The Discovery of the Madaba Mosaic Map. Mythology and Reality

by Yiannis Meimaris

The Construction of the Madaba Church

The Uncovering of the Mosaic Floor

Copies of the Map Made by Amateur Painters

My research into Greek publications and especially the archives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem concerning the discovery of the Madaba Mosaic Map has uncovered significant details about this important mosaic, revealed a century ago during the construction of a new church for the Orthodox community in Madaba.
As part of my research on the map, I read the history of the period and the early articles on the map written in Greek. Guided by the basic work of Dr. A. Tselikas, Inventory of the Archive of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, 1 I started searching into the archives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the relevant documents. 2 I also tried to find out whether there were Ottoman archives in Salt concerning the Madaba church. 3 In addition, I looked for early copies and drawings of the map made both by professional and amateur cartographers. In my text, emphasis will be given to the period during which the new Church of Saint George was built in Madaba, to the mosaic's discovery and to the early copies of the map.
Concerning the origins of Madaba's Christian community, I cannot do better than repeat what Meletios Metaxakis has to say - he arrived in Madaba in 1901 and wrote much about this village. He writes that the oral tradition survived among the Christians in Karak that their community consisted mainly of refugees from the towns of Madaba, Ma'in and Petra who found shelter in Karak, when their towns were attacked by enemies in an unspecified period. 4 Metaxakis also states that when some of these people had to leave their new home town of Karak in the early 1880s and to choose between two sites, they preferred to settle in Madaba rather than in Amman, because this poor village was somehow connected with their tradition. 5 Metaxakis continues that after the first difficult years, when it became clear to everyone that they would remain in Madaba, they started thinking of permanent buildings for their religious and educational needs, i.e. for a church and a school. Thus, they applied to their spiritual leader, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem. According to Ottoman law, permission for a new church was granted only if in that place had existed a church in antiquity. This was not an obstacle, since among the ruins of the village were visible foundation walls of ancient churches. In the firman of the Sultan Suleiman to the Patriarch of Jerusalem Germanos (1537-1579), it is stated precisely that the Greeks are allowed to rebuild their churches according to their old position and form.
According to Metaxakis, the representative of the Patriarchate in Madaba, Rev. Arkadios, in a letter dated 26 October 1884 to the Patriarch of Jerusalem Nikodemos (1883-1890), writes that the crypt of Prophet Elijah, used by the community for its religious needs, was a temporary solution. He also says that when the people of Madaba decided to build a church and they started digging the ruins of a Byzantine church, they came upon a floor paved with coloured mosaics and a sanctuary similar to that of the Katholikon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, having a synthronon. 6 Two years later Arkadios' successor, Rev. Ignatios, wrote to the Patriarch Nikodemos about the ruined church, informing him that on the mosaic floor he read also Greek inscriptions. 7
At that time the Patriarch Nikodemos was preoccupied mainly with the improvement of the dismal financial situation of the Patriarchate, with the relations of the Patriarchate with other Christian communities and each community's rights to the Holy Shrines, with the Christian missionaries' activities in the countryside, and with the urgent need of many other Orthodox communities, especially in the districts of Nablus, Nazareth and Ptolemais, for building new and restoring old churches and schools. Answering the request of Madaba's community was rather a question of priority for him. 8 In 1885 the Patriarch sent the metropolitan bishop of Scythopolis, Gerasimos, to the towns of Husn and Karak in order to protect the Orthodox communities from the missionaries, and it was while on this mission, on 19 June 1885, that Gerasimos heard that he was elected Patriarch of Antioch. 9 Several years later, on 27 January 1890, Nikodemos resigned and Gerasimos was elected in his place as Patriarch of Jerusalem. The new Patriarch, familiar and very sensitive to the problems of the Orthodox communities in Transjordan, answered the request of Madaba's community and sent the architect of the Patriarchate, Athanasios Andreakis, to examine the ruins upon which the church was going to be built. The order was given to protect and cover any archaeological remains under the roof of the new church.
Thus, it can be said with certainty that the existence of this historical monument is due exclusively to the providence of Patriarch Gerasimos, an admirer of Byzantine culture. 10 During his short term of office as Patriarch of Jerusalem, Gerasimos had to confront many difficulties, primarily concerning the activities of the Russian Orthodox Palestinian Society, 11 which ignored systematically, especially at that period, the historical presence of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Palestine. Gerasimos died on 9 February 1897 at the age of 57.
In conclusion it can be said that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem dealt with the discovery of the map successfully, despite all the above mentioned problems.
I consider it necessary to include this introduction on the problems the Patriarchate faced at that period, so that appropriate attention is paid to the writings of those who concoct all kinds of fabulous stories and make allusions to the discovery of the mosaic map and the way the monument was protected, and at the same time to give credit to those who unaffectedly serve the truth in their reports.

