Baptism Site

The Baptism Site “Bethany beyond the Jordan” is situated a few hundred meters from the Jordan River. Excavations have uncovered 1st century AD settlement with plastered pools and water systems that were used almost certainly for baptism, a 5th – 6th century AD late Byzantine settlement with churches, a monastery and other structures probably catering to religious pilgrims. Excavations are still underway and new discoveries are being made in that area almost daily.

Long years of archaeological research, studies of biblical and evangelical texts, analysis of Byzantine and medieval reports, as well as evidence from the local Orthodox church, led to the discovery of the site in 1996. Excavations have uncovered 1st century AD settlement with plastered pools and water systems that were used almost certainly for baptism, a 5th – 6th century AD late Byzantine settlement with churches, a monastery, and other structures probably catering to religious pilgrims. The diggings are still underway and new archeological treasures are discovered almost daily.

Touring the Baptism site

The tour at the baptism site starts at the Visitor Center. A shuttle accompanies the visitors along the ancient path used by pilgrims. The first stop is Al-