Archeology Museum of Madaba
The mosaic of the Hall of the Seasons was discovered by chance under a house belonging to the Qsar family which was on the south slope of the tell of Madaba. Busts representing the four Seasons are found in the corners of the border of the mosaic. Each has an elongated face, large almond-shaped eyes, and long hair bound to the forehead by a ribbon. Goblets and winged animals decorate the acanthus scrolls. Outside the scrolls, a medallion with a pair of sandals indicated the entrance to the hall. Fruits, birds, fish and vegetable motifs decorated the grid of the carpet.
Church of the Virgin Mary
These are from the Virgin Mary church depicting cities on the periphery of the acropolis dating from 718-719 CE.
Many structures built during the Byzantine period were constructed on ruins of Roman buildings that were there before. Many Roman columns and stones were reused for Byzantine and Islam structures, and Roman structures were adapted as crypts, vaults or cellars of churches and home. The church of the Virgin Mary reused the remains of the Roman temple beneath it as a crypt. The church with its round nave is supported by two underground rooms with barrel vaults and arches. There is a courtyard built over a deep cistern on the west side of the church. That courtyard has a mosaic of large white tessera. Architectural elements from the Roman temple beneath the church of the Virgin Mary were reused in various churches and other buildings in Madaba as well.
Church of the Virgin Mary
This church has a unique plan, with a circular nave that took on the shape of the Roman temple it was built on. And internal vestibule and elongated semicircular presbytery are supported by two underground rooms with barrel vaults. Two pairs of columns flank the entrance to the circular nave which is 9.7 meters (32 feet) in diameter. The mosaic floor that you see today is not the original Byzantine mosaic, but was actually made as a part of restoration work to the church that was done during the Ummayad period. A small section of the geometric border which is technically different, is from the original floor and was incorporated into later composition. The design of this newest layer of mosaics is clearly evident by Islamic patterns and arabesque. A square frame lines the outer edge with serrated points. This encloses a circle where two squares overlap to form a star that encompasses the central medallion with inscription that reads:
“If you want to look at Mary, Virgin Mother of God, and to Christ whom she gave birth to, Universal King, only son of the only God, purify your mind, flesh and works. May you purify with your prayer the people of God.”
The main dedicatory inscription in the tabula anasta in the front of the chancel screen reads:
“This wonderful work of mosaic was completed at the time of our most pious father archbishop Theophanus. In this holy and dignified house dedicated to our holy Saint and queen, who was free from sin, the mother of God. Theophanus with thanks to the generous support and eagerness of the people of Madama who love Christ, to the salvation and forgiveness of sins of those who gave, and continue to give, to this holy place. Amen our Lord. Completed by the grace of God in February of the year 974 of the fifth indiction.”
The Hippolytus Hall
The hall was lavishly decorated with beautiful mosaics, parts of which can still be seen today. The western section of the Hippolytus Hall mosaic was found in 1905, lying 1-3 meters below themosaic floor of the Church of the Virgin, by a local resident who owned the property at that time. Traces of several historic periods can be found at this site, from Roman to Byzantine. Islamic Umayyad and later contemporary times. Each period built on what was previously there, giving a wonderful view of the continuous occupation of Madaba through history. The Byzantine mansion is named for its floor mosaic that was inspired by the Greek tragedy 'Hippolytus' by Euripides. As the story goes, Theseus is King of Athens and is exited for a year for a crime he committed. Hippolytus is his illegitimate son, who has sworn chastity and reveres Artemis instead of Aphrodite, Goddess' of Love. To get her revenge. Aphrodite has his stepmother Phaedra fall in love with Hippotytus. An elaborate drama unfolds, with Phaedra eventually killing herself and unjustly placing blame on Hippolytus. Theseus returns and exiles his son. Artemis intervenes to resolve the issue, and finally Hippolytus forgives his father and then dies.
This mosaic shows some of the major characters of the story, who are named in the work. The scene is of handmaidens assisting Phaedra while a wet nurse turns towards Hippolytus who is accompanied by his ministers and a servant holding his mount. A wide border of acanthus scrolls frames three rectangular panels. The figures of the central panel were partially destroyed when the hall was divided into two rooms in antiquity. Acanthus scrolls framing the central field incorporate hunting and pastoral scenes. The four corners are decorated with personifications of the seasons, all four of which are represented as Tyche (the local goddess) in half bust, and each wears a turreted crown.
In the central panel Aphrodite sits on a throne next to Adonis who holds a lance. A grace presents to her a cupid whom she threatens with a sandal. A second cupid supports Aphrodite's bare foot, white a third watches, and a fourth has his head in a basket from which flowers fall; the basket and flowers allude to a poem in which a honeycomb with bees flying away is used to symbolize both the sweetness and sting of love. To show that the scene takes place in the open countryside, the artist added a bare-footed peasant girl carrying a basket with fruit on her shoulder and a partridge in her right hand.
Crypt of Saint Elianus
Beneath the Church of the Prophet Elias lies an ancient crypt that is intricately decorated with beautiful mosaics. It is the Crypt of Saint Elianus. Parts of the crypt's ancient mosaic pavements remain in situ today. Stairs from the church above lead into the crypt, terminating at a square landing decorated with mosaics. The mosaics of the Crypt of Saint Elianus display the technical mastery and imagination that was typical of the city's mosaics. An exquisite and colorful mosaic unfurls over the nave of the crypt: a border of winged ribbons encases a geometric pattern of interlaced crosses and images of birds that surround an inscription. I personally think that the floating ribbon mosaic border is among the most amazing mosaics that I have ever seen.
Madaba dates from the Middle Bronze Age. The town of Madaba was once a Moabite border city, mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9. During its rule by the Roman and Byzantine empires from the 2nd to the 7th centuries, the city formed part of the Provincia Arabia set up by the Roman Emperor Trajan to replace the Nabataean kingdom of Petra. The first evidence for a Christian community in the city, with its own bishop, is found in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, where Constantine, Metropolitan Archbishop of Bostra (the provincial capital) signed on behalf of Gaiano, “Bishop of the Medabeni”. During the rule of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, it was part of the southern district of Jund Filastin within the Bilad al-Sham province. There is a lot to see at the Madaba Archeology Park, if you visit Madama, you should visit. As always, I hope you enjoyed, please leave a comment.
Madaba History and Culture: http://international.visitjordan.com/Wheretogo/Madaba/HistoryCulture.aspx