Dubbed the "Pompeii of the East," Jerash is a Greco-Roman ruined city located 80 miles north of Amman. The impressive, beautifully preserved ruins of Jerash include places of worship and other buildings from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and early Muslim periods.

The oval plaza and other ruins of Jerash, with the modern city behind

In the 3rd century BC, during the Hellenistic era, Jerash became a member of the Decapolis, a federation of Greek cities. It was then known as Gerasa.
Gerasa and other Decapolis cities were conquered by Pompey in 63 BC, which ended up being a positive development. Jerash enjoyed semi-autonomous status and considerable prestige as part of the Roman province of Syria, during which it prospered from its position on the incense and spice trade route.
Jerash lost its autonomy under Emperor Trajan, but his annexation of Petra in 106 AD brought the city even more wealth. A favorite city of Hadrian, who stayed there in the winter of 129-30, it flourished both economically and socially in the 2nd century. Several temples were built during this period, including the Temple of Artemis (in 150 AD) and Temple of Zeus (in 162 AD).


Inside the Oval Plaza

After a period of decline in the 3rd century, Jerash was reborn as a Christian city under the Byzantines. It flourished especially during the reign of Justinian (527-65), during which at least seven churches were added to the city.
The last church was built in 611, but it all went downhill from there. The city was invaded by Persians in 614, captured by Muslims in 635 and badly damaged by several earthquakes in the 8th century.
In 720, Caliph Yazid II decreed that "all images and likenesses in his dominions, of bronze and of wood and of stone and of pigments, should be destroyed." Obedience to this command can be seen in the mosaics of some of Jerash's churches, such as that of St. John the Baptist. But others, already so ruined that their mosaics were not visible (such as the Church of Sts. Cosmos and Damianus), escaped the destruction
By the time the Crusaders arrived in the 12th century, Jerash had been unhabited for some time. Unfortunately, a garrison stationed in the area by the Atabey of Damascus made the Temple of Artemis into a fortress, which was captured and completely destroyed (apparently by fire) by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem in 1112.
Excavations of Jerash began in the 1920s and are still going on today.

The main Roman road, the Cardo Maximus

Jerash is a large and fascinating archaeological site. Visitors enter on the south side through Hadrian's Arch, built in honor of its namesake. Nearby is the Hippodrome, where chariot races and sporting events were held. A little way down the track is the South Gate, part of the 4th-century AD city wall.
The Temple of Zeus overlooks the spacious Oval Plaza, which measures 90 x 80m. Surrounded by a colonnade of 1st-century Ionic columns, it had two altars in the middle that were replaced with a fountain in the 7th century AD. A central column was recently erected to carry the Jerash Festival flame.
From the Oval Plaza, a staircase leads up to the sacred precinct (temenos) of the Temple of Zeus (162 AD). Another staircase led to the temple itself, which was surrounded by 15 m high Corinthian columns.
Stretching north from the Oval Plaza is the Cardo Maximus, the main Roman road in Jerash. It is still paved with its original stones and bears the ruts of chariot wheels. As part of a remodeling of the street around 170 AD, the original Ionic columns were replaced with a more decorative Corinthian colonnade. The Cardo was lined with a broad sidewalk and shops and an underground sewage system ran the full length of the street, into which rainwater was channeled through holes on the sides of the street.


The Temple of Artemis

Not far from the Oval Plaza on the right is the onsite Archaeological Museum, which houses a fascinating collection of artifacts found at the site, including gold jewelry, coins, glass and even pottery theater tickets.
The colonnade of the Cardo becomes taller at the entrance to the marketplace (Macellum), a ruined structure on the left. Here there is a fountain with a lion's head dated to 211 AD. The next structure down the Cardo after the marketplace is a recently discovered Umayyad Mosque, where excavations are still underway.
Shortly after the mosque is the South Tetrapylon that marks the intersection of the Cardo with the South Decumanus, a smaller street running east to west. Only the lower parts of the four columns marking the intersection remain today.
Continuing north on the Cardo, the next building on the left is the richly carved gate of the 2nd-century Roman Temple of Dionysus, which was rebuilt as a Byzantine church in the 4th century. It has been dubbed the "Cathedral," but there is no evidence this was the bishop's church. At the top of the stairs against the east wall is a Shrine of the Virgin Mary, with a painted inscription to St. Mary and the archangels Michael and Gabriel.