The imperial firman (1894) with the permission to build the new Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba.

The Construction of the Madaba Church
In the Acts of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem we find the following information concerning the construction of a new church at Madaba.
On 15 May 1892, the Holy Synod, in favour of the request of Madaba's community, unanimously decided to construct a church in this town and applied to the government for the relevant permission. 12
In the session of the Holy Synod, which took place on 13 August 1892, his Beatitude the Patriarch informed the Synod of the troubles caused to the Christian farmers of Madaba by the tent-dweller Arabs of Bani Sakhr. As a result of the concern and the efforts of the Patriarchate, the governor (mutasarrif ) of Hawran arrived at Madaba with military power to restore peace and act as a conciliator. Because the proposed compromise was not satisfactory for the Christians, they sent representatives to the Patriarchate asking it to intervene with the authorities on their behalf. The Patriarchate wrote duly to Damascus and ordered its superior at Ramallah, monk Makarios, to accompany the representatives back to Madaba, to meet the governor of Hawran on behalf of the Patriarchate and also to take care of the expected permission for the church at Madaba. Makarios wrote to the Patriarch that no conciliation had been brought about and that the matter had been postponed for the next year. Regarding the permission for the church Makarios wrote that the governor (qa'immaqam) of Salt, who was spending some time in Madaba, had asked the Patriarchate to produce at the same time one plan for the church, the school and the residence of the superior. The Patriarchate sent immediately Georgios Ioannides, who prepared the plan and submitted it to the authorities of Salt. 13 The plan was approved on 18 September 1892, after the appropriate modifications had been made in order to fit in with the foundation plan of the ancient church. 14 It was then forwarded through Hawran and Damascus to Constantinople for final approval. 15
Two years later, on 30 September 1894, 16 the permission (imperial firman) was sent directly from Constantinople to Gerasimos, Patriarch of Jerusalem. Consequently, the Holy Synod ordered construction to begin and appointed the deacon Germanos to supervise the project as the representative of the Patriarchate and the architect A. Andreakis responsible for the construction of the church.
On 21 October 1894, the architect A. Andreakis, accompanied by the new representative of the Patriarchate to Madaba, deacon Germanos, arrived at the village and were welcomed by the villagers. 17 The next day they appeared before the civil authorities, to whom Germanos presented his credentials. A day later, on 23 October 1894, they started an excavation to uncover the foundations of the old church.
On 31 October 1894, a unanimous decision was taken by the Synod to dedicate the church to the memory of Saint James, called "brother of Christ", who served as the first bishop of Jerusalem. 18 It should be stressed here that this was the formal dedication of the church in spite of the fact that nowadays it is known as the Church of St. George.
Beginning 1 November, 1894 the Patriarchate opened a special account of expenses for this project. The first agreements between the president of the Committee for the Property of the Patriarchate, monk Ananias, and the contractors responsible for the materials were signed then, and tools, materials, builders and labourers were sent from Jerusalem to Madaba. The records show that construction works began and many kinds of receipts were paid.
Soon after were also sent from the Patriarchate in Jerusalem - especially for the foundation stone setting ceremony - the appropriate inscriptions, a bronze cross with the foundation year engraved on it, a sealed glass vessel, containing a letter with the Synodical decision to erect a new church in Madaba, and several contemporary coins. All these are mentioned in a letter, dated 3 July 1895 and sent by the Patriarchate to deacon Germanos, with the formal instructions for this specific ceremony, which took place on 7 July 1895 and was performed by archimandrite Kyprianos from Salt in the presence of the archimandrite Sophronios from Karak, the Orthodox community and the civil authorities. On 18 July 1895 deacon Germanos in a letter to the Patriarch acknowledges receipt of the Patriarchal letter, etc. and assures him that everything was performed according to his instructions. 19
On 27 July 1896 Germanos was instructed by the Patriarchate to follow the approved plans without any modifications (this order was given to prevent any arbitrary initiatives to be taken by Germanos). 20
The construction and the roof over the church was completed by 20 August 1896. Immediately after, the agreements for plastering the interior walls of the church and for paving the floor were signed.

