interesting excavations have been carried out within its walls, discovering parts of the old church beneath. The Greeks also have a church close by, inside which are two large jars, said to be the original “waterpots of stone” in which the water was turned into wine; but the probability of their being genuine is not great. The fountain still existing in the village, however, must have been the actual source from which the water was drawn. The inhabitants of the village are very rough and uncivilized. About one-third of them are Christians, the majority belonging to the Greek Church.

Towards the far end of the town, there is a church dedicated to St. Bartholomew, said to be on the site of his house, though this tradition cannot be traced back very far. A curious light is thrown on the ease with which such traditions used to originate by the existence of a similar church on the supposed site of the house of Simon the Cananean. The name Cananean must have deceived some, who consequently sought for the site of his house, and the demand created the supply. In reality, however, the Chanaanites were a strict national sect among the Jews, and the name is wholly unconnected with Cana. The site at Kefr’ Kenna held almost undisputed possession for many centuries. It is only in recent years that its authenticity has been seriously questioned. There are now two other claimants for the site. One of these, Kanet-el-Jelil, is some six miles farther north, on the slope of a hill. There is nothing there now but ruins. Some remains of cisterns have been discovered, but there is no fount or spring. It seems to have been known in quite early times as possibly the site of Cana, and has in its favor that the name is said to be a closer equivalent than that of Kefr’ Kenna. Recently a third site has been put forward by Dr. Robinson, Ain Kana, which is somewhat nearer to Nazareth. This site is accepted by Dr Conder; but, although the name is said to be still closer etymologically than either of the other two, there is no tradition whatever to support this hypothesis.

The miracle which has made Cana forever famous was worked by Christ before his public life had fully commenced. This is usually taken to be the meaning of the words: “My hour is not yet come”, He had, however, already five disciples—Sts. Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, and Bartholomew (Nathaniel). They had followed him from the banks of the Jordan, but had received as yet no permanent call, such as is recorded later on in the other Gospels. Our Lord was on His way back to Nazareth when He passed by Cana. From the language of the Gospel we should infer that the marriage which was taking place was that of a close relative of the Blessed Virgin, for it is said without comment that she was there; and it was no doubt in her honor that Christ was invited. Again, the cause of the shortage of wine is not explained by St. John; but it has been inferred that it may have been due to the presence of Our Lord and the five Disciples who accompanied Him, who would have made a substantial increase in a small and modest party. If this was so, it would explain the confidence with which Our Lady appealed to Him when she noticed it. The answer of Christ, which has been variously rendered, has given rise to long discussion, and cannot be said to be even yet properly understood. The Greek ti emoi kai soi, gunai) is translated in the Vulgate, “Quid mihi et tibi est mulier?” In most English Catholic Bibles this is rendered, “Woman, what is it to me and to thee?” The translation adopted in the Authorized and Revised Versions,—”Woman, what have I to do with thee?” even if better idiomatically, conveys a wrong impression, for it gives the idea of a rebuke which is totally against the context. Father Rickaby, S.J., in his short commentary on St. John, suggests as a fair English equivalent, “Leave me alone, Lady”. At any rate, she at once told the waiters to take orders from Our Lord. They filled the jars with water, which Jesus converted into wine. Taking the narrative as it stands, we have one of the best authenticated of Our Lord’s miracles; for, unlike the case of the cure of bodily ailments, the waiters were comparatively disinterested parties, and yet they bore witness that the water had become wine and was even the best wine of the feast. Not only the miracle, but also the whole incident of Christ’s attendance at the marriage feast has always been taken as setting His seal on the sanctity of marriage, and on the propriety of humble rejoicing on such occasions. And if the bride or bridegroom was, as is believed, a relative of Our Lady, we may take it as an example of the sympathy which family ties should bring in the ordinary joys, no less than in the sorrows, of life.


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