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E02524: The so-called Madaba Mosaic Map shows a number of labelled places of cult of saints in the Holy Land (mainly monasteries). Found in Madaba (Roman province of Arabia/Jordan). Probably mid-6th c.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by Bryan
The so-called Madaba Mosaic Map records a number of labelled places of cult of saints, and sites associated with biblical stories and miracles. In many entries toponyms are preceded by the particle το. Avi-Yonah and Gatier published the labels as if their actual designations were omitted and the author of the inscription used the singular neuter article τό referring to a presumed neuter word. We prefer to interpret these two letters as the abbreviated word τό(πος)/'place'. Similarly constructed toponyms, lacking definite articles, are extensively used by scribes who drafted documents from the Greek papyri found in Petra (see, for example: P. Petra II, 70-74 for a description of this phenomenon, e.g. τό(πος) Αραμ αλ-Κουαβελ, τό(πος) Μαθ Λελα, etc. See also: P. Petra III, no. 30, v. 217 and others).

In our case one should understand τό(πος) τοῦ δεῖνος as '(holy) place of so-and-so', that is 'memorial shrine' (μνῆμα, μεμόριον or μαρτύριον) or 'monastery' (μοναστήριον), as these places were actually memorial monuments and monumental tombs, and monastic establishments were sometimes built around them.

Among places referring strictly to the cult of saints there are:


τό(πος) τοῦ ἁγίου Ἰωάννου
τοῦ βαπτίσματος

'Bethabara, (holy) place of the baptism of Saint John.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/8 and Pl. XXI.

The label might denote specifically the place of the baptism of Jesus or generally the place of activity of *John the Baptist (S00020). Betharaba is located to the north of the Dead Sea. The label accompanies an image of a spring with a conch and not a building. For a monastery of John the Baptist near the Jordan River, seen by the Piacenza Pilgrim, see E00452. Eusebius in the Onomasticon (58.18-20; cf. Jerome's translation 59.; 19-21) says: 'Bethabara "beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing" (John 1:28) for repentance, and the place is known and to this day many of the brothers, that is, of the believers, who desire to be reborn receive baptism in that life-giving stream.' The place is also mentioned by Theodosius in his De situ Terrae Sanctae (E07914): 'At the place where our Lord was baptised is a marble column, and on top of it has been set an iron cross. There also is the church of saint John the Baptist, which was built by the emperor Anastasius. It stands high, on great vaulted chambers, because of the Jordan, when it is in flood. The monks who reside at this church each receive six solidi a year from the treasury for their livelihood.' See also E02692.


τό(πος) τοῦ ἁγίου Λ[ώτ]

'(Holy) place of Saint Lot.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/19 and Pl. XXXI.

The label certainly refers to the monastery of Saint Lot, sited at Deir 'Ain Abata, to the northeast of Zoara, at the southeast shore of the Dead Sea (E02664, E02665, E02666). It is probably mentioned by the Vita S. Stephani Sabaitae (16.2): 'He was living with them (...) in the caves of the Arnon, or of Saint Lot, or of Saint Aaron, or beyond the Dead Sea.'

However, prior to the discovery of the monastery at Deir 'Ain 'Abata scholars had different opinions on the identity of the saint mentioned in the lacuna. Schulten restored the name as Α[αρων]/A[aron], Koikylides, Lagrange and others suspended judgement. Gatier argued for the restoration of the name as *Lot (S01234) as his cult flourished at Mount Nebo (see E02557).


τό(πος) τοῦ ἁγίου

'(Holy) place of Saint Elisha.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/28.

The label refers to a memorial of the Old Testament Prophet *Elisha (S00239) situated near Archelais and Jericho, to the north of the Dead Sea, probably to be connected with E00455 (a fountain of Elisha at Jericho, seen by the Piacenza Pilgrim). The place is mentioned by Josephus (Jewish War 4.8.3): 'There is a fountain by Jericho, that runs plentifully, and is very fit for watering the ground: it arises near the old city which Joshua, the son of Nun, the general of the Hebrews, took the first of all the cities of the land of Canaan by right of war ... it was made gentle, and very wholesome and fruitful, by the prophet Elisha'


τό(πος) τοῦ

'(Holy) place of Joseph.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/37.

