Discover the Oldest Map of the Holy Land
Location - Saint George Church, Madaba, Jordan
Map Coordinates - 31.717718, 35.793984
The Madaba Map is part of a floor mosaic in the church of Saint George in Madaba, Jordan. It depicts part of the Middle East, and contains the oldest surviving original depiction of the Holy Land, dating to the sixth century AD. It is also the oldest known geographic floor mosaic in history.
The map was created by a Christian artist for the Christian community in Madaba, Jordan, and it has 150 Greek names and descriptions, making references to the tribes of Israel, as well as its use of quotations of Biblical passages. All of this indicates that the artist used as his primary source the Onomasticon of Eusebius (4th-century AD), a geographic encyclopedia of the Holy Land.
The most detailed element of the map is the city of Jerusalem. The mosaic clearly shows several significant structures, such as the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Zion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Nea Church, the Tower of David, and the Cardo Maximus. Also unique are the detailed depictions of cities such as Neapolis, Nicopolis, Bethlehem, Jericho, and many others. Buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 AD are absent from the depiction, thus limiting the date range of its creation to the period between 542 and 570.
This is the Jerusalem section of the Madaba map.
The mosaic was rediscovered in 1884, during the construction of a new Greek Orthodox church on the site of its ancient predecessor. In the following decades, large portions of the mosaic map were damaged by fires, activities in the new church, and by the effects of moisture.
Originally, the map was approximately 51 feet x 19.5 feet and contained more than two million tesserae (mosaic cubes). The current remains are 34.5 feet x 16.5 feet. and it covers the area from Tyre, north in Lebanon to the Egyptian delta in the south.