Madaba Archaeological Park I & Virgin Mary Church


Some careful restoration and excavation in the early 1990s led to the creation of this open-air museum, which houses a collection of ruins and fine mosaics from the Madaba area. The Church of the Virgin Mary is also included in the site; built in the 6th century and unearthed beneath the floor of a private house in 1887, the church boasts a central mosaic, thought to date from 767, that is a masterpiece of geometric design.

As you enter the complex you’ll see a 1st-century-BC mosaic from Machaerus, which is believed to be the oldest mosaic found in Jordan. Follow the walkway to the right, above the Roman street. This street once ran east to west between the Roman city gates and was lined with columns. Continue past the faded but elegant mosaics of the Church of the Prophet Elias (built AD 607), pausing to enjoy the details (such as the fine green bird), and then descend to the crypt (built AD 595).

The large roofed structure in front of you contains some of the most impressive mosaics on the site, including those of Hippolytus Hall, an early-6th-century Byzantine villa. Spot the four seasons in each corner and notice the beautiful depictions of flowers and birds. The middle section shows figures from the classic Greek tragedy of Phaedra and Hippolytus. The upper image shows Adonis and a topless Aphrodite spanking naughty, winged Eros, while the Three Graces (daughters of Zeus representing joy, charm and beauty) float nearby.