To the north of Jerusalem, near Shechem/Neapolis. As one can conclude from other entries on the map, this *Joseph is the Old Testament Patriarch (S00277), son of Jacob and Rachel, sold into slavery by his brothers and sent to Egypt. Joseph's bones were reportedly taken from Egypt during the Exodus and buried at Shechem. This must be, however, a different place than the tombs of the patriarchs near the oaks at Mamre (close to Bethlehem) seen by the Piacenza Pilgrim (E00489). Eusebius in the Onomasticon (54.23-24; cf. Jerome's translation 55.24-25) says: 'Balanus, that is, the oak, of Shechem, where Abimelech was made king. It is shown in the suburbs of Neapolis, beside the tomb of Joseph.'


ὅπου ἡ πηγὴ
τοῦ Ἰακώβ

'Here is the source of Jacob.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/39.

On the map located to the north of Jerusalem. The label refers to Jacob's Well (i.e. Jacob's Fountain or Well of Sychar). This was reportedly the site where *Jacob (S00280) set his tent when he returned to Shechem/Neapolis from Paddan Aram. It lies near Shechem/Tell Balata (to the north east of the Dead Sea, at quite a distance from Jerusalem). The well has been venerated since at least the 4th c. and a church was built over it. In the 6th c. the church was refurbished by Justinian ($E###). Eusebius in the Onomasticon (164.1-4; cf. Jerome's translation 165.1-4) says: 'Sychar (= Shechem?) before Neapolis, near the field which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Here, according to John, our Lord and Saviour conversed with the Samaritan woman beside the well, and the place is known to this day. Now a church has been built there.'


ἡ ἁγία πόλις Ἰερουσα[λήμ]

'The holy city of Jerusalem.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/56.

This is the most famous fragment of the map and the image of the city is widely known. The mosaicist shows a number of famous landmarks and cult places of the city, which can be identified with reasonable confidence (though they are not explicitly labelled), including: the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Sion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the New Church of the Theotokos (he Nea Ekklesia, founded by the Patriach Elias, completed by the emperor Justinian, and dedicated in 543), the Tower of David, and the Cardo Maximus (central colonnaded street).


τό(πος) τοῦ ἁγίου

'(Holy) place of Saint Jonah.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/71.

Located to the west of Jerusalem, near the coast, perhaps at Nabi Yunes near Jiyeh/Prophyreion (but this is in Lebanon while the map suggests a location further south). Jerome in the prologue to his commentary In Ionam says: 'Though others maintain that he (Jonah) was born and buried near Diospolis, that is, Lod, not understanding that the addition "Opher" is meant to distinguish (Geth of Jonah) from the other cities of Geth, which are shown to this day near Eleutheropolis or Diospolis.'


τό(πος) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Φιλί[π]-
που. ἔνθα λέγου-
σι βαπτι-
σθῆναι Καν-
δακην τὸν εὐνοῦχον

'(Holy) place of Saint Philip. Here, they say, was baptised Kandake, the eunuch.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/85 and Pl. XXX.

Located to the south of Jerusalem. Next to the label there is an image of a church and a circular water basin (a baptismal font). The label recalls the story of the conversion of an official of the 'Ethiopian' (actually Meroitic) queen called Kanadake in the Scriptures, by *Philip (the Evangelist, S00604), one of the seven deacons, see Acts 8:27. The term kandake was in fact not a personal name, but a title of Meroitic female rulers or consorts of kings. Here it is used as the name of the converted official. Eusebius in the Onomasticon (52.1-4; cf. Jerome's translation 53.2-5) says: 'There is a spring, welling out from the foot of the mountain, being absorbed by the same ground in which it comes forth; and the Acts of the Apostles report that the eunuch of Queen Kandake was baptized here by Philip.'

The site is to be identified possibly with a ruined basilica located c. 6 km to the north of Hebron, at Beth Zur, recorded during the surveys of Claude Conder and Horatio Kitchener in 1874, and of Andreas Mader in 1911-1914 (see Madden 2014, 41, no. 45).



τό(πος) τοῦ ἁγίου

'(Holy) place of Saint Zechariah.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/91 and Pl. XXX.

Located to the south of Jerusalem, probably at Shefelah. The identity of this *Zechariah is not clear. He is probably the father of John the Baptist (S00597), identified by an ea


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 Elisha, Old Testament prophet : S00239 Jacob, Old Testament Patriarch : S00280 Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Philip the Deacon and Evangelist : S00604 Zacharias, father of John the Baptist : S00597 Zechariah, Old Tes

Saint Name in Source

Ἰωάννης Ἐλισαῖος Ἰακώβ Φίλιππος Ζαχαρίας Ζαχαρίας Ἰλαρίων Βίκτωρ Ἰωσήφ Λώτ Ἰωνᾶς Μιχαίας οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Madaba Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image


