The Madaba Mosaic Map in Saint George Church | Jordan

When I was a kid, I’ve gotten used to completing mosaic puzzles my parents love to buy for me. I guess, that’s where I started visualizing places as most of the pictures I solved where of mountains, oceans, cityscape and even world maps. This is the reason why upon learning that our first stop would be in a church featuring an ancient mosaic map of Jerusalem and its surrounding biblical places, my enthusiasm was further buoyed. 

the entrance to Madaba Mosaic Map in Saint George Church
Saint George Church in Madaba

6th Century Mosaic Map

According to its description, the Mosaic Map of Madaba dates back to the 6th century. It charts a total of 157 Biblical sites in the Holy Land including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After it was completed, the mosaic is believed to have comprised of over 2 million tile pieces and was embedded to the floor of a Byzantine Church.

Madaba Mosaic Map in Saint George Church
the 6th-century Madaba Mosaic Map shows many Biblical locations
However, the years of Madaba being a highly populated city came to an abrupt halt following a devastating earthquake in 746. Soon, the citizens abandoned the city and much of the Byzantine-era structures was buried under a pile of rubble and Earth.

Marky Ramone Go Madaba Mosaic Map in Saint George Church
Trying to find Jerusalem on the Madaba Mosaic Map
The mosaic map was unearthed in 1884—still attached to the original floor—after a Greek Orthodox Church was constructed on top of a ruins of a pre-6th century Byzantine Church.  Illustrated from a bird’s eye view, the Madaba Map clearly charts ancient Jerusalem even mapping out the main streets and churches in the city. 

Impressive Religious paintings and chandeliers can be seen inside St. George Church
The mosaic map guided archaeologists in digging and discovering more ancient ruins particularly the remains of the Cardo Maximus and the New Church of Theotokos—also referred to as The Nea—, a church built in Jerusalem by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 1543 and was later destroyed by the invading Persians in 614.

The Madaba Mosaic Map is found under this apse of Saint George Church
Today, what's left of the Madaba Mosaic Map can be seen on the apse—a crescent recess roofed by a hemispherical arch—of the modern-day Church of Saint George. Other than the aforementioned Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Nea Church, other notable places that can still be viewed on the map are: the place of John the Baptist's Baptism, the old city of Jerusalem, Zion Gate, the Tower of David, Damascus Gate, the Golden Gate and the Cardo Maximus.

The Mosaic City of Madaba

Since we alighted from our bus at a parking lot located almost 700 meters from the church of Saint George, we were gifted with an opportunity to explore a small part of Madaba. Doing so, we passed by streets filled with shops selling mosaic artworks, coffee and tea shops and through a small market place before reaching the Church. Madaba, as I learned later, is composed mainly of Christians who comprises a third of its population.  If you are doubting whether religious tolerance is present in Jordan, then Madaba will assure you that it does.

Marky Ramone Go in Madaba Mosaic Map in Saint George Church
Standing by the entrance to Saint George Church
If only I am not part of a tour group—on a travel writing assignment—and have the freedom to exercise any whims of spontaneity, then I would have preferred spending a few days in Madaba, as I learned after my trip, the city keeps several more fascinating archaeological sites and ancient structures.

Fancy mosaic artworks are sold on the streets near St. George Church
I guess, the more reasons to dream of another trip to Jordan someday.