During the reign of
the emperor Justinian (527-565), a mosaic map was created for St.
Georgeís church in Medaba, forty miles south of Amman, Jordan. After
the rise of Islam the Christian community in Medaba declined and
ceased to exist, and the church was abandoned.
1880ís the map was rediscovered during the restoration and
reconstruction of the church with the permission of the Turkish
government. Although it had been damaged it included all of the Holy
Land from the Mediterranean Sea to the transjordan, and from Egypt to
When Father Kleopas Koikylides, the librarian of the
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem came to Medaba in 1896, only
about 30 square meters of the mosaic remained intact. The rest had
been destroyed by time, iconoclasts, and the restoration of the
Jerusalem is the center of the map, and is shown on several stamps
which feature the mosaic. Many landmarks of Byzantine Jerusalem are
identifiable. The Damascus gate at the left edge of the city, the
colonnaded street across the city, known as the Cardo, and the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the lower center, are among the places
that can be identified.
The map covered the
transept in front of the altar of the church, and is oriented to the
land itself, approximately 150 square meters in its original state. It
required over two million mosaic cubes to tile it. An artist could
place about 200 cubes an hour, so the mosaic would have required over
10,000 hours to complete. It is the most exact map of Palestine before
the cartography of the nineteenth century.
shows a great deal of detail as the three stamps above show. For
example, the stamp from Argentina shows details from the lower part of
the Jerusalem medallion, including the Church of the Resurrection
(yellow at both ends) and the baptistery of that church (with the gray
"x"). To the left of the Church are the Patriarchal Palace and the
Monastery of the Spoudaei.