Movie Star Spotted in Madaba!

Local Movie Star Spotted in Madaba!

Who’s the Hottie?

I’m not sure who this guy is, but come on. How can he NOT be famous! Look at the pose, the glasses, the stance, smoking a cigarette, edging his sunglasses ever so slightly down his nose to check us out (in a school bus, yikes) as we drive by en route to St. George’s. Although his sighting was not the reason for the trip, it was certainly a contender for second place. Did I mention that he weighs about 100 pounds?

Background Information on the Town of Madaba

We booked a trip to Madaba, about 30 km (you do the math) southwest of Amman to see Mt. Nebo and St. George’s church. Madaba is be known for the dozens of Byzantine mosaics preserved in churches and museums. Madaba was first mentioned in the Old Testament as having been conquered by the Israelites and parcelled to the tribe of Reuben. The city was won back by King Mesha, at which point the Israelite prophet Isaiah stepped in, prophesying doom: “Moab shall howl over Nebo and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness and every beard cut off…everyone shall howl, weeping abundantly.” (I’ll let you know if this is still true.) After further turmoil, Madaba passed from Greek hands to Jewish, to the Nabatean’s, and by the 3rd century AD, Madaba was minting coins of their own.

Madaba was abandoned and in ruins for centuries. In 1879, conflict between Christian and Muslim tribes in Karnak led to ninety Catholic and Orthodox families going into voluntary exile here and they laid claim to the surrounding land and began to farm. In 1884, during clearance work for a new church, the map of the Holy land in St. George’s was discovered, followed by many more mosaics across the area. Christians still comprise the vast majority of inhabitants in the area ( estimates claim over 95% are Christian).

Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo is about ten minutes outside of the town of Madaba up a gradually sloping hill.  It is said that this is the place that Moses finally saw the Holy Land that God had forbidden him to enter after spending forty years leading the Israelites through the wilderness. After Moses died on the mountain, his successor Joshua went on to lead the Israelites across the river into Canaan. According to the Christian and Jewish tradition, Moses is said to be buried someone up here, but no one, except the shepherd who God spoke to, knows where. Muslims believe that the body of Moses was carried across the river and placed in a tomb.

The Moses Memorial Church is undergoing construction at the moment, but it’s set to open up sometime next year. The first structure of the church may have dated from classical times, but by 394 AD it was converted into a triapsidal church floored with mosaics. It expanded during the sixth century and was the focus for a large and flourishing monastic community that was thriving in 1217, but by 1564, it was abandoned. In 1933, the ruined site was purchased by Franciscans who began restoring and excavating the church and the surrounding area. Today this remains a monastic refuge and the headquarters of the Franciscan Archeological Institute.

The Franciscan brother who led our tour felt badly that we couldn’t view the church due to the construction project, so he led us into the Brother’s private courtyard and living quarters, below the church site, giving us a rare glimpse into their small monastery. We were welcomed into a beautiful, terraced garden area with amazing views and we were invited to peek into their private chapel, complete with many tiny mosaics.

(No Bargain) SHOPPING!

We left Mt. Nebo, heading back towards the town of Madaba, with one stop for shopping. We were welcomed in to a small mosaic workshop where some of the artisans demonstrated  (of course in anticipation that we would buy lots of stuff) the techniques. The pieces were beautiful, but pricey ($2,000 JD’s for table tops). I bought a four serving pieces (see picture)–no deals, but I love them and Raj got to work his haggling magic (he didn’t feel he had haggled enough).  I told him I was very proud!

St. George’s (The Church of the Map)

This is Madaba’s main attraction. The map is estimated to have been laid in the second half of the sixth century. What makes the map unique is that it depicts the larger towns and cities with an oblique perspective, as if from a vantage point above to the west. In addition to glorifying God’s work in the lands of the Bible, it is said to have been used to better direct pilgrims to sites of biblical significance. The church was small and full of modern mosaics. The floor map was fragments, but interesting, nonetheless.

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13 thoughts on “Movie Star Spotted in Madaba!

  1. You don’t know who he is? He’s very famous. Maybe you could start a business collecting autographs and sending them back to the US for all of us fans. But seriously, your pictures are amazing! I’m jealous of all your adventures. LOVE the picture of you and Raj.

  2. You get an A+ today for all of your detailed background information.It seems like blogging is a full time job.Thank goodness you are on sabbatical. Remember Calcutta in Italy? Any word if they ever had the holy “you know what” (I won’t say it as some of your readers may find offense- they can google it) in the churches that you traveled to? Look into that. I am super jealous of your serving pieces. That sounds like a bargain for all four.

  3. If you say Holy Prepuce, no one will know. I don’t think they allow prepuces here, holy or other wise. Maybe I should have asked the Brother who gave us the tour. I’ll have Raj ask the question. I’m glad you’re jealous. Now I feel better. Thanks.

  4. Ok, so I’m really jealous that you went to that church. I’ve only been wanting to go since I was about ten or so. That church could have been an entire day’s outing for my husband and myself.

        1. On a Sunday morning in 1975, worshippers passed in front of one of the church’s icons (Virgin and child) as normal, praying and touching it. Later in the service, someone looked at the icon again and noticed that it had suddenly “grown” a third, blue hand, unseen by the congregation before. There was no explanation. It was declared to be a miracle. The blue hand is definitely blue and there are three hands (very odd). It’s housed in a small crypt, down a little stairway, to the right of the altar.

  5. Jen, Thanks for giving the background of the places you are going to show us.
    There are so many beautiful photos that I actually might want to come. The mosaics are beautiflul and I think you got 4 amazing pieces. Keep the stories and pictures comeing.

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