Madaba Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Madaba

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    The Church of the Virgin

    by leics Written Jan 17, 2015

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    The church of the Virgin is the first in-situ ancient site one comes across as one explore Madaba's extensive Archaeological Park, although there are many mosaics from elsewhere displayed on the walls as one walks towards it.

    There is quite a lot of academic debate about the exact date this church was built (you can read a detailed paper here if you like) but it is certainly ancient enough. It seems likely it was built sometime between the mid-600s and the mid-700s, over the demolished remains of a previous Byzantine mansion (see 'Hippolytus Hall' tip) and an even earlier Roman temple.

    The arches and vaults of that early Roman temple were incorporated into the building of the church and used as a crypt. There is also a large courtyard to the west of the church building with a mosaic floor of plain white tesserae and a cistern.

    As was normal at the time, Roman and Byzantine masonry, columns and capitals were re-used in the building of the church and you can still see those columns and capitals on site. It is unusual in that the nave is circular, taking on the shape of the earlier roman temple which lies underneath. It is also pretty certain that the interior was originally covered in mosaic work, although most of what you can see now dates from a redesign in 767. It's a wonderfully swirly and intricate circular geometric pattern.

    The church is accessed via a series of stepped walkways which allow good views of the mosaic (for those capable of coping with steps) without risking any damage to the site.

    I wish I'd had longer to properly explore...and to take better photos....but I was extremely pressed for time, having just an hour or so away from my organised tour (one reason why I barely ever take organised tours!).

    If you are in or near Madaba and have any interest in the past the Archaeological Prak is an essential 'must see'...and its entrance fee of only 2JD is an absolute bargain.

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    The 'Hippolytus Hall'.

    by leics Written Jan 17, 2015

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    This is another site in Madaba's Archaeological Park.

    The 'Hippolytus Hall' is not its real name, of course. The name comes from the wonderful mosaic 'carpet' tellling part of the story of Hippolytus (a Greek traged by Euripedes) which was placed in one of the rooms of this Byzantine mansion.

    The Church of the Virgin (see tip) was built over this mansion (dated to the first half of the 500s), and the mansion itself was built over a circular Roman temple.

    The Hippolytus mosaic was first discovered in 1905 by the owner of the land. It's eastern section was not excavated until the 1980s.

    The mosaic is huge, about 7.3 metres wide and 9.5 metres long. It is decorated with scrolls and ribbons, geometric patterns, acanthus leaves, seasons, animals and, along the eastern wall, three personified depictions of cities: rome, Madaba and Gregoriana .

    The central section shows scenes and characters from the story of Hippolytus.

    You can see the mosaic well from the modern walkways set above it but this was yet another time when I wished I had a better camera and was (more importantly) a better photographer. My photos simply do not do justice to what one can see.

    If you are in or near Madaba and have even the slightest interest in the past you really should not miss this site.

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    The Crypt of St Elianus

    by leics Written Jan 17, 2015

    The ruined Church of the Prophet Elianus stands alongside, and somewhat above, the Roman 'Decumanus' in the Archaeological Park. Little is left of the church itself but the crypt beneath it (the Crypt of St Elianus) is better-preserved. It has some truly lovely and very intricate mosaics.

    Stairs led from the church into the crypt, ending at a square landing which was originally covered in a mosaic 'carpet'. Its walls were also covered in mosaics. You can still see a beautifully-detailed fruit tree covered with fruit which formed part of the 'carpet.

    The crypt is vaulted and has a small window which orginally let in light from the apse of the church.

    My guidebook says that the church dates from the very early 600s but an information board on the site has this quote:

    'Christ our Lord has built this house at the time of the most pious Bishop Sergius for the care of Sergius, the priest of Saint Elianus, the year 490 (596-597 AD).'

    The light was difficult, and lacking, for taking good photos so I'm afraid mine offer just the tiniest glimpse.

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    The Archaeological Park.

    by leics Updated Jan 14, 2015

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    Madaba's 'archaeological park' adjoins the Visitor Centre and is just a few minute's walk to the south-east of St George's Church. It is, imo, equally unmissable. The park was opened to the public in 1990 and includes many wonderful ancient mosaics, some of which come from elsewhere and some of which are still in their original position.

