Madaba City Of Mosaics, Jordan

Madaba is a medium-sized city in Jordan, located 25km southwest of Amman. Madaba has become known as the "City of the Mosaics" for the many Byzantine mosaics that have been uncovered throughout the city. The most famous of these is the Madaba Map, a 6th-century mosaic map of the Holy Land.


Madaba has a very long history stretching from the Neolithic period. The town of Madaba was once a Moabite border city, mentioned in the the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9.

During its rule by the Roman and Byzantine Empires from the second to the seventh centuries AD, the city formed part of the Provincia Arabia set up by the Roman Emperor Trajan to replace the Nabataean kingdom of Petra. During the the rule of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, it was part of the southern Jund of Palestine.

The first witness of a Christian community in the city, with its own bishop, is found in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, wherein Constantine, Metropolitan Archbishop of Bostra, the provincial capital, signed on behalf of Gaiano, "Bishop of the Medabeni."

The resettlement of the city ruins by 90 Christian families from Kerak in the south, led by two Italian priests from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1880, saw the start of archaeological research. This in turn supplemented substantially the scanty documentation available.

The first mosaics were discovered, purely by chance, during the building of the new permanent dwellings using squared-up stones from the old monuments. The new inhabitants of Madaba, made conscious of the importance of the mosaics by their priests, made sure that they took care of and preserved all the mosaics that came to light.

The mosaic map of Madaba was discovered in 1896; the findings were published a year later. This discovery attracted the attention of scholars worldwide. It also positively influenced the inhabitants who shared the contagious passion of F. Giuseppe Manfredi, to whose efforts we owe the discovery of most of the mosaics in the city. Madaba became the "City of Mosaics" in Jordan.

The northern part of the city turned out to be the area containing the greatest concentration of mosaic monuments. During the Byzantine-Umayyad period, this northern area, crossed by a colonnaded Roman road, saw the building of the Church of the Map, the Hippolytus Mansion, the Church of the Virgin Mary, the Church of Prophet Elijah with its crypt, the Church of the Holy Martyrs (Al-Khadir), the Burnt Palace and the Church of the Sunna' family.

What to See

The Madaba Mosaic Map is a map of Holy Land dating from the 6th century AD, preserved in the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George.

With two million pieces of colored stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns in Palestine and the Nile Delta. The mosaic contains the earliest extant representation of Jerusalem, labeled the "Holy City" (Η ΑΓΙΑ ΠΟΛΙC). The map has been a major key in developing scholarly knowledge about the physical layout of Jerusalem after its destruction and rebuilding in 70 AD.

Hundred of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba. Other mosaic masterpieces - such as in the Church of the Virgin, the Church of the Apostles and the Archaeological Park - depict flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming.

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