The first photo of the Madaba Map (by Germer Durand, 1897).

The Uncovering of the Mosaic Floor
As soon as the roofing of the church was completed, by the end of August 1896, the architect proceeded to the next steps, which were the signing of the contracts for plastering the interior walls and for paving the floor of the church. The first of these contracts was signed by Saliba Taatous and Abed Farhat and the second by the brothers Francis and Bishara Ilias Maroum on 5 September 1896. On behalf of the Patriarchate they were signed by the monk Ananias. Reading through the second contract, two of its terms helped me to understand better when and by whom the mosaic was discovered. According to the first term the representatives of the Patriarchate, monk Ananias and architect Andreakis, were bound to clean up the interior of the church by hiring their own workers. That means that they were to remove the debris and prepare the floor before the Maroum brothers started working. The second term, dealing with the time limits, reads as follows: "The Maroum brothers were obliged to finish paving the floor in a month and a half from the day they would start working." From this it can be deduced that the mosaic pavement was discovered by the workers, hired by the Patriarchate, while they were removing the debris in late September - early October 1896. If we have to give credit or to blame someone for the present condition of the mosaic, he must be the architect A. Andreakis. The paving of the floor with cement slabs must have started around the middle of October. Meanwhile, the architect left for Jerusalem where he discussed with his superiors, among other things, the newly discovered mosaic floor remains and asked them to send someone who knew more about mosaics in order to see and study it.
That is how Cleopas Koikylides, a young scholar fond of archaeology and trusted by Photios, deputy to the Patriarch, comes to the fore. Koikylides was ordered by Photios to accompany the architect on his tour to the Transjordan Orthodox communities of Salt, Er-Rumeimin, Fuheis and Madaba and while in Madaba to see the newly found mosaic, to study it and to report back to his superior. Despite the common belief of early scholars that Koikylides, while in Jericho, was asked by the Patriarch Gerasimos to visit Madaba, the truth is, as Koikylides himself states, that he was sent by the deputy to the Patriarch, Photios, to study the mosaic since the architect's description was not satisfactory. They arrived in Madaba in the evening of 12 December 1896. 21 Early in the morning of 13 December 1896, when Koikylides entered the church, he found the mosaic and the already paved floor of the church covered with dirt and debris left over by the workers. He was very angry with them mainly, I suppose, because he had to clear it away in order to begin his study. After the clearing had been completed, Koikylides was astonished at the sight of this amazing find, for he immediately recognized the uniqueness and extraordinary significance of such an early mosaic map of the Holy Land. He measured it, made an accurate and reliable preliminary drawing on graph paper and, full of enthusiasm, returned to Jerusalem where he gave a complete report to his superior. Being honest to admit that he was neither an archaeologist nor the best qualified person to deal with such a find, he considered his mission finished but not fully accomplished. Thus 13 December 1896 marks the day the mosaic map was first presented to a scholar in its final new setting and the day in which it was recognized as the unique geographical mosaic map of Palestine. Its real discovery however was made, as I mentioned above, three months earlier. Meletios Metaxakis, although he wished to date the discovery back to October 1884, when the church ruins were at first reported by Rev. Arkadios to Patriarch Nikodemos, realized and admitted that: "no one till that time (i.e. 1896) could have imagined that under the debris that covered the interior of the church, was hidden such a marvellous mosaic, that is the famous map of Madaba, which was destined to come to light only after the completion of the church building and the cleaning up of the floor from the debris." (Neva Siw;n 1904:548).
Soon after the feasts of Christmas, New Year and Epiphany were over, on 8 January 1897, the Patriarchate ordered special protective measures for the mosaic and sent to Madaba its most qualified person, Professor G. Arvanitakis from the Holy Cross School of Theology, accompanied by its representative to Madaba deacon Germanos, with the order to make a precise copy of the mosaic map. Immediately after their arrival on 9 January, Arvanitakis started working on the map. His task was completed on 23 January 1897. 22
