Drive along the same route prophet Moses (pbuh) was forbidden to travel on by the King of Edom (Numbers 20-21), and picture yourself standing where Moses was laid to rest, and where the late Pope John Paul II tread on his first pilgrimage of the millennium.
Visit the Sanctuary at Mount Nebo: the memorial of Moses (pbuh), the presumed site of his death and burial place, and a center for pilgrimages since earliest Christian times. You’ll be inspired by the biblical feel from start to finish as you experience this divine tour of Mount Nebo.
Mount Nebo is one of the most revered holy sites of Jordan, located 35 km south of the capital Amman and 10 km west of the Roman Byzantine town of Madaba, for this is where Moses (pbuh) was buried and is an elevated ridge of the Abarim in Jordan, approximately 710 metres (2,330 ft) above sea level.
The site’s of Mount Nebo association with the last days of Moses is described in moving words in Deuteromony (34:1-7). The episode of Balak and Balam (2:13-26) also took place here.
The site’s other name is Pisgah: “And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah which is opposite Jericho”. From the mountaintop, which is the highest point in the Moabite range, rising to about 800 meters at its apex, you can admire the dazzling view across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, to the rooftops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Centuries ago, pilgrims flocked to Mount Nebo on their final destination to visit the sanctuary. These pilgrims left behind vivid accounts of their travels, which helped archaeologists identify this sanctuary.
Mount Nebo – In the summer of 1933, excavations at Syagha, one of the highest peaks at Mount Nebo, began under the direction of the Jerusalemite Franciscan Fathers.
Three long archaeological campaigns had previously resulted in the discovery of the Basilica and of a large monastery, which had continued to expand through the 6th century.
Mount Nebo’s first church was constructed in the 2nd half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses’ death. It had three apses and was preceded by a vestibule paved with plain white mosaic; two funeral chapels stood to the north and south of the lateral apses.
At Mount Nebo, Six tombs have been found hollowed from the natural rock beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church. In the present presbytery you can see remnants of mosaic floors from different periods.
The earliest of these is a panel with a braided cross presently placed on the east end of the south wall.
During the 19th Cent. the region attracted the attention of explorers, including Felicien de Saulcy (1853 – first regional map), Le Duc de Luynes (1864 – first photo and sketch of the ruins), among others, who contributed to the descriptions of the territory in relation to the biblical texts.
The pilgrimage account of the nun Egeria describing her ascent to the sanctuary at the end of the 4th Cent., and the biography of Peter the Iberian, who visited it a century later, were decisive for the identification of the Moses Memorial on Mount Nebo.
In 1932, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land acquired the two main archaeological sites of Mount Nebo: Ras Siyagha (Memorial of Moses) and Khirbet al-Mukhayyat (identified later as the City of Nebo.) Since then, extensive excavations, surveys and a comprehensive preservation and conservation program have been undertaken by archaeologists of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem, unearthing a large monastic complex encompassing an area of about 6,640 sqm. The center of the complex is a basilica built between 5th and 6th Cent. A.D. on an earlier sanctuary.
In 1976, Fr. Michele Piccirillo, a Franciscan priest and the archaeologist in charge, uncovered the extraordinary Diakonikon-Baptistery mosaic in the northern hall of the basilica, below a simple mosaic floor.
With its hunting and pastoral scenes of colourful almost intact tesserae, its Greek inscriptions stating the building’s function as “diakonikon”, its precise date (August 530 A.D.), and even the name of its creators, the mosaicists Soel, Kaium, and Elias, it is one of the most remarkable Byzantine mosaics in Jordan.
Latest excavations from Mount Nebo provide new elements related to the architectonical evolution of the basilica of the Memorial of Moses, according to an Italian scholar.
Davide Bianchi, a post-doctoral university assistant at the Institut für Klassische Archäologie at the University of Vienna said in a recent e-mail interview to The Jordan Times that one of their most important discoveries was the identification of the oldest Christian burial-shrine built by monks to commemorate Prophet Moses.
The archeologist said that this evidence allows them to include the coenobium (a monastery) of Mount Nebo within the network of the Jordanian monasteries related to the worship of biblical figures (the monastic complex of St Aaron, near Petra; the two religious compounds linked to the Prophet Elijah, in Thisbe and Wadi Al Kharrar; and the Sanctuary of Lot at Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata, in the Zoara Valley).