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On display in the Exhibition(s)The Umayyads | Christian Subjects under Umayyad Rule
Name of Monument:
Church of the Virgin Mary: mosaic floorLocation:
Madaba, JordanDate of Monument:
End of the 6th century–beginning of 7th century AD; renovated in hegira 149 / AD 767Period / Dynasty
At the end of the AD 6th–beginning of the 7th centuries four churches were built over prime land in areas that flanked the Roman colonnaded street that ran east to west in the centre of Madaba. These churches, which loomed large over the city, not only changed the urban fabric of Madaba, but also contributed to the formulation of the city's Christian identity.
The Church of the Virgin Mary is the only church in Madaba that follows a centralised plan. It has a round nave (9.70 m in diameter) and an elongated apsed Presbyterium (7.10 m x 5.80 m), supported by two subterranean barrel-vaults. The church, prominently located to the north of the Roman street, was built towards the end of the 6th and beginning of the 7th century. The present mosaic floor, however, is dated to the year AH 149 / AD 767 according to the creation era, 'Creatio Mundi'.
The mosaic consists of three concentric circles within a large square of interlacing circles. The central medallion is occupied by a Greek inscription, which reminds the faithful who enter the church of the spiritual purity necessary for proper veneration of the icon of the Virgin Mother. Although the decoration of the mosaic floor consists of exclusively geometrical and floral motifs with no living beings, the inscription shows that an icon of the Virgin existed in the apse of the church. Another eight-line Greek inscription placed within a tabula ansata in front of the chancel screen tells us that the church was rebuilt and beautified by the 'care and zeal of the Christ-loving people of Madaba' in the year which corresponds to 767 AD (AH 149).
The interest of this mosaic pavement lies in its late date (the latest dated mosaic in Jordan), and shows that 17 years after the fall of the Umayyad dynasty there was still a Christian community in Madaba sufficiently prosperous to rebuild the church and decorate it with a new coloured mosaic floor.
View Short DescriptionHow Monument was dated:
The monument is dated by the Greek inscriptions found on the mosaic floor.Selected bibliography:
Di Segni, L., “The Date of the Church of the Virgin in Madaba”, Liber Annuus, 42, 1992, pp.251–7.Citation of this web page:
Piccirillo, M., “La chiesa della Vergine a Madaba”, Liber Annuus, 32, 1982, pp.373–408.
Piccirillo, M., The Mosaics of Jordan, Amman, 1993, pp.64–5.
Ghazi Bisheh "Church of the Virgin Mary: mosaic floor" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2016. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;31;en
Prepared by: Ghazi Bisheh
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: JO 31