Friday, November 18, 2011

Jordanian Mosaics

The next morning, we stopped again at Madaba to spend some time at the other churches inside the archaeological park. The open-air park also features a section of the city's ancient Roman road, as well as mosaics culled from other nearby towns. My dad is examining one of those in the photo above.

Above, the 6th century Byzantine "Hippolytus Hall" (part of a wealthy Roman house) with the adjoining Church of the Virgin behind it.

To the left, you can see four birds around a circle, which features a depiction of two sandals. This was the entrance to the room and indicated that you were to leave your shoes here.

Out on the Roman road with a friendly museum curator who showed us around. Throughout our trip, many people noted that tourism in Jordan was only at about 10% of normal. They attributed this to the general unrest in the Middle East, particularly in neighboring Syria. Jordan, on the other hand, stood out to us for its stability and the moderation of its government.

Here we are inside the Church of the Apostles, also in Mabada, but outside the archaeological park. This church is famous for the personification of the Sea (Thalassa) in the middle of the church. You can kind of make it out just to the left of my dad in the photo above.

A close-up of one of the corners of the mosaic from the same church -- this depicts one of the winds.

Our next stop was Umm ar-Rasas, again famous for its Byzantine church mosaics. Almost inexplicably, this site was so deserted that two of the policemen showed us around - probably because they were so bored. Most of the 14 churches are still in the open-air, so their mosaics are covered with sands for protection. The guards helped us realize this (even though we had a language barrier) by expertly kicking away the sand on top of particularly beautiful parts of the mosaics, such as the one below of a lion. They then let us dig around wherever we wanted, as you see me doing in the photo above.

The highlight of the site is the Church of Saint Stephen, built around 785, well into the Islamic period. (It seems, though, that the Christian community's fortunes took a turn for the worse soon after this church was built.) The church features the largest perfectly preserved mosaic floor and is second in fame only to the Mabada Map. It features 15 cities of the Holy Land, both east and west of the Jordan, in bands running the length of the nave, as you can see in the photo above and the two photos below.

Here you can see the altar area of a smaller church from 587, known as the Church of Bishop Sergius, because of an inscription in the mosaic floor. St. Stephen's partially overlaid it. It seemed to me that it was probably incorporated as a side chapel.

For more photos from this day, click here.

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