    The park includes two lengths of original Roman paved road, the 'Decumanus', which ran east-west through the town and was created in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. When you walk on those stones you are walking where the Roman inhabitants of Madaba walked. Several columns and their bases still remain in their original positions (the Decumanus was originally lined withcolumns) although many were taken away to be re-used in later structures.

    There are two ancient churches, dating from the 7th and 8th centuries, each with their own beautiful mosaics; fragments of mosaics which include the oldest ever found in what is now Jordan (from the fortress of Machaerus, built by Herod the Great and dating from the 1st century AD); the 'Hippolytus Hall', the remains of a luxurious mansion over which one of the churches was built and the modern Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art. I'll make separate tips about the churches and Hippolytus Hall.

    The Church of the Martyrs and the 'Burnt Palace' mentioned in my other Madaba tips also stood alongside the Roman Decumanus.

    Entrance was just 2JD, which I consider an absolute bargain. Don't miss it!

    The oldest mosaic
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    Hussein Bin Ali Street: Martyr's Church

    by leics Written Jan 13, 2015

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    The Martyrs' Church, with its superb mosaic floors, stands on the same site as the Burnt Palace. The site is free to enter and accessed via an alleyway between the shops on Hussein Bin Ali Street, on the left as you walk up to St George's Church.

    The church dates from the 500s and has a large and very detailed mosaic floor. Unfortunately great chunks of the floor were damaged in the past but much of it remains in place. A walkway around the covered site allows you to get good views of the mosaic. Various columns and column bases also remain in place, many of them re-used from earlier Roman structures.

    The church was only opened to the public in early 2013, after much preservation work (partly funded by Greece) had taken place.

    Church on left, burnt palace on right.
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    Hussein Bin Ali Street : the 'Burnt Palace'

    by leics Written Jan 13, 2015

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    A gap between the shops (mostly visitor-oriented) on pedestrianised Hussein Bin Ali Street leads to two excellent archaeological sites. If it wasn't for the brown sign outside it would be very easy to miss these...try not to do so, for both sites have lovely mosaics.

    The 'so-called 'Burnt Palace' is a pretty luxurious mansion which dates from the late 500s/early 600s. Its remains have been excavated and its beautiful mosaic flooring is still in place in many parts. The palace was probably used by the priest in charge of the almost-adjoining 'Martyrs' Church' (see other tip) and at some point was severely damaged by fire. That fire might have been caused by the earthquake of 747, probably also causing the destruction of the building, but there is no certainty.

    The mosaic floors were damaged by both earthquake and fire as well as by the construction of a house on the site during the 20th century.

    The light wasn't very good when I made my too-speedy visit to this site but hopefully some of my photos of the remaining mosaics and mosaic fragments will convince you that it is well worth a look. There is no entrance fee.

    Site entrance Palace remains to the right
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    St George's Church 2: the mosaic map

    by leics Written Jan 12, 2015

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    Before you enter the church to look at the map it's worth spending a few minutes looking at the large information board (in English) to the right of the church and perhaps also going into the small shop + interpretation centre (also to the right as you look at the church). Although the mosaic itself is accessible it is, obviously, roped off so it is not easy to see smaller details which are further away from where you stand.

    The map is oriented to the east, with north to the right, so it takes a while to get one's head around. It was originally around 21m by 7m (what remains is about 15.6m by 6m), showing far more of the area, but time, earthquake and fire have damaged much of it. So what you can see now is just a fragment of what one was, and a fragment which has several gaps.

    One theory suggests that the map was intended to help pilgrims find their way to sites of religious importance. I'm not so sure about that, personally. A mosaic map in a Madaba church is not really going to help anyone on their way through the desert lands, although I suppose some may have copied it onto more portable materials. I think it is more likely that it is simply a (remarkably accurate) depiction of the 'Holy Land' and its sites as known at the time, something for both pilgrims and worshippers to ponder and be awed by as they prayed.

    The remaining fragments of the map has the Dead Sea as its centre, with cargo boats crossing it. Jerusalem is shown in all its glory (the mosaic has helpful, original labels), including the Garden of Gethsemane and there's also the baptism site of Jesus, ferries across the river Jordan, Bethlehem, Karak, Gaza and...at the furthest extent of the remaining mosaic...part of the Nile delta.

    We don't know exactly when the map was created but it can be dated pretty accurately from what it does and does not include, so it is thought it dates from between 542 and 570AD. It was discovered in 1884, when work began to build the existing Greek Orthodox Basilica of St George on the site of the ancient Byzantine church where the mosaic was originally laid.

