Church of St John the Baptist in the historic town of Madaba in Jordan.

© Ralf Siemieniec/Shutterstock

Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist

Top choice in Madaba

This operational early-20th-century Roman Catholic church has been transformed into an intriguing destination for visitors and pilgrims by the restoration of the ancient sites upon which it sits. The gem of the complex is the Acropolis Museum, housed in the vaulted underbelly of the church. Here a well dating to the Moabite era, 3000 years ago, is still operational.

The church facade was built with stones from antiquity, and Roman columns with Corinthian capitals dot the courtyard. In the 19th-century chapel, which now acts as a visitor centre and gift shop, there's a fascinating exhibition of photographs dating from 1902 to 1911 and an excellent replica of the mosaics at Umm Ar Rasas. Spare some time and energy to scale the belfry. The last section involves steep metal ladders with handrails and a bit of dexterity manoeuvring around the bells and bell ropes, but it’s worth the effort for the best panorama in Madaba. Vertigo sufferers, however, should definitely avoid the climb.

The church is closed to visitors during Mass and for occasional Sunday events.

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