While exploring Jordan my friends and I spent a day in the city of Madaba, which is famous for their Byzantine Mosaics. One of our friends was an art history professor, and visiting these ancient mosaics was quite stimulating for him. It was exciting for me as well, since the mosaics were right up my alley when it comes to my interests in art history and human civilizations.
The old town of Madaba was once a Moabite (ancient Levantine Kingdom) border city that is mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 21:30, and Joshua 13:9. It dates back 4,500 years, and although not much is left from those times, the city’s old mosaics remain.
The ancient mosaics of Madaba date back to the early Byzantine and Umayyad times, approximately 1,500 years ago.
Church of Saint George and the Madaba Map
The most significant mosaics can be found inside the early Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George. The Madaba Map dates back to the 6th-century CE, and is part of a floor mosaic that depicts a section of the Middle East. It illustrates the earliest and oldest surviving map depiction of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
The Madaba Map was dedicated on November 20, 542 CE, and was created by unknown artists, although it most likely was made by the Christian community in Madaba. The mosaic map of Jerusalem is absent of buildings constructed after 570 CE, which limits the date range of its design from 542 to 570.
Over the centuries, the mosaics were lost and forgotten due to damage from earthquakes, fires, and changes of empires. The mosaics were re-discovered inside St. George in the late 1800s, but it was not until 1965 that restoration and conservation of the remaining mosaics began.
There are more mosaics in Madaba outside of the Saint George Church, you just need to explore the town a bit more. The Church of the Holy Martyr’s and the Virgin Mary Church are part of the Madaba Archeological Park sites, where many mosaics have been excavated and preserved. The Archeological Parks are open-air museums within the church ruins, that were created in the 1990s after careful excavation and restoration.
Holy Martyr’s Church – Inside the remains of this 6th-century basilica, the remnants of the old stone walls, columns, and mosaics are damaged but still legible.
Virgin Mary Church – This church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was also built in the 6th century during the Byzantine era. It was not until 1887 when the mosaic floor beneath a private house was unearthed. Further excavations discovered a masterpiece central mosaic that is thought to date back from the mid 700’s.
Mosaics at the Church of the Virgin Mary
For travel information, please visit – Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum
Don’t listen to what they say, go see…
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre