The holy sites of Madaba and Mount Nebo behold significantly important mosaic artifacts which are a window to the early Christian and Jewish life. These ancient creations would have been lost in the sands of time had they not been carefully preserved.
Map of the Church
A carpet of tiny colored stones lay on the floor. It looked like a giant jig saw puzzle was laid out and completed by someone many centuries ago.
On closer inspection, I see, this looks like a map. Markers show me locations of villages and towns, hills and valleys.
Our guide tells us that this is the oldest map of Palestine and the Nile delta. He points out to show us the important landmarks, some places which are modern day Israel. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jordan River, the Nile River and delta can be clearly seen.
Around the 6th century AD, artists used approximately two million pieces of colored stone to create this Map of the Holyland.
St. George is built upon the remains of an older church that housed this map. Built in the 19th century, this Greek Orthodox Church is of recent construction.
The fragmented remains of the map are spread across the front portion of the church near the main altar.
This 6th century map, allows us to time travel to the old city of Jerusalem and see the important landmarks associated with Christ.
Patiently putting together pieces of stone to make a map showcases this region’s artistic excellence and workmanship. A truly unique creation!!
The Brazen Serpent
Prophet Moses ascended Mount Nebo and looked towards the Promised Land. He knew he would not make it there, just as God as foretold. Moses died after looking towards the land he would never enter.
Standing at the summit of Nebo today, I see panoramic views of the desert, mountains and plains. The Jordan River and the Dead Sea can be seen glistening in the vastness of the open desert.
On a clear day the hills of Jerusalem and Bethlehem can be seen at a distance.
Across the summit podium stands a tall bronze cross, with a snake wrapped around it. This symbolic sculpture was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni.
The cross symbolizes Jesus’ death and the snake replicates the bronze serpent created by Moses as a symbol of sin.
A few alleys down are the remains of an old Byzantine Church that houses some spectacular floor mosaic designs.
The church is under renovation so cannot be visited. However some of the mosaic slabs have been held under a tent for pilgrims and visitors.
The mosaics depict an array of flowers, fruit, exotic animals and birds. Legend says that semi-precious stones were also used in these designs.
Since Moses was here, Nebo becomes a holy site for Christians. The floor mosaics were artfully created to honor his presence. Another instance of this region’s devotion to the mosaic art form.
The mosaics found on the church floors in Madaba and Nebo spin a common thread about the expression of art in this region. Today this art continues to develop and be preserved in the lanes and alleys of Madaba.
Mosaic making is an ancient art native to the Middle East.
The creations discovered till date are just a glimpse of what is scattered across the Madaba region. Each discovery adds a jewel to the crown of mosaic artwork.
The Ministry of Tourism in Jordan supports the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration. The only project in the Middle East, this institute encourages artisans in repairing, restoring and creating mosaics.
Mosaic making consists of pressing stone fragments (known as tesserae) into wet plaster to create detailed and ornate works of art. Today mosaic artists in Madaba produce an array of souvenirs and handicrafts used for a variety of purposes.
Several shops sell stunning and decorative mosaic creations. A visual treat for the eyes, buyers can pick some unique souvenirs to take back home.