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Madaba Mosaic Map
The Mountain of Judah

South of Jerusalem, the mountain of the Tribe of Judah from Bethlehem to Hebron, is definitely distinguishable graphically from Shephelah, the low hills situated between the central mountain and the Mediterranean coast. The localities are ideally set along two roads that are still used to this day.

The Mountain of Judea and its cities (Bethlehem etc.)

Bethlehem-Ephrata, is placed on the mountain road. It is accompanied by a caption which quotes the text from Matthew 2,18 which also indicated Rachel's burial place: Rama. A voice was heard in Rama. The modest representation made up of a fortified locality with a church does not do justice to the IV century constantine Basilica which was rebuilt by Justinian in the VI century.

After the break in the mosaic, towards the inside of the Map we have Thekoa, homeland of the Prophet Amos. Bethzur is shifted towards the sea and is represented by a church and a spring which is identified by the legend as the shrine of Saint Philip where, they say, the Eunuch Candaces was baptized (together with the badly abbreviated text of Acts 8, 26-27).

The city of Hebron is represented by a tree placed between two vignettes. Arba, also the Terebinth is the caption that accompanies a church besides a two-storeyed portico. The Oak of Mambre, written using red tesserae, identifies the tree venerated in the shrine of Abraham famous, at the time with christians, jews and pagans. The second vignette must have indicated Hebron the city where the Patriarchs were buried in the cave at Machpelah.

On the second road, the one that passes by Shephelah and that starts from Bethlehem there can be seen an isolated vignette of Emmaus-Nikopolis, in memory of the deeds of Judas Maccabee. On a higher plain there are: Socho, Bethzakar with the shrine of Saint Zakarias the prophet who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary, Saphitha and the village of Morashti whence was Micah the Prophet with the church of Saint Micah mentioned by St. Jerome.

There follows the vignette representing Eleutheropolis-Beit Gibrin, Episcopal seat in the Province of Palestina Tertia. Only one letter of the name has survived. The vignette represents buildings along a road, with porticos on the inside of a boundary wall. At the centre one sees a building with a dome, made out of yellow tesserae, supported by columns.

© Michele Piccirillo
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum,
Mount Nebo - Jordan

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