    As well as its obvious historical and archaeological importance, and the sheer skill with which it was created (more than 2 million tesserae were used), the map is still very valuable for modern archaeologists. It has not only helped to confirm identification of ancient sites but also to suggest (successfully) where ancient sites might be uncovered by excavation.

    The map is by no means the only thing Madaba has to offer but of course you must see it when you visit. It is entirely unique, a superb piece of artwork in itself and gives a fascinating insight into the area at the time it was created.

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    Visit the Visitors' Centre

    by leics Updated Jan 12, 2015

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    Madaba's Visitor Centre was opened in 2001. It has clean, free toilets, a big car park, a pleasant courtyard with seats and friendly, helpful staff who can guide you about what to see and do in the town.

    The building which houses it was erected around 1907 for Suleiman Ibrahim Bajjaly and his family. Its style is typically Jordanian of its time. The Bajjalys were also typical, in that they lived in the house whilst owning and working several farms in the surrounding area as well as working at other jobs, such as building.

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    St George's Church 1: not the mosaic.

    by leics Written Jan 12, 2015

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    St George's Greek Orthodox church is *the* Madaba site, visited by each and every tour group in order to gaze at its wonderful and unique mosaic map. I'll write about the map in the next tip, but St George's would be worth a visit even if it did not have any ancient mosaics.

    The small church was built in 1896 and, as is typical of Orthodox churches, contains many, many icons. It also contains many rather good mosaics of its own for Madaba has, over the decades, become the mosaic-making capital of Jordan. I was particularly taken by some of the larger pieces on display, as well as by the mosaic depictions of various saints.

    This church has had its very own miracle. In 1976 a third (blue) hand suddenly appeared overnight on an icon of the Virgin and Child. The icon is apparently still on display but it's in the crypt and I didn't have chance to see it. Perhaps you might ask about it when you visit?

    Services are still held regularly, with the ancient mosaic covered to prevent damage. Other than at service times you'll find the church open for visitors from 0800-1800 on Mon-Thurs and Saturdays, 0930-1800 on Fridays and Sundays from 1030 - 1800. Winter opening hours are obviously, somewhat shorter. There is an entrance fee, though I'm not sure of the exact amount...perhaps 2JD? There is also a small shop/museum in a separate building (no toilets I'm afraid) which has some interesting information panels in English.

    A much older church once stood on the same spot (hence the mosaic map) but it was destroyed by an earthquake. That quake damaged the mosaic too, as did several fires at different times in the past. You can still see the remains of two ancient pillars from the previous building: they just outside the front of the church building.

    Please don't just whizz into the church, gaze at the mosaic map and whizz out again. Do spend a while looking at the artwork, icons and modern mosaics around the walls. It'll be worthwhile. :-)

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    Museum

    by xaver Written Jan 8, 2014

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    The museum is a few blocks away fom the church of St. George. Its greatest attraction is a collection of mosaics collages, some of them are really in excellent cnditions.
    The museum is open Wednesday through Monday 09:00-17:00, holidays 10:00-16:00

    address Al-Baiqa’ St

    mosaic floor Mosaic
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    Church of St. George

    by xaver Written Jan 8, 2014

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    The main attraction f this Byzantine church is the moaic of the map of the holy land. This map initially was part of the floor of the church and actually it is the oldest map existent, built during the reign of emperor Justinian, AD 527-565.
    In the church you also find some very nice paintings.
    Entrance 1 JD

    map reconstructed map painting painting
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    Madaba City 2

    by machomikemd Written Aug 21, 2013

    Part two of my Madaba City Tips with more pictures.

    Madaba City is the Capital of Madaba Governorate and is just 30 kilometers south of Amman along the King's Highway. The city host a number of attractions and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, Madaba is home to the famous 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. 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, Other mosaic masterpieces found in the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles and the Archaeological Museum, depict a profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Hundred of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba and don't forget Mount Nebo, the site of Moses Burial and the Observation Point of the Promised Land.

