Al-Maghtas. The Place Where the Lord Was Baptized

A Photo Gallery

In the Gospel the place where the Lord was baptized is called “Bethabara”, (בית עברה, meaning “house of the ford” or “house of the crossing” in Hebrew): These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing (Jn. 1:28). The early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament mention the toponym “Bethabara (Bethany) beyond the Jordan” in this verse. It is known that over its history the Jordan River has constantly changed its course, so it is extremely difficult to trace where it lay in the time of Jesus.

Al-Maghtas

But it turned out to be possible to find the place which was honored as the Baptism site of Christ in the early Byzantine era. Thus, according to the account of Theodosius, a pilgrim from the West who wrote in about the year 530: “Five miles north of the Dead Sea, in the place where the Lord was baptized, there is a single pillar, and on the pillar an iron cross has been fastened, there too is the Church of St. John the Baptist, which the Emperor Anastasius [Anastasius I, the ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire between 491 and 518] built: this church is very lofty, being built above large chambers, on account of the Jordan River, when it overflows.” (The citation source: http://www.baptismsite.com/the-place-where-jesus-was-baptized/)

This and a number of other historical testimonies mention a little spot on the territory of what is now the Kingdom of Jordan called Al-Maghtas (المغطس in Arabic, meaning “immersion”), with a stream called Wadi al-Harrar running nearby. In the 1990s, an international team of archeologists carried out excavations there. The location was suggested by the famous and unique sixth-century mosaic map from St. George’s Church in Madaba (Jordan), which shows over 150 holy sites of the Holy Land, including “Bethabara, the site where John baptized” (Βεθαβαρα το του αγιου Ιωαννου του βαπτισματος). During the excavations the ruins of a Byzantine church along with the base of a column in the form of a square marble slab measuring two square meters were discovered. Five churches occupied this spot successively in the period spanning the fifth to the early twelfth centuries. As a result, in 2015 Al-Maghtas was added by UNESCO to the World Heritage list as a site associated with the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

Until recently the stream was filled with water. Alas, by the time of our visit in August 2018 it had dried up.

The site of the Lord’s Baptism.

The site of the Lord’s Baptism.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The Byzantine complex’s reconstruction on the site of the Baptism of Christ. A modern mosaic.

The Byzantine complex’s reconstruction on the site of the Baptism of Christ. A modern mosaic.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Director of the “Bethabara beyond the Jordan” Historical and Tourist Complex Rustem Mchzhian.

Director of the “Bethabara beyond the Jordan” Historical and Tourist Complex Rustem Mchzhian.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Excavations of the Byzantine Holy Trinity Basilica.

Excavations of the Byzantine Holy Trinity Basilica.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Excavations of the chapel on the site of the Baptism.

Excavations of the chapel on the site of the Baptism.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fragment of the mosaic map from Madaba indicating the area where St. John baptized.

A fragment of the mosaic map from Madaba indicating the area where St. John baptized.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

“Heritage belongs to humanity. Take good care of it. Help us preserve it” (Hussein Bin Talal, King of Jordan from 1952 until 1999).

“Heritage belongs to humanity. Take good care of it. Help us preserve it” (Hussein Bin Talal, King of Jordan from 1952 until 1999).

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A view of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist.

A view of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Monastery of Rotorius and other archeological finds on Prophet Elijah’s Hill.

There is Prophet Elijah’s Hill (Tel Mar Elias) in the very center of Bethabara beyond the Jordan. As a result of archeological excavations three plastered basins for ablutions and/or baptizing pilgrims were found, complete with systems of water-supply pipes and canals and related structures of the antique world. Ancient authors and pilgrims referred to the spring that gushes out from the very hill as to “St. John the Baptist’s well” and “the Prophet Elijah’s well”.

Later Byzantine-era structures include the remains of a large walled Byzantine monastery (the fifth or sixth century). There were at least three churches and some other buildings with tile floors, basins, catch-water cisterns, and monastic cells on the territory of the monastery. It is commonly called “the Monastery of Rotorius” as it is Rotorius who is mentioned as the head of the community on one mosaic that bears an Ancient Greek inscription.

The summit of Prophet Elijah’s Hill on which the Monastery of Rotorius used to stand.

The summit of Prophet Elijah’s Hill on which the Monastery of Rotorius used to stand.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The Monastery of Rotorius.

The Monastery of Rotorius.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Rustem Mchzhian is speaking about the monastery.

Rustem Mchzhian is speaking about the monastery.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

An inscription in Ancient Greek.

An inscription in Ancient Greek.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fourth-century prayer hall with mosaic floor.

A fourth-century prayer hall with mosaic floor.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The well, a part of a complex water catchment system.

The well, a part of a complex water catchment system.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The south ablution basin.

The south ablution basin.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission’s hotel (pilgrim residence)

In 2007, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan gave a plot of land with the total area of around one hectare (2.47 acres) in Bethabara to the Russian Federation. In 2012, a Russian pilgrim residence with St. John the Baptist’s Church were opened there, on the bank of the Jordan River. The opening ceremony of the pilgrim residence complex was attended by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The church is open to visitors every day, and clergy of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission hold services in it on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and major Church festivals.
The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission’s hotel for pilgrims.

The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission’s hotel for pilgrims.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The Russian church’s interior.

The Russian church’s interior.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

St. John the Baptist. A mosaic icon from the iconostasis.

St. John the Baptist. A mosaic icon from the iconostasis.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The Baptism of the Lord. Fresco.

The Baptism of the Lord. Fresco.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

Christ Pantocrator. Fresco.

Christ Pantocrator. Fresco.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fresco of St. John the Baptist preaching at the Jordan River.

A fresco of St. John the Baptist preaching at the Jordan River.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fresco of the Nativity of Christ.

A fresco of the Nativity of Christ.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fresco of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

A fresco of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fresco of St. Gerasimus of the Jordan and his lion.

A fresco of St. Gerasimus of the Jordan and his lion.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fresco of the Raising of St. Lazarus.

A fresco of the Raising of St. Lazarus.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A fresco of the Resurrection of Christ.

A fresco of the Resurrection of Christ.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

A bathing house at the pilgrim residence.

A bathing house at the pilgrim residence.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

The bathing site in the Jordan River near the hotel for pilgrims.

The bathing site in the Jordan River near the hotel for pilgrims.

Photo: Anton Pospelov / Pravoslavie.ru

We take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board as thanks to its help we were able to visit numerous Christian holy sites and major tourist attractions of Jordan.

Anton Pospelov

Translated by Dmitry Lapa

Comments
Milagro Culkin1/22/2019 9:11 pm
Thank you very much for sharing Amazing story that I am in love with.
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