Byzantine church of St. Cosmas and Damian

Just behind the Cathedral is the large Church of St. Theodore, built in 496 AD. In between the two churches is a small paved plaza with a fountain in the center, which was originally the Cathedral atrium.
Behind St. Theodore on the far west of the site, the ruins of three Byzantine churches are grouped together around a shared atrium. The northernmost is the Church of St. Cosmos and St. Damian, dedicated to twin brother doctors who were martyred in the 4th century (they have a fine church in Rome as well). This church has the most splendid floor mosaics to be seen in Jerash. An inscription dates the mosaic to 553 AD. The images include the churchwarden Theodore and his wife Georgia praying with widespread arms.
The middle of the three churches is that of St. John the Baptist, dating from 531 AD. Its mosaic floor, now damaged, included images of the four seasons, plants and animals, and the cities of Alexandria and Memphis in Egypt. The church of St. George, the southernmost, was built in 530 AD. It continued to be used after the earthquake of 749 AD, and its mosaics were destroyed when the 8th century Christian iconoclastic movement banned the representation of humans and animals.


The large Roman theater of Jerash

Back on the Cardo, just north of the Cathedral is a large nymphaeum, or monumental fountain. It was constructed in 191 AD and was faced with marble. Next is the Propylaeum or gateway that led to the sacred precinct of the Temple of Artemis (150 AD), which occupies a large site to the left of the Cardo. A monumental staircase, which once had high walls, leads up to a horseshoe-shaped terrace with the foundations of an open-air altar. A second staircase leads through a colonnade of 22 Corinthian columns and into the Temenos (sacred precinct), which measures 162 x 121 m and had Corinthian columns on all sides.
In the 6th century, a Byzantine church (the "Propylaeum Church") was built opposite the Propylaeum on the site of a courtyard that formed part of the processional way to the Temple of Artemis. The courtyard's columns were incorporated into the church.
Past the Temple of Artemis and left of the Cardo is a small theater or Odeon, built in 165 AD and doubled to its present size in 235 AD. West of the Odeon is the Church of the Bishop Isaiah, built in 559 and used until the earthquake of 749. Here the Cardo intersects with the North Decumanus, which is marked by the North Tetrapylon. In the 2nd century this probably had a domed roof and elaborate carved decoration.







Mount Nebo is a 1,000m (3,300ft) high mountain located 10km/6 mi NW of Madaba in Jordan, opposite the northern end of the Dead Sea. According to ancient tradition, this is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died.
Because of its connection to Moses, Mt. Nebo has long been an important place of Christian pilgrimage. Excavations led by the Franciscans, who own the site, have uncovered significant remains of the early church and its magnificent Byzantine mosaics. A simple modern shelter dedicated to Moses has been built over them.

Modern sculpture of Moses' staff at Mt. Nebo

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land.... Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendents.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day on one knows where his grave is. --Deuteronomy 34:1-6

View of the Promised Land from Mount Nebo

In the 4th century AD a sanctuary, mentioned by the pilgrim nun Egeria, was built on Mount Nebo (Fasaliyyeh in Arabic) to honor Moses, possibly on the site of an even older structure. The church was finished by 394 AD and had three east apses flanked by funerary chapels on the north and south sides.
In the 6th century, the church was enlarged and transformed into a basilica with a sacristy and new baptistery (whose surviving floor mosaics date from c.530 AD). Soon the church was the heart of a large monastery and pilgrimage center that would thrive for nearly six centuries.