This famous mosaic was set up near the north gate of the city. The building in which it was set is referred to as a church dedicated to Saint George by Anne Michel, but this is the dedication of a modern Greek orthodox church built over the ancient structure. Little is left from the ancient building except floors. It was apparently a three-aisled basilica (probably c. 23.40-25.30 m x 16.70 m) with a narthex and apse possibly flanked by two chambers. In the western part of the nave there could have been a 'loggia', as suggested by traces of two small column bases positioned between the main first columns of the church. A bipartite chapel was annexed to the southwest corner of the building (with rooms measuring respectively 8.00 m x 5.40 m and 12.90 m x 4.50 m). The preserved fragment of the map-mosaic is in the floor of the east half of the nave and south aisle. Its original size is unknown and has been differently reconstructed. According to Lagrange's report, the narthex was paved with a white mosaic and the chapel with a mosaic showing birds and floral motifs. The mosaics of the church were stylistically dated to the mid 6th c., a dating supported by the fact that many of the places recorded on the map appear in the report of the so-called Pilgrim of Piacenza, who traversed the Holy Land in the 570s. The depiction of Jerusalem seems to show quite clearly the New Church of the Theotokos (he Nea Ekklesia dedicated in 543), while no buildings later than 570 are shown. But other dates for the map have also been suggested: for example, Koikylides dated it to the period 340-450, i.e. between the completion of the Onomasticon by Eusebius, which is one of the sources of the map, and the creation of important monasteries in the Valley of the Jordan; while a later date, in the early 7th c. has been suggested, based on the fact that the map refers to the sanctuary of Saint Lot at Deir 'Ain 'Abata near Zoara whose floor-mosaic was completed in 604. Recently, it has, however, been shown that this 7th c. date refers to a restoration, and the monastery certainly existed before 572 (see E02664). As some of the mosaics in the church were damaged and repaired in a period of iconoclasm, it is supposed that the building was in use at least until the later 8th c. The first written record of the map (a communication to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Nikodemos) dates to 1884. In spite of that, Gottlieb Schumacher who surveyed the site in 1891, does not record its presence in his report. The map was examined and unearthed only in 1896 during the construction of the modern church, and subsequently published in 1897 by the deacon and librarian of the Patriarchate, Kleofas Koikylides (Ὁ ἐν Μαδηβᾳ μοσαϊκός, Jerusalem), and by Marie-Joseph Lagrange in La Revue biblique. Later republished by various editors in full or fragmentarily. The most important editions are those of Donner and Cüppers (1977), and Avi-Yonah (1954). The inscriptions were also independently studied by Pierre-Louis Gatier in the second volume of I. Jordanie (1986). A significant restoration programme begun in 1965, was conducted by the Deutscher Verein für die Erforschung Palästinas and funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung.


The mosaic map of Madaba is the most famous of all the floor-mosaics of the city. It is also the earliest extant map of the Holy Land. The map is fragmentarily preserved. It was accidentally discovered during the construction of a modern church, and most of the mosaic was destroyed by workers before those responsible for the project realised its importance. If had not been for the accidental visit of Kleofas Koikylides and his efforts to save the monument, the mosaic would have been completely obliterated. The extant fragments (c. 15.50 m x 6 m according to Cüppers or 10.50 m x 5 m according to Avi-Yonah) show mainly the Holy Land (with Gaza, the Dead Sea, Judaea, and Jerusalem taking a prominence place), part of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt (the region of the Delta), and Lebanon. The original geographical extent of the map is unknown, and various hypotheses have been suggested. It is possible that Anatolia was also included in the now lost part. Koikylides and Lagrange quoted testimonies of people who saw the map before its partial destruction and claimed to have seen the cities of Ephesos and Smyrna, and perhaps even Constantinople. But, on the other hand, Avi-Yonah argued for a much smaller range of recorded places. He reconstructed the map as a rectangle covering c. 25.50 m x 7.50 m with a frame of 0.75 m, and claimed that it must have stretched to the north only up to south Syria: showing Byblos, Hamah, and Damascus, and to the east up to Bostra and Petra. This reconstruction was, however, later questioned, and, for example, Pierre-Louis Gatier assumes that Asia Minor was actually included. The map is considered to be a relatively faithful representation of the region. In particular, the city of Jerusalem with its topography and buildings is very well represented. But, on the other hand, many villages and towns are shown in a very schematic way and do not reproduce the original features of those sites. The cardinal directions on the map correspond to actual ones, while the inscriptions labelling sites (black and red letters, c. 0.02-0.08 m.) are meant to be read by a person facing East. Avi-Yonah argued that the centre of the map was Jerusalem, or even more precisely the base of the column at its north gateway, opening to the road to Damascus, which was the starting point for milestones in Palestine. Others suggested that the map was centered around the Holy Sepulchre or another holy place. The designer of the map must have drawn on a road map as a source, presumably showing the route from Damascus to Jerusalem, and possibly also on the Onomasticon of Eusebius. It has been suggested that the map-mosaic was created by the mosaicist Salamanios, mentioned in an inscription from the church of the Apostles in Madaba (E02465), but this is doubtful and Anne Michel approaches this theory with scepticism.


