Tag Archives: mosaics

Madaba, City of Mosaics

Upon arriving to the bus station in Madaba, I began to try to get my bearings. I had a tourist map from a previous trip to the city but, for some reason, whoever drew the map decided that the bus station wasn’t important enough to be included. So I have a map but no land marks to tell me where on the map I am.

However, being a good boy scout, I brought along my compass. There are only a few major roads in Madaba and I was on one of them. But which one? Well, my compass reading said that the road I was on was running 30 degrees off of North and South. Thankfully, there was only one major road that matched that bearing. Golden! Now I knew which road I was on.

Of course, I didn’t know exactly where on that road I was but I made my best guess as to which way to go. It wasn’t long before I started seeing signs leading me through the maze-like side streets toward my first landmark, the visitors center. From there finding all of the other places was pretty straight forward.

Madaba has been inhabited for over three thousand years and makes a cameo appearance in the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9. However, it wasn’t until the 6th and 7th centuries, under the Byzantine Empire, that it began to flourish as a center for mosaic artistry, something it is still chiefly known for today. One of the city’s most famous works is a mosaic map of this region found in the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George. It is the oldest known map of this area and is made of more than 2 million stones.

This is the church, the Basilica of Saint George:

This is inside the church:

They still have services every Sunday.  They just roll a carpet over the top of the mosaic and bring in pews.

This is the mosaic:

This is a close up of the part showing Jerusalem:

While this mosaic map is the most famous mosaic in Madaba it is by no means the only one.

There are many archaeological sights in the city.  This one is a church that was also built in the 6th century.  It is call the Church of the Virgin Mary and was build on top of a Roman mansion that dates back even earlier:This is a mosaic depicting a Greek tragedy found in that mansion:

Other mosaics can be found in old tombs or churches in various places around the city.  Here is one of the Tree of Life found in a tomb near the Church of the Virgin Mary:

Here are a few from the Church of the Apostles:

And mosaics continue to be made today.  They are all hand crafted and there are many shops where you can watch as they are being made.

I had a great time exploring the city of Madaba and I hope to go back this next weekend with a couple who have come to Jordan to run our guesthouse.

You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger view.  Enjoy.