The Baptism Site


The third most holy site for   Christians in the World, after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the   Church of the Nativity, is the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ, known in   Arabic as Al-Maghtas. Excavations at Wadi Kharrar carried out after the 1994   peace treaty found evidence of a complex of churches, hermit cells and other   buildings described in the writings of many pilgrims who have visited the   site since the 2nd century AD. Now preserved as a tourist destination,   Al-Maghtas attracts tourists year-round.


The holiness of this site for   Christians inspired the Byzantines to build a monastery in the 5th and 6th   centuries AD. This complex contained several churches, barracks for the   monks, a caravenserai for pilgrims and an impressive water system. Al-Maghtas   was part of the pilgrim trail that included Mt. Nebo and Jerusalem. The   geometric shapes and crosses decorating the mosaic illustrate the iconoclasm   of the early Christian church, which believed that figures should not be   portrayed in art. The Western Church contained a rock-cut apse that extended   under one of the pools. The oldest building, believed to be the Prayer Hall,   may date from the beginning of the Byzantine era.


Tudius, a pilgrim to Al-Maghtas in   530 AD, described the baptism site as five miles from the Dead Sea, and   talked about the unique Church of Bethany, which was built on platforms in   the early 6th century to prevent flood damage. He also mentioned a small hill   on the site, identifying it as the place where Prophet Ilyas was lifted   bodily to heaven in a whirlwind. The most famous pilgrim in recent times,   Pope John Paul II, called for blessings upon the Kingdom of Jordan, His   Majesty the King, and all the people of Jordan, Christians and Muslims   together, during his visit.


Today Al-Maghtas is a beautiful   site, full of peace. Along with other religious sites, such as Mukawir, Lot's   Cave and Mount Nebo, Al-Maghtas attracts pilgrims from all over the world,   just as it has for centuries.