As an additional protection for the mosaic at an earlier stage the Patriarchate had ordered and installed iron railings all around it. 23 These iron railings were replaced by new ones in 1905, following a study by Professor Hermann of the University of Berlin, at the request of Patriarch Damianos, 24 since the old railings had created some problems to the scholars who were coming to study the mosaic map.
News of the discovery spread rapidly and a race began among the different archaeological expeditions in Jerusalem to see who was going to be first to examine and publish this important monument. The Patriarchate, pestered with requests for permission to work on the mosaic map, granted this permission and issued a recommendation letter for each scholar to present to its representative in Madaba, on condition that the scholar's work would not cause any damage to the mosaic. Among the first who applied for permission and a recommendation letter on behalf of A.C. Dickie, architect of the Palestine Exploration Fund, was Dr. F.J. Bliss, representative of the Palestine Exploration Fund in Jerusalem. In his letters of 5 January and 23 March 1897 to Armstrong, the acting secretary of PEF in London, Bliss reports that in one of Madaba's churches, the plan of which he gave in an earlier report (1895:212, no. 4), this most wonderful mosaic map of Palestine was found. He complains to Armstrong of his misfortune because, as he writes, while he was measuring this church only a few inches of debris lay between his feet and this precious discovery. On the other hand, he considers himself lucky for being a good friend of the Greek Patriarch and his secretary and believes that due to this friendship he received the first recommendation letter from the Patriarchate, issued on 9 January 1897, for the architect of the PEF A.S. Dickie with an offer of full hospitality at the superior's residence. 25 Although disapointed by the fact that the PEF lost the chance of the first publication of this unique discovery, due to "an unfortunate series of accidents", Bliss at last accepted this loss by saying that "as long as a given work is done well it matters little in the end who has done it".
At this early stage the Dominican Fathers, M.-J. Lagrange and H. Vincent, were authorized by the Patriarch Gerasimos to examine the newly discovered mosaic floor, as father Lagrange reports in his article on the mosaic map in RB 6 (1897), p. 165.
On 1 February 1897 a recommendation letter was issued for Professor Broneau from Heidelberg University to study the mosaics inside and outside the newly built church. 26
On 15 February 1897 such a letter was given to the Assumptionist Fathers 27 and on the 20th to the Germans Croe and Palmer to examine and copy the mosaic map. 28 On 17 November 1897 father G. Momment Farret was provided with such a letter.
On 8 January 1898 a similar letter was given to Mr. Salim (K)ari to work on the mosaic, 29 without specifying the kind of work. From a copy of the map in the possession of Palestine Exploration Fund, on which is written that "it was bought from Selim el-Kary who said he copied it direct from the mosaic", we assume that he asked permission to copy the mosaic map.
Two similar letters were issued on 26 January 1898 for German scholars and on 12 February for Professor Lucien Gauthier of Geneva University to study the mosaic map, offering to them at the same time full hospitality. 30 On September 1901 a similar letter was issued for the two German scholars, probably Cornelly and Hartmann, who produced a life-size copy of the mosaic map for the Patriarchate's account.
As the news of the discovery of this important map spread abroad, a newspaper in Constantinople, called "Kwnstantinouvpoli"", in its issue of 7 February 1897 referring to this discovery, wrote with considerable exaggeration that this pictorial map was much better than the modern ones, that the Dead Sea was full of giant fish, etc.
Professor Arvanitakis returned to Jerusalem after the death of Patriarch Gerasimos, which occurred, as mentioned above, on 9 February 1897, carrying with him a precise copy of the map in 12 sheets on a scale of 1/5. The same copy included an 0.80 x 0.60 m plan of the church, showing the position of the mosaic in it, but excluded the two fragments which were separated from the main part of the map and located to the north of it. An enterprising Arvanitakis photographed this copy and proceeded to sell its reproductions for 100 golden franks. For the amount of 300 golden franks, postage included, he had for sale a large 4 m2 copy, backed by a thick linen cloth and bordered by a blue silk strip. 31 Reading through the PEFQSt (Clermont-Ganneau 1897:213-214) the impression is given that Arvanitakis was bargaining to sell even the original copy he made!
Meanwhile, on 8 March 1897, a pamphlet on the Madaba mosaic map, written by Cleopas Koikylides, was published in Jerusalem by the Franciscan Fathers Printing Press. 32

The first lead cliché of the Madaba Map made at the Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem (1897) using the drawings of G. Arvanitakis.

On 16 March 1897, we find Arvanitakis lecturing on the map in Constantinople and carrying with him a copy of it. His lecture was published in the issues of 27, 28 and 31 March 1897 of the Constantinopolitan newspaper "Neologos Konstantinoupoleos".
Upon his return to Jerusalem from Constantinople, Arvanitakis was paid 15 French lirae for the task of copying the map. The original rendering made by Arvanitakis was kept then at the Library of the Patriarchate. 33
Reading through his articles, published in the above mentioned newspaper and in a Greek Almanac of Jerusalem of 1899, "Hemerologion ton Hierosolymon 1899", pp. 270-272, one notices that Arvanitakis, like Koikylides, was of the opinion that there were two phases in the building of the ancient church and that the mosaic map belonged to the earlier phase, based on information given to both of them by the architect A. Andreakis. However, neither of them reported whether the architect had ever produced a plan showing the two phases of the church. Arvanitakis repeated as well the evidence of those who saw the map immediately after its discovery (l.c. pp. 270-272) and who claimed that the whole floor of the church was covered by the mosaic map and included not only the whole of Palestine but also Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, the islands of Cyprus, Crete and even the city of Rome. On the other hand, it seems that Arvanitakis considered himself lucky for not having to copy the whole map. This is further confirmed by the fact that in his lecture at Constantinople he confessed that, while copying the existing parts of the map, he had been looking with gratitude towards its missing parts, recognizing thus the difficulty of conceiving and executing such a work, and cursing his lot for having been sent to perform such a task. In his articles Arvanitakis also praised the Patriarch Gerasimos, who by building this church protected the mosaics, as well as the architect, A. Andreakis, by calling him a "filokalos architekton", which means "an architect lover of beauty".
The Patriarchate's unfailing interest in the mosaic map was shared by the newly elected Patriarch Damianos (1897-1931), who in 1901 invited two German artists to create a life-size copy of the mosaic map. At great expense, the artists, F. Cornely and G. Hartmann, succeeded in producing a work of art on canvas. 34 This copy served as a model for the drawings made in 1902 by P. Palmer and H. Guthe and published in ten lithographs in 1906. The copy of F. Cornely and G. Hartmann was lost for several decades and it was found only recently (in November 1996) by me in the Patriarchate, torn into two pieces and in extremely bad condition. This copy deserves to be restored, since it is the only life-size colour reproduction of the original map.
The last basic restoration of the Madaba mosaic map was undertaken in 1965 by the German Society for the Exploration of Palestine (Deutscher Verein zur Erforschung Palästinas), represented by Professor Herbert Donner of Göttingen University and his collaborators, the restorers Dr. Heinz Cüppers and Mr. Heinrich Brand. 35
I present here parts of the correspondence between Prof. H. Donner and the Patriarchate relating to the description and the condition of the mosaic before the restorations of 1965, the methods proposed and applied for the restoration work and the stipulations made by the Patriarchate for carrying out this project. Prof. H. Donner in his letter to His Beatitude Benedictos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, dated 29 September 1965 writes among other things that:
"The present condition of the mosaic examined by the gentlemen mentioned above in April 1965, is as follows: The mosaic has loosened from its underground by change of temperature, by influence of moisture and water, and by sinking of the soil, to such an extent that it reacts even upon pressure by hand. It has to be taken for granted that the tension of the stones will break by incautious setting foot on the mosaic, and the pictures will be destroyed completely. Partly the mosaic sank together with its underground: here the stones have loosened from their line and became full of holes. The borders of the mosaic are especially endangered by wearing out by walking upon, because they do not have a solid underground. The surface is partly damaged by the wooden planks presently protecting the mosaic; the stones are broken until a depth of 2 mm and are breaking easily by the slightest pressure or friction. Furthermore the mosaic has been burned at some parts so that the surface and the colours are damaged. The surface is partly covered with a very strong thin layer of mortar, especially upon the black stones.
The undersigned and his collaborators would like to suggest:
1. the cleaning of the whole mosaic,
2. the raising of all parts of the mosaic,
3. the providing of a new setting, and
4. the reinstalling in the same place of the floor of the church.
Here are the details: At first the mosaic will be cleaned mechanically without any chemicals. Then a textile fabric will be pasted over to prevent any displacement of the stones. Afterwards we shall detach the mosaic from its underground, lift it up, clean the reverse, and stengthen it by a stainless lattice of metal and inlayed in a special concrete material. To prevent future damage we shall put the mosaic into a new isolated underground. In order to renew and to preserve the colours we shall cover the mosaic with a special varnish providing protection against water and dirt from above. The present wooden planks are to be changed by a kind of artificial carpet which may be rolled aside and is completely sufficient to save the mosaic for the future.
The execution of this scheme will take about one and a half months all together.
The restorers and all materials needed are already here in Jordan and we request Your Beatitude to grant permission for the restoration to be started immediately."
The Patriarchate accepted the request of the German Society for the Exploration of Palestine to restore the mosaic map of Madaba in accordance with the conditions stipulated in the letter of Dr. H. Donner. It also asked for a plan showing the present condition of the map to be made before the start of the work and appointed the Archbishop of Hierapolis, Mgr. Diodoros, as its representative. The latter had to be present at the site during the works in order to reply to any questions and to report to the Patriarchate on the progress of the work. Everything was perfectly executed if we judge from the present excellent condition of the mosaic, 32 years after this basic restoration.
In my wish to verify the statement of C. Koikylides that archimandrite Photios, during his period of exile between 1883 and 1890 in St. Catherine's Monastery at Sinai, read in one of the Greek manuscripts preserved there a passage containing an allusion to the Madaba mosaic map, 36 I visited St. Catherine's Monastery and asked the librarian if he ever came across such a passage. His answer was negative. However, in the Monastery I saw a fragment of a painting on canvas which depicted the Monastery, the fathers of the Monastery coming forward in order to meet their archbishop and his company, the desert and, in its right corner, the branches of the river Nile. Between the river's branches were represented several towns and the city of Alexandria with the Ottoman walls and minarets. Although this painting belongs to a later period, one notices, especially in the way the branches of the Nile are depicted, similarities to the Madaba mosaic map. That painting in St. Catherine's is also important, because it may offer a clue to the way the now missing city of Alexandria was depicted in the Madaba mosaic map.

Copy of the Jerusalem vignette by a native amateur painter (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem).

Copies of the Map Made by Amateur Painters
Professor Arvanitakis in his article on the Madaba mosaic map, published in a Greek Almanac of Jerusalem of 1899, "Hemerologion ton Hierosolymon 1899", pp. 259-260, mentions that he saw copies of the map made by a native amateur painter. Motivated by his statement, I started searching for such copies and I was lucky enough to locate several of them in Jerusalem and abroad: at the Benaki Museum in Athens (1.28 x 1.65 m), at the Library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria (0.77 x 1.87 m), at Karl-Schmitt-Korte's private collection in Offenbach; two at the Delegazione di Terra Santa in Rome, at the Jewish National and University Library, Laor Collection, 452, in Jerusalem (1.32 x 1.84 m), 37 at the Monastery of St. Sabbas in the Judaean desert (0.92 x 1.70 m), at the Chief Secretariat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem (formerly preserved at the Greek Orthodox Monastery in Bethlehem) (0.95 x 1.44 m); at the Greek Consulate in Jerusalem; two copies - now misplaced - at the Printing Press Houses of the Greek and the Armenian Patriarchates in Jerusalem; and finally two copies depicting only the city of Jerusalem, one of which decorates the hall of the ecclesiastical court of the Patriarchate in Jerusalem (0.70 x 0.87 m) and the other stored at the Palestine Exploration Fund in London (0.86 x 1.33 m). The above mentioned copies are of two categories: copies depicting the whole map and copies depicting only the city of Jerusalem. The copies of the first category, in addition to the map, include an explanatory inscription. For decorative reasons and in order to fill the empty space the painter also adds to the map several inscriptions and objects represented on mosaic pavements found in other churches of Madaba and of Palestine.
From the copies of the second category I have located only two: in the first, the painter numbered the monuments and the gates of Jerusalem and in a separate place gave an explanatory table which was rather influenced by the knowledge of the history of Jerusalem possessed by the person who ordered it. In the second, preserved are the name of the painter, a certain Selim il-Kari and the name of the known archaeologist Dr. F. J. Bliss, who donated the copy to the Palestine Exploration Fund. The inscription, which most of the copies of the first category include at their lower left edge, refers to the discovery of the map. In fact, this inscription consists of a text which is composed of extracts from the first three paragraphs of the pamphlet on the mosaic map written by Cleopas Koikylides. 38 The spelling and syntactic errors speak for the unfamiliarity of the copyists with the Greek language. The same phenomena are observed in most of the captions throughout the whole map. This inscription is almost identical in the copies of the Benaki Museum and of the Chief Secretariat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Usually the inscription begins with a short history of Madaba through the different periods, with praise for its beautiful mosaic pavements, its Nabataean and numerous Greek inscriptions, and above all for its mosaic map. Then follow a few sentences from Koikylides' text which refer to the date of the map's discovery and the size of the church, as well as to the contents and condition of the map at the time of its discovery. The inscription ends with the conjectural date of the construction of the map, as given by Koikylides, that is 350-450 AD. The inscription in the copies of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem and of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum repeats the excerpt concerning the history of Madaba, the date of the discovery and that of the construction of the map; it omits the size and the condition of the map, but it adds a sentence which stresses the significance of this map for Palestine, as it considers it the oldest map of this district. In the copy of the Jewish National Library is also depicted the Musrara mosaic. 39 In the copy of the Monastery of Saint Sabbas the inscription was written by a calligrapher on a paper which was glued on the appropriate place. Its text is limited merely to the mention of the extracts about the city of Madaba and the day of the map's discovery. The copy that belongs to the Library of the Patriarchate in Alexandria, does not contain this inscription at all. These copies, although naively executed, preserve some valuable elements because they are dated to the early years of the discovery of the mosaic map.
Before concluding, I am obliged to give the appropriate credit to all those who took care of the Madaba mosaic map from the day of its discovery to the present day: to the fathers of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, to the fathers of the Franciscan, Dominican and other monastic orders and to the great number of scholars for their "philomousian" (love of the arts), as well as for their admiration and respect for the modest beauty of the Madaba mosaic map; a work which was made by the hands of a skilful artist, who succeeded in expressing through it the piety, the Christian tradition and faith, and finally the pride and enthusiasm of the ancestors of the present inhabitants of Madaba.
For the present perfect condition of this historical monument honour is due to all of them, but also to their spiritual successors who, I am sure, will preserve it at all costs, for the Madaba mosaic map is a piece of art which will continue to excite the noble sentiments and the admiration of every visitor in the years to come.


1 In Deltio tou Palaiographikou Archeiou, vol. 5 (Athens, 1992). On this occasion, I would like to congratulate Dr. Tselikas on this excellent book and also to thank him for providing me with a microfilm of some of the documents.

2 I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Patriarchate for giving me such permission, and more specifically to His Beatitude the Patriarch Diodoros, to the chief secretary Mgr. Timotheos, to the archivist rev. Makarios and to deacon Damianos.

3 My colleague Dr. R. Schick (currently at Albright Institute in Jerusalem) was kind enough to ask on my behalf Dr. Eugene Rogan (at the Oriental Institute in Oxford), who wrote a thesis on the region of Salt in the 19th century, if he ever came across Ottoman documents in Salt connected with the erection of the Greek Orthodox church in Madaba. His answer was that the municipality of Salt holds no Ottoman records and that the only offices still holding records from the Ottoman period are the Islamic Courts and the Department of Land and Surveys. I was also informed that such material could be found in Damascus at the Center for Historical Documents (in the Derkenar Registers) and in Constantinople, where, I believe, all the papers, the architectural drawings and the permission for the new church would have been kept in the official archives.

4 M. Metaxakis, Hagia Sion 1904, p. 55.

5 M. Metaxakis, Hagia Sion 1904, p. 57.

6 M. Metaxakis, Hagia Sion 1906, p. 152.

7 M. Metaxakis, Hagia Sion 1906, p. 153. I quote M. Metaxakis, since I have not been able to this date to locate either the letter of rev. Arkadios or that of his successor, rev. Ignatios. As we are going to deal with many dated documents in this paper, it must be remembered that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem follows to the present day the Julian (old) calendar.

8 C. Meliaras. Hoi hagioi topoi en Palaistine kai ta ep'auton dikaia tou Ellenikou ethnou. vol. II (Jerusalem, 1933), pp. 778-814.

9 Ibid., pp. 792-793.

10 Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, 1894, p. 260.

11 The Russian Orthodox Palestinian Society, founded on 21 May 1882 by the Russian Imperial Government, replaced three similar Russian Societies established in Palestine successively in 1847, 1857 and 1862. The Society's goal was to protect and raise the prestige of Orthodoxy in Palestine, having in view Russia's own interests. The duke Sergios, brother of the Russian emperor Alexander III, was appointed President of this Society. Among the first activities of the newly founded Society in the Holy Land was the set-up of a Russian influential cell in Galilee, by establishing schools and a teacher-training college and seminar in Nazareth. In 1889 the Society began to construct new hospices in Jerusalem and in other cities of the country, as well as to build arbitrarily new schools in Palestinian villages, where there were already running schools of the Patriarchate, and even more to build churches without the permission of the canonical Church authorities. It also tried to foment the contrast between the local Orthodox communities and the Patriarchate. This situation gave rise to protests from the Patriarchs of Jerusalem Nikodemos (1883-1890) and Gerasimos (1891-1897), as well as from the Ecumenical Patriarch Constantinos V (1897-1901), to the Russian emperor Nikolaos II, drawing his attention to the fact that the Russian Orthodox Palestinian Society disturbed the peace of the Orthodox Churches in the East.

12 Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 15 May 1892, session 43.

13 Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 13 August 1892, session 52.

14 Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 18 September 1892, session 54.

15 Salt was a qa'imaqamiyya at that period. All relevant papers would have been forwarded to the mutasarrifiyya (initially at Nablus until 1888; then in Hawran until the formation of the Karak mutasarrifiyya in 1893) and then to the wilaya in Damascus, before being sent to Constantinople.

16 Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 30 September 1894, session 109.

17 Letter of the deacon Germanos to the Patriarch, dated 27 October 1894.

18 Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 31 October 1894, session 110.

19 Codex of Correspondence from 1 November 1894 to September 1895, no. 697; Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 13 July 1885, session 136; Letter of deacon Germanos to the Patriarch dated 18 July 1895.

20 Codex of Correspondence from 1 October 1895 to 31 August 1896, no. 772.

21 Letter of the architect Andreakis from Madaba to monk Ananias, president of the Committee for the Property of the Patriarchate, of 13 December 1896.

22 Letter of 26 January 1897, sent by the deacon Germanos to the Patriarch Gerasimos, and account of expenses, nos. 1631-1633, which included transportation, bridge tolls etc. for Prof. Arvanitakis from Jericho to Madaba. See also letter of F. J. Bliss, dated 23 March 1897, in which we read: "A large (though considerably reduced) copy in colour has been made by Prof. Arvanitakis... This has been further reduced by photography by Kirkorian." I am indebted to Mr. Julian Bowsher, Honorary Secretary of Palestine Exploration Fund in London, for forwarding me transcripts of the correspondence between Dr. F. J. Bliss in Jerusalem and Armstrong, acting secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London.

23 On 30 January 1897 the Patriarchate paid the blacksmith Theodoros Kretem for the construction of iron railings to protect the mosaic map (see account no. 1664).

24 Codex of the Acts of the Holy Synod of 24 February 1905, session 306, and of 9 June 1905, session 323.

25 Codex of Correspondence from 2 September 1896 to 24 November, no. 31.

26 Ibid., no. 96.

27 Ibid., no. 103.

28 Ibid., no. 111; In the letter of F. J. Bliss from Jerusalem to Armstrong in London, dated 23 March 1897 we read: "An architect by the name of Palmer acting for the German Society, has spent eleven days at Madaba, working with several assistants on a full size tracing, taking notes on the colouring to be filled in later..."

29 Codex of Correspondence from 14 December 1897 to 30 September 1898, no. 11.

30 Codex of Correspondence from 1 October 1898 to 25 May 1899.

31 G. Arvanitakis 1899", pp. 261-262.

32 C. Koikylides, Ho en Madaba Mosaikos kai Geographikos peri Syrias, Plaistines kai Aigyptou Chartes, (Jerusalem 1897).

33 Pay order no. 2085 and receipt no. 536 of 17 April 1897.

34 M. Metaxakis, °Q1 Äyä± 1906, p. 156.

35 Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Chief Secretariat, Protocol No. 800, 22 September 1965, old calendar, Madaba File.

36 C. Koikylides, as above note 31, p. 10.

37 H. Budde and A. Nachama, Die Reise nach Jerusalem (Berlin ...).

38 C. Koikylides, as above note 31, pp. 5-7.

39 M. Avi-Yonah, Mosaic Pavements in Palestine, QDAP II (1933), pp. 171-172, no. 132.

This contribution was first published in: The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 25-36

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