Today's visitors to Mt. Nebo can view the Promised Land just as Moses
Mount Nebo can be view the Promised Land just as Moses did thousands of years ago

The site was abandoned by 1564 and remained mostly neglected for several centuries more. Finally, in 1993, the site was purchased by the Franciscans, who excavated and restored the area. On March 19, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the site during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, planting an olive tree next to the Byzantine chapel for peace.
Today, Mount Nebo is an active Franciscan monastery, the headquarters of the Franciscan Archaeological Institute, and a popular stop for pilgrims and tourists alike.

The Memorial Church of Moses on Mount Nebo

Rising over 700m above the Jordan Valley, Mount Nebo offers spectacular views of the Promised Land as seen by Moses. On the platform at the summit is a modern sculpture by an Italian artist representing Moses' staff and Jesus' words in John 3: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
Elements of a triple-apse Byzantine basilica were uncovered by archaeologists in the 1930s, and have been incorporated into the structure of the modern church building, known as the Memorial Church of Moses. The modern additions to the church are very simple, consisting of little more than a shelter over the fascinating excavations and ancient mosaic floors.


Memorial to Moses

Just inside the entrance to the left is the excavated Old Baptistery, which has one of the most interesting ancient mosaics in Jordan. The baptistery and the mosaic can be precisely dated to August 531 thanks to a Greek inscription, which also names the three workers who created it and the bishop at the time (Elias).
The Old Baptistery mosaic is in remarkably pristine condition because another one was laid over it just a few decades later in 597. The underlying mosaic remained hidden for nearly 1,400 years until it was discovered in 1976 when the one on top was removed for restoration (it now hangs on a wall).
The mosaic of 531 is a large square divided into four strips of scenes of men and animals, surrounded by a chain-style border. The top two sections depict fierce hunting scenes: a shepherd fighting a lion, a soldier fighting a lioness, and two horseback hunters defeating a bear and wild boar.
The lower scenes are pastoral but with a touch of the exotic: a shepherd watching his goat and sheep graze in the shade of trees; an ostrich on a leash held by a dark-skinned man; and a boy holding the leashes of a zebra and a spotted animal that looks very much like a camel but might be intended to represent a giraffe.
There are more mosaics in the nave and side aisles of the church, including some fragments of the 597 mosaic pavement. The oldest mosaic in the church is a braided cross displayed on the south wall.
Also hanging here are mosaics of animals from the Church of George in Mukhayyat. One of these is from 536 and has an inscription that some believe is the earliest example of Arabic script in Jordan (others argue it is old Aramaic).


The Memorial Church of Moses, consisting of a simple shelter over the ancient ruins

In the far right-hand corner of the church is the New Baptistery (597 AD), which was previously a funerary chapel. It includes a small mosaic originally from the threshold bearing the greeting, "Peace to all."
Next to the New Baptistry, a lovely mosaic cross from the original 4th-century church stands on a modern altar in its original location. A photograph of the Pope praying at the same altar is proudly displayed.
Next to the exit door is the Theotokos Chapel, added in the 7th century where three rooms of the monastery previously stood. Its apse has a mosaic of a square object that may be a ciborium (vessel for the Eucharist) or altar canopy, accompanied by bulls and gazelles. The floor of the chapel is paved with mosaics of plants and flowers.

Names: Mount Nebo; Siyagha (from Aramaic for "monastery"); Moses Memorial Church
Type of site: Biblical site; Early Christian site; Christian monastery
Date: Church built 394 AD, expanded in 500s AD
Faith: Judaism, Christianity, Islam (mainly Christianity)
Status: Active
Address: Mount Nebo, PO Box 2 Faysaliyah, 17196 Madaba, JORDAN
Getting there: Mount Nebo can be reached by taking a bus from Madaba then walking the remaining 4km/2.5mi, or taking a taxi from Madaba.
Hours: Daily, Apr-Oct: 5am-7pm; Nov-Mar: 7am-5pm
Cost: JD










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