Edition: Donner, H., and Cüppers, H., Die Mosaikkarte von Madeba, vol. 1 (Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1977-). Avi-Yonah, M., The Madaba Mosaic Map (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1954). For the literary sources relevant to the map and for photographs we quote extensively from the Franciscan website exploring the Madaba Mosaic Map: For the inscriptions, see: Gatier, P.-L., Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 2: Région centrale (Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Main, Dhiban) (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1986), no. 153/1-154. Further reading: Donner, H., The Mosaic Map of Madaba: An Introductory Guide (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1992). Friedman, Z., "Sailing in the Dead Sea: Madaba Map Mosaic", in: L.D. Chrupcała (ed.), Christ is here! Studies in Biblical and Christian Archaeology in Memory of Michele Piccirillo ofm (SBF Collectio Maior 52, Milan: Edizioni Terra Santa, 2012), 341-354. Madden, A.M., "A new form of evidence to date the Madaba Map Mosaic", Liber Annuus 62 (2012), 495-513. Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven-Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 41, no. 45. Michel, A., Les églises d'époque byzantine et umayyade de Jordanie (provinces d'Arabie et de Palestine), Ve-VIIIe siècle: typologie architecturale et aménagements liturgiques (avec catalogue des monuments; préface de Noël Duval; premessa di Michele Piccirillo) (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 309-311, no. 118. Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici di Madaba (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1989), 76-95. Piccirillo, M., and Alliata, E. (eds.), The Madaba Mosaic Map Centenary 1897-1997: Travelling through the Byzantine Umayyad Period, Amman, 7-9 April 1997 (Jerusalem: Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, 1999).

Continued Description

rly Christian tradition with an innocent priest murdered at the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 23:35), possibly confused with the Old Testament Prophet and the author of the Book of Zechariah. For a tomb of Zechariah seen by the Piacenza Pilgrim, see E00492. Theodosius in De situ Terrae Sanctae (3) adds: 'From Eleutheropolis to the place where St. Zechariah rests, 6 miles, and from this place to Ashkelon, 20 miles.'10)τό(πος) τ[οῦ ἁγίου Μιχαίου]'(Holy) place of [Saint Micah].'Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/93.Μορασθι ὅ-θεν ἦν Μι-χαίας ὁ προφ(ήτης)'Morasthi. The Prophet Micah came from here.'Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/94.Located to the south of Jerusalem. The two labels refer to *Micah, one of the so-called twelve minor prophets (S01236). As for the first label editors hesitate between the restoration of the name of Micah or Habakkuk. Gatier decisively prefers Micah based on the contents of the second label. According to tradition, Micah lived in the 8th century B.C. in the village of Moresheth/Moreseth-Gath in the land of the tribe of Judah (probably near modern Tel Lachish/Tell ed-Duweir‎‎). Eusebius in the Onomasticon (134.10-11; cf. Jerome's translation 135.14-15) says: 'Morasthi from which was the prophet Micah, is a village to the east of Eleutheropolis.'11)[τῶ]ν Αἰγυ- [π]τίων'(The shrine) of the Egyptians.'Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/99.Situated near Ashkelon. The label refers to a sanctuary of three Egyptian brothers and martyrs: *Ares, Promos, and Elijah (S00196), seen by the Pilgrim of Piacenza (E00504). 12)[τ]ό(πος) τοῦ ἁγίου Βίκτορος'(Holy) place of Saint Viktor.'Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/121.Situated near the city of Gaza. This is almost certainly *Viktor, the martyr of nearby Maiouma (S00292), mentioned by the Piacenza Pilgrim (E00505). 13)τό(πος) [τοῦ ἁγίου] Ἰ[λαρίωνος]'(Holy) place [of Saint Hilarion].'Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 153/124.Situated near the city of Rafah. Probably the tomb of *Hilarion (anchorite in Palestine and Cyprus, S00099) seen by the Pilgrim of Piacenza (E00506) is meant here, although the exact restoration is uncertain.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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