Mount Nebo Mosaics

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The al-Mukhayyat Mosaics also known as the Mosaics of Memorial Church of Moses or Mount Nebo Mosaics are a collection of antique mosaics discovered at the Khirbet al-Mukhayyat. Modern exploration of the site began in 1863 CE with a brief visit by Félicien De Saulcy, who is generally credited with being the first to record the name, Khirbet al-Mukhayyat.


The Mount Nebo mosaics are an excellent example of Byzantine era art in the land of Jordan located in the church of Moses on Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo is an important religious site, as it is believed to be the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land before he died.

The mosaics are known for their intricate and detailed designs, which include images of animals, birds, and plants, as well as scenes from daily life and mythological stories. The mosaics were likely created by skilled artisans who used tiny pieces of colored stone, glass, and ceramic to create the intricate designs. Today, the al-Mukhayyat mosaics are considered an important archaeological find and a valuable example of ancient art and craftsmanship.

List of the Mosaics

Diakonikon Baptistery Mosaic
The central mosaic of the Diakonikon Baptistery with its hunting and pastoral scenes of colourful almost intact tesserae is one of the most remarkable Byzantine mosaics in Jordan. It was discovered in 1976 by Father Michele Piccirillo in the northern hall of the Moses Basilica, below a simple mosaic floor. A cross-shaped baptismal font was also discovered on the eastern end of the hall.

circa 531 CE

The masterpiece is a hunting and herding scene interspersed with an assortment of African fauna, including a zebu (humped ox), lions, tigers, bears, boars, zebras, an ostrich on a leash and a camel-shaped giraffe. The modern chapel presbytery, builty to protect the site and provide worship space, remnants of of mosaic floors from different periods can be seen.

Braided Cross Mosaic
A large, braided cross, drafted in black on a white background. This mosaic decoration was laid on the floor of a side hall in the first Memorial of Moses. This mosaic panel with a braided cross presently placed on the east end of the south wall, is the oldest of mosaics.

Mosaic of the Theotokos Chapel
The mosaic in front of the altar of the Theotokos Chapel, dedicated to Mary mother of Jesus, shows a symmetrical composition of a central architectural structure and two bulls (badly damaged), and gazelles, from which the left one is complete, showing a bell around its neck.

Upper Mosaic
In this tent raised in the eastern paved square of the sanctuary near the Interpretation Centre are shown important mosaic floors found on Mount Nebo and recently restored by the Franciscan Archaeological Institute (No. 2): the upper mosaic floor of the Chapel of Priest John (mid-6th century) and the mosaic floor of the Church of Saint George (536 CE).

Palestino-Aramaic Inscription From the Kayanos Church
As in other churches of the region, Greek is the usual language used in the inscriptions of the Byzantine period in the sacred edifices on Mount Nebo.

Since the Christians of the diocess of Madaba normally spoke the so-called Palestino-Aramaic, a branch of the royal Aramaic, before Arabic came to be the prevailent language of the region. This Palestino-Aramaic was found underneath an upper floor bearning a Greek inscription in the lower floor of the Church of Kayanos.

The inscription reads: "the reader will keep the memory of the benefits of our master Gayanos the priest, and of his heirs who have provided the furnishings of the church".

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