Madaba Map: Mosaic of Jerusalem

Madaba Map of Jerusalem. Photo by Jean Housen

The Byzantine church St George in Madaba, Jordan, is home to the “Madaba Map,” an impressive and by far the most well-known mosaic in the Holy Land.

  • Floor map mosaic. Dating from the second half of the 6th century, the floor map mosaic depicts the geography of the Holy Land in the 6th century. It is the oldest map of the Holy Land in existence.
  • Position in church. It occupies all of the floor space in the apse of the church.
  • Orientation implies Constantinople’s west-to-east viewpoint. The map assumes an oblique perspective, as if the viewer were standing atop a very high mountain and looking eastward (north is on the left). This is interesting since it is the opposite view that a viewer would have from Madaba in Jordan: a viewer in Jordan would look westward for a view of Jerusalem (north is on the right). The eastward vantage suggests that the artist was likely creating the mosaic based on a map prototype that was designed in the West, likely in Constantinople.
  • Key Jerusalem structures. The old city of Jerusalem stands out on the map. In the photo above, we have marked the most clearly identifiable structures of the 6th century city, most of which are still in place today: Damascus Gate, the north-south running Cardo and Colonnaded Street, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the old city walls, and Nea Church. The famous Temple Mount — the site of the ruined Jewish Second Temple; the Islamic Dome of the Rock had yet to be built — is conspicuously absent for reasons unknown.
  • Compare with Google Maps. Compare this map with our Google Map of Jerusalem. You will many of the same landmarks.

Another tip: Also visit Madaba’s Archaeological Park. It has the city’s most impressive small-tesserae mosaics, the highlight of which is the 6th century Hippolytus Hall mosaic.

Going to Petra?

Travel Guide and eBook to Petra, Jordan Petra’s temples and tombs — carved into the sandstone cliffs of Jordan’s Negev Desert — are a sight to be seen, standing witness to the greatness of the Nabataean civilization. Get our travel guidebook to Petra to explore the ancient city and its stunning architecture.