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    St. George Greek Orthodox Basilica: Mosaic Map

    by machomikemd Written Aug 21, 2013

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    this will be the pictures of the world famous holyland mosaics found at the flooring of the st. george greek orthodox basilica. The Madaba Mosaic Map depicts Jerusalem with the Nea Church, which was dedicated on the 20th of November, AD 542. Buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 are absent from the depiction, thus limiting the date range of its creation to the period between 542 and 570. The mosaic was made by unknown artists, probably for the Christian community of Madaba, which was the seat of a bishop at that time.

    according to wikipedia:
    The mosaic map depicts an area from Lebanon in the north to the Nile Delta in the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Eastern Desert. Among other features, it depicts the Dead Sea with two fishing boats, a variety of bridges linking the banks of the Jordan, fish swimming in the river and receding from the Dead Sea; a lion (rendered nearly unrecognisable by the insertion of random tesserae during a period of iconoclasm) hunting a gazelle in the Moab desert, palm-ringed Jericho, Bethlehem and other biblical-Christian sites. The map may partially have served to facilitate pilgrims' orientation in the Holy Land. All landscape units are labelled with explanations in Greek. A combination of folding perspective and aerial view depicts about 150 towns and villages, all of them labelled.

    The largest and most detailed element of the topographic depiction is Jerusalem, at the centre of the map. The mosaic clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Zion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the New Church of the Theotokos, the Tower of David and the Cardo Maximus. The recognisable depiction of the urban topography makes the mosaic a key source on Byzantine Jerusalem. Also unique are the detailed depictions of cities such as Neapolis, Askalon, Gaza, Pelusium and Charachmoba, all of them nearly detailed enough to be described as street maps.

    The St. George Greek Orthodox Church is the main attraction of Madaba City as it hosts the mosaic map of the holy land, The church was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. The mosaic panel enclosing the Map was originally around 15.6 X 6m, 94 sq.m., only about a quarter of which is preserved. The St. George Greek Orthodox Church us actually a large complex, with the Mosaic Remains lining the small church in the complex. Although there are many attractions in Madaba City Besides the St. George Basilica, like Mount Nebo, Church of th Virgin Mary or the Church of the Prophet Elijah, This is the main attraction due to the mosaic map.

    Hours:
    8am-5pm Sat-Thu Nov-Mar,
    7.30am-6pm Sat-Thu Apr-Oct,
    9.30am-5pm Fri year-round

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    St. George Greek Orthodox Basilica: Inside

    by machomikemd Written Aug 21, 2013

    This will be pictures of the Inside of the St. George Greek Orthodox Basilica, you will see the difference between the greek orthodox church layout and the roman catholic church layout, where the greek orthodox church has wooden dividers to separate the patriarch and the parishioners when saying mass, while roman catholic churches don't have dividers.

    The St. George Greek Orthodox Church is the main attraction of Madaba City as it hosts the mosaic map of the holy land, The church was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. The mosaic panel enclosing the Map was originally around 15.6 X 6m, 94 sq.m., only about a quarter of which is preserved. The St. George Greek Orthodox Church us actually a large complex, with the Mosaic Remains lining the small church in the complex. Although there are many attractions in Madaba City Besides the St. George Basilica, like Mount Nebo, Church of th Virgin Mary or the Church of the Prophet Elijah, This is the main attraction due to the mosaic map.

    Hours:
    8am-5pm Sat-Thu Nov-Mar,
    7.30am-6pm Sat-Thu Apr-Oct,
    9.30am-5pm Fri year-round

    admission is free.

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    St. George Greek Orthodox Basilica: Guest Center

    by machomikemd Written Aug 21, 2013

    This will be pictures of the St. George Guest Center, situated beside the Basilica, where a holyland map replica and viewing room where tour guides can explain about the mosaic map of the holyland and show a video presentation. it also has a souvenir store where you can buy souvenir and religous items.

    The St. George Greek Orthodox Church is the main attraction of Madaba City as it hosts the mosaic map of the holy land, The church was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. The mosaic panel enclosing the Map was originally around 15.6 X 6m, 94 sq.m., only about a quarter of which is preserved. The St. George Greek Orthodox Church us actually a large complex, with the Mosaic Remains lining the small church in the complex. Although there are many attractions in Madaba City Besides the St. George Basilica, like Mount Nebo, Church of th Virgin Mary or the Church of the Prophet Elijah, This is the main attraction due to the mosaic map.

    Hours:
    8am-5pm Sat-Thu Nov-Mar,
    7.30am-6pm Sat-Thu Apr-Oct,
    9.30am-5pm Fri year-round

    admission is free.

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