Mount Nebo


Mount Nebo is considered one of Jordan's most important Christian Holy Sites: this is the spot where Moses (or Prophet Musa) is believed to have first seen the Promised Land that he would never enter ( He died at Nebo area and was buried there - His crave has never been found however).
 In the 4th century AD, a sanctuary mentioned by the pilgrim nun Egeria, was built on Mount Nebo (Faisaliyah Arabic) to honor Moses, possibly on the site of an even older structure. The church was finished by 394 AD and had three east apses flanked by funerary chapels on the north and south sides.

In the 6th century, the church was extended and transformed into a basilica with a sacristy and new baptistery (whose surviving floor mosaics date from c.530 AD). Then the church was the heart of a large monastery and pilgrimage center that would thrive for nearly six centuries.

After neglecting Mount Nebo by 1564 for several centuries, in 1993 the site was sold by Franciscans and he renovated the site. On Mar 19-2000, Pope John II visited Mount Nebo during his pilgrimages to the Holy Land and planted an olive tree next to the Byzantine chapel for peace.

Today, Mount Nebo is an active Franciscan monastery, the headquarters of the Franciscan Archaeological Institute, and a popular stop for pilgrims and tourists alike.

Many pilgrims visit Mount Nebo, Madaba Churches and Baptism site together for their religious importance.


Different beliefs from different religions revolve around where Moses was buried. Jewish and Chrisitan say that Moses was buried on Mt Nebo by God but his final resting place is unknown. Disputation still remains by scholars whether Mt Nebo is the same mountain referred to in the Torah. 

Islamic belief has another thought which says that Musa (Moses) was buried not in Mt Nebo but a few kilometers to the west, somewhere beyond Jordan River.

On the highest point of the mountain, Syagha, the remains of a church and monastery have been discovered. The church, discovered in 1933, was constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses' death. The church design follows a typical basilica pattern. It was enlarged in the late 5th century AD and rebuilt in 597 AD. The church is first mentioned in an account of a pilgrimage made by a lady Aetheria in 394 AD.

Six tombs have been found hollowed from the natural rock beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church. Nowadays you can see remnants of mosaic floors from different ages. The earliest of these is a panel with a braided cross presently placed on the east end of the south wall.

On March 19, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited Mt Nebo during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During his visit he planted an olive tree beside the Byzantine chapel as a symbol of peace.

On the top of Mount Nebo there is  The Serpentine Cross sculpture  (the Brazen Serpent Monument) which was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni.  It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified (John 3:14).

The site's other name is Pisgah: "And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah which is opposite Jericho". From the mountaintop, which is the highest point in the Moabite range, rising to about 800 meters at its apex, you can admire the dazzling view across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, to the rooftops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Centuries ago, Mt Nebo was the final destination of the pilgrims to visit, and they left behind many vivid stories of their travels, which helped archaeologists identify this sanctuary.

The Old Diaconicon Baptistery

The three apsed- cella (cella trichola) was preceded by a courtyard. In August 531 AD a Diaconicon Baptistery was built to the north of the courtyard against one of the funeral chapels. It was reached by a short flight of stairs, as it was one meter lower than the floor of the courtyard.

This rectangular room contained the baptismal stone fountain fashioned in the form of a cross and coated with a thick layer of time plaster. Two Greek inscriptions show the date of the mosaic floor (August 531), the name of the mosaicists, Soel, Kaium, and Elias, and the name of the Bishop of Madaba, Elias.

In its decorative scheme, the mosaic floor is divided into three distinct panels in floor registers depicting pastoral and hunting scenes.

The 5th 7th Century Basilica

In the second half of the 6th century the friars decided to enlarge their sanctuary. When removing the facade, the primitive church became the presbytery and the three naves were constructed on the site of the old vestibule and courtyard.

 The mosaic work which decorating the new basilica was merged into a single large design or composition centered on a grapevine, with a swastika motif running along the perimeter of the interior of the building. Of this large composition, all that remains today are some geometric designs from the two lateral naves, a large section of the panels that adorned the intervals between the columns, and two fragments from the central nave.

The New Diaconicon

After the funeral chapel and the Diaconicon Baptistery were dismantled, The floor was modified to level with the rest of the  basilica, making a single large chapel divided by stairs and railing into two separate rooms. The eastren room was designed with a mosaic vision of animals and flowers incorporated in a geometrical frame; the western room was graced with geometrical motifs. 

The elongated chapel might have been used as the Diaconicon of the basilica and as a separate room for the monks. When the ancient funeral chapel was destroyed during the same period in which the Diaconicon was altered and decorated, a  new room full of mosaics was built instead. This was replaced by a new baptistery with its own mosaics in 597-598 AD. Over the threshold at the entrance of the baptistery, was a welcoming inscription, "Peace to All", placed to greet visitors entering the chapel.


The Theotokos Chapel

During the first decade of the 7th century, the western door to the baptistery was walled up, three rooms of the monastery were destroyed, and the floor was leveled with the rest of the basilica. This provided the basis and foundation for the construction of the Theotokos (Mother of God) chapel.

This chapel had its own apse and was divided by a railing into two distinct rooms. The floor decoration received special attention with rich geometric multi-color designs encompassing pictures of flowers, animals as well as a ciborium above an altar flanked by two bulls and gazelles.

While the sanctuary was undergoing various stages of architectural development, many  improvements and changes were taking place in the adjacent monastery. From its primitive nucleus of cells discovered by the archaeologists just outside the basilica on the northern side of the mountain, the complex gradually expanded into a monastic community of a respectable size in that very monastic Byzantine world.

The restoration work preserved for future generations this extraordinary Monument of the Faith and brought new life to a sanctuary constructed in ancient times to honor Moses, the Prophet and man of God. Since September 4, 1976, the annual feast of Moses is celebrated and the Christian community joins with the Franciscan Fathers in this solemnity. 

About 1 km east of Mount Nebo, you can see the spring of Moses, mentioned by Egeria, Peter the Iberian, and Theodosius. In the springtime, this area is dotted by Eucalyptus trees, which grow close to two churches, built in the 6th century, with enchanting mosaics: the churches of Deacon Thomas and Kayanos which were adorned with another mosaic pavement in the seventh Century. The churches were destroyed by a powerful earthquake which hit the region in AD 749.


The Brazen Serpent

This sculpture, which has become a symbol for Mount Nebo, is a modern replica of the Biblical brazen serpent. During the Exodus journey God sent plague to kill the rebellious Israelites. God also instructed Moses to erect a bronze serpent on a pole to stop the plague. All who looked up at the raised serpent survived the plague. Thus the curative serpent around a pole became the symbol of the pharmacies.


Mount Nebo visit is covered with the Following Tour


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