Today I will be looking at the Madaba Map, an intricate and interesting mosaic found during the construction of a Greek Orthodox in 1884, following the destruction of the city of Madaba by earthquake in 746 AD. It originally was part of the Nea Church, which was dedicated in 542 AD.
Now I say this is an intricate and interesting mosaic, and it is probably the most intricate and interesting mosaic in the world being as it is a map of the Jerusalem! We don't know who it was made by, but we do know that it was made between 542 and 570 AD, as no buildings build after 570 are on it. This means it it almost 1,500 years old. Unfortunately, after it's rediscovery in 1884 it was badly damaged by activities in the church, fires and moisture, reducing its size from the original 21 by 7 metes to 16 by 5 meters. Luckily, in 1964 90,000 DM (roughly £40,000 or $52,000) was given for the restoration, which was undertaken by archaeologists Heinz Cuppers and Herbert Donner. When complete, it would have had 2 million tesserae!
Reproduction of the mosaic, with credit to Bernard Gagnon
One of the many things that is interesting about this map is that it does not face north, as modern maps do, but instead faces towards the altar at the east. This means that the places the map depicts are in line with with the compass directions. The map depicts a large number of important biblical sites that were previously undiscovered, such as Askalon, the Nea Church and the Cardo Maximus, the latter two of which were found in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. It also showed a road running through the middle of Jerusalem which was later discovered 4m below the surface of a modern road!
All of the places on the map are labelled in Greek, including around 150 towns and villages. There are also descriptions of several cities including Gaza and the previously mentioned Askalon that are so detailed that they could almost be used as street maps.
Location of John the Baptist's baptism.
This map is incredibly helpful for locating sites of biblical significance, which makes it incredibly significant for Jewish and Christian people alike. It is also the oldest geographic floor mosaic in art history which makes it significant from an archaeological and historical perspective as well! I personally am amazed by how accurate it has proven and the sheer scale - it must have been incredibly impressive when it was complete and I am glad work is going into restoring it.
Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed!