The day started out not being concerned about the weather, but being concerned about……a flat tire!! Yes, those things happen when a car rolls over a very sharp screw. But once we got going it was a day filled with Old Testament history and mosaics.
We were off first to Mount Nebo to explore the Old Testament in History Thru Travel. Mount Nebo is about 45 kilometers from where we are staying in Amman. It has been a holy site for pilgrims throughout the centuries because of the story of Moses in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 32, it tells about Moses going up from the lowlands of Moab to Mount Nebo which is east of Jericho. It is there where he saw the Promised Land.
A church was built here around the 4th century AD. The church was abandoned in later years. It wasn’t until the 20th century , through the use of 4th and 5th century pilgrim travelogues, that the church was rediscovered. A modern church now stands on the site.
The church is very modern and very interesting on the inside as seen in the featured image for today’s post. The church houses some of the finest mosaics in Jordan that were designed in about 530 AD. They are featured on the walls and on the floor. The masterpiece is one that is located on the floor. Shown below is a section of that mosaic.
As I mentioned, it is in the book of Deuteronomy that it says Moses saw the Promised Land from this site. As we looked to the west today, the Jordan Valley was very hazy so the Promised Land was not easy to see.
The church is a Catholic church and the Franciscans who bought this property in 1932, have a functioning monastery on the site.
Madaba is only 9 kilometers from Mount Nebo, so that was our second stop for the day. Madaba has been inhabited for about 4500 years. It was one of the towns that was divided among the 12 tribes at the time of the Exodus. In the Christian Byzantine era, many churches were built and mosaics were created for their flooring.
Shrine of the Beheading of John the Baptist
This church, as many others we have seen, is built over other ancient sites. The facade of the church was built with ancient stones.
One of the ancient ruins the church is built over is a Moabite well that dates back 3000 years ago. It is still operational today.
You might be wondering if this is the site where John the Baptist was beheaded. The answer is no. That happened at the Castle of Herod the Great which is located further south in Machaerus.
At the church, Micah and I were able to climb the belfry using steep metal steps. Along the way we passed the many bells that would ring once we got to the top. I have heard church bells before, but not from inside a belfry. Quite an experience!!
Church of the Apostles
This church was highly rated in the information we used to plan our visit to Madaba. But when we walked in, we were very disappointed. It looked like a construction zone. The main door was open so dust could come in and settle on the mosaics.
We were there for about five minutes when the security man came in and motioned for us to follow him. Soon we were walking on the mosaic, avoiding the sides so we wouldn’t crack any stones, and watching him bring the mosaics to life. He used a water bottle and sprayed about 10 images. The coloring and skill of the craftsmen can be seen in the following pictures. These mosaics were created in 586 AD.
St. George’s Church
This Greek Orthodox Church is a very modest church.
Its significance is that it includes a treasure of early Christianity, the oldest map of Palestine. Discovered in 1884 after earthquakes, fires and neglect; it provides historical insight into that era. Crafted in 560 AD, it depicts all the major historical sites of the Middle East.
Today it is only 1/3 of its original size, with the rest being lost through the years. It has been used throughout the years by historians and archaeologists and has helped rediscover many of the sites that existed during that time. I have included a full size replica of the map so you can see everything that is on what remains of the mosaic. Hopefully it will show you what an important part of history this mosaic is.
Rediscovering the Mosaics
It is hard to believe the churches and mosaics that I have shared with you weren’t discovered until the late 1800’s or even into the 1900’s. But at the beginning of the 20th century, Madaba was a very small village as seen in the picture below.
This picture is from the museum in the Shrine of the Beheading of John the Baptist. It shows Madaba was a very small stone village in the middle of the desert. It was during the late 1800’s that some priests started construction which encouraged the tribe people to build their homes and settle in the town. As the people started digging foundations for their homes, they discovered ancient churches as well as the mosaics. What a great find to piece together the history of the past.
Today was a day of learning much about the Old Testament and Mosaics. The people we met along the way who helped us to understand these sites better were very warm, helpful and showed genuine appreciation for their visitors. Again, it was a great day of History Thru Travel.