Saturday, June 02, 2012

Madaba Mosaic Map

I am pointing to Jerusalem on a replica of the Madaba Map
Madaba is about 32 km south of Amman. It was a Moabite town that was captured from Sihon the Amorite by the Israelites (Num 21:30). We went there to see the Madaba Mosaic Map. This map is a floor mosaic on the floor of St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church which was built over a Byzantine church which was erected around the 6th century. It is believed to be the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land. As buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 CE are conspicuously absent, it was probably created between 542 and 570 CE. The floor mosaic was rediscovered in 1896.

This map is unique in that east is facing the top and Jerusalem is in the centre. Jerusalem was portrayed in great details. In February 2010, further excavations in Jerusalem substantiate the accuracy of this map with the discovery of a central road that runs through Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Resurrection was laid in the centre of Jerusalem. Aside from being a geographical map, it is also a theological map which portrays the resurrection as the focus of Christian beliefs. As we look at the surviving portions of mosaic map in the church, I cannot help but have a sense of history encompassed by the territories involved. I also admired how the focus of the map is on Jerusalem and not on the surrounding landscapes. It conveys a sense of spiritual attraction towards Jerusalem.

This sense of focus and being drawn toward the divine is further enhanced by the icons on the walls, pillars and the wall of icons in this beautiful Greek Orthodox Church. I feel a sense of continuity with millions of pilgrims who were drawn to Jerusalem in the Holy Land.

St. George's Greek Orthodox Church, Madaba

Laying between the present northern limit of the central fragment of the map and the vignette depicting Jerusalem we find the territory of the tribe of Ephraim (Lot of Ephraim) and Benjamin (Lot of Benjamin).

part of the map showing Jerusalem
part of the map showing Jerusalem
 the Sinai Peninsula with a mountain situated between the Negev in Palestine and the Egyptian Delta. 
In an isolated fragment of the mosaic there has been preserved the port of Askalon on the palestinian coast. The vignette of the city shows a network of colonnaded and porticoed roads. Outside the city walls there is the shrine of the Egyptian Martyrs, Ares, Promos and Elijah, which was venerated by the pilgrims.
Three roman forts, Praesidium, Thamara and Moa have been placed by the mosaicist in the valley of Arabah to the south of the Dead Sea. These forts guarded the roads which joined the edomite territory to the palestinian coast crossing the Negev which is graphically represented by three isolated mountains.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” -Revelation 21: 2-4



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