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 Mount Nebo - P.O.Box 2 Faysaliyah - 17196 Madaba - JORDAN - eMail: mtnebo@go.com.jo

 
The Memorial of Moses at Mount Nebo
The VI-VIIth Century Basilica

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  • In the latter half of the sixth century the monks decided to enlarge their sanctuary. Once they had removed the façade, the primitive church became the presbytery and naves were constructed on the site of the old vestibule and courtyard. Beyond the façade of this reconstructed church was a mosaic-lined vestibule with stairs leading to a quadrangular hall or atrium, serving as a lobby or foyer on to which opened the cells and rooms of the monastery.

    The mosaic work decorating the new basilica was integrated into a single large design or composition centered on a grapevine, with a swastika motif running along the perimeter of the inside of the building. Of this large composition all that remains today are some geometric designs from the two lateral naves, a large section of the panels that adorned the intervals between the columns and two fragments from the central nave.

    Over the mosaic floor at the eastern end of the small southern nave later generations built a kind of platform. This could have been the memorial seen by Egeria in the older sanctuary, a memorial to remind pilgrims of the prophet Moses in whose honour the church had originally been built.

    The New Diaconicon

    After the funeral chapel and the diaconicon-baptistry had been dismantled, (both situated along the northern wall), the floor in this area was adjusted to the same level as that in the rest of the basilica making a single, large chapel divided by steps and railing into two quite separate rooms.

    The eastern room was decoratetd with animals, flowers and fish inserted in a geometrical frame; the western one with geometrical motifs only. The elongated chapel might have been used as the diaconicon of the basilica and as a chapter-room for the monks.

    The New Baptistry

    Much the same process occured along the southern wall. At a certain point in time, perhaps in the same period in which the diaconicon was altered and embellished, the ancient funeral chapel was destroyed and a new room, replete with mosaics, built in its stead. This latter in turn was covered over by a new baptistry with its own mosaics in A.D. 597-598 at the time of the Abbot Martyrius and Bishop Sergius. A monolithic font decorated with a cross and double inscription was placed in a recess of the apse, separated by a little railing from the rest of the chapel. In the inscription the font is referred to as the "photisterion", (i.e. the place where the neophytes are illuminated by the Light of Christ). Other decorations around the font included a rectangular panel upon which gazelles were pictured against a background of small trees, birds and twisted grapevines bearing clusters of fruit. There are also several pairs of aquatic fowl disporting themselves amid the flowers.

    Over the threshold at the entrance of the baptistry a welcoming inscription "peace to all" greeted visitors coming into the chapel.

    The Theotokos Chapel

    During the first decade of the seventh century, at the time of Abbot Martyrius and Bishop Leontius (of Madaba), the western door to the baptistry was walled up, three rooms of the monastery were destroyed and the resultant floor space was altered to the same level as the rest of the basilica. This provided the basis and foundation for the construction of the Theotokos ('Mother of God') chapel. A substantial part of the completed basilica, this important chapel possessed its own apse and was divided by a railing into two distinct rooms. The floor decoration received special attention.

    In the area of the presbytery is a rectangular panel containing representations of gazelles arranged against two flower clusters and two bulls standing before an altar surmounted by a ciborium accompanied by a Greek quotation of Psalm 51, 21.

     
     

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    Created / Updated Friday, July 27, 2001 at 15:42:27 by John Abela ofm
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