Baptism site officially known as the "Bethany Beyond the Jordan" baptism site, is a World Heritage archaeological site in Jordan, on the east bank of the Jordan River, considered the original site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and has been venerated as such since at least the Byzantine era.It houses Roman and Byzantine ruins including churches and chapels, a monastery, caves used by hermits, and pools where baptisms were celebrated, which indicates the religious character of the place. The site is a Christian pilgrimage site.
Al-Maghtas has a rich history that begins with this date, as it is the site of many farmers who settled in it during the Stone Age BC, about 3500 years ago, and evidence of this is the effects revealed by archaeological excavations. the liturgical Jews and in addition to the large pools which were used by the Christians; For baptism, this was during the period of the Roman and Byzantine civilization, and during this period Christian religious structures were built in Tell Al-Kharrar. It is mentioned that Christians were subjected to a lot of persecution by the Romans, but during the Byzantine civilization they were allowed to worship.
Some archaeological discoveries in the Byzantine and Roman periods indicated that the Baptism was a famous pilgrimage site, and that was at the beginning of the sixth century, and in the period between 491-518 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius built the first church of Saint John the Baptist. Floods and earthquakes led to the destruction of that church, which was reconstructed three times. At that time, the Muslims put an end to the Byzantine construction on the eastern bank of the Jordan River in Wadi al-Kharrar.In the thirteenth century, the Orthodox monastery was built, and the number of pilgrims decreased at that time, but in 1484 AD the place was in a state of complete ruin, so a decision was taken to build a small church. During the nineteenth century, this church was destroyed; Because of the earthquake that occurred in 1927 AD, the sanctuary also witnessed maintenance and restoration works in the nineties of the ruins that occurred during the past history, and it was allowed to carry out its traditional celebrations since 1985 AD.
The al-Maghtas area includes two main archaeological areas:
The Remains of a monastery on a hill known as Jabal Mar Elias, and an area near the river with remains of churches, baptismal ponds, and dwellings for pilgrims and hermits.
The two areas are linked to each other. A stream called Wadi Al-Kharar.
UNESCO sponsored archaeological excavations in the area, in 1994, UNESCO included the site on the Tentative List and a new nomination was submitted. ICOMOS evaluated the report submitted by Jordan, and the discoveries are closely related to the memory of baptism. After this assessment, the site was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site under the title Al-Maqatis. Listed as a cultural property according to UNESCO standards, the Palestinian Tourism Agency regrets UNESCO's decision to exclude the western baptism site, and during negotiations on UNESCO listings, the original UNESCO proposal mentioned the will to expand the site in the future in cooperation with the neighborhood country.
How to Visit
The baptism site is much more than the flowing spring, so don’t expect a quick drive-by tour. One can easily spend a full day visiting all the various sites, shrines, and churches in the area. For greater context, stop by the visitors center and join a tour with a local guide to show you the way around 2,000 years of history. Remember that this is still a somewhat sensitive border area between the east and west banks of the Jordan River. Expect to pass through a few routine checkpoints to access the site.
When to Visit
This site is open year-round (8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in winter), though it’s good to remember that the Jordan River can overflow and flood during winter months (December and January). The last entrance is one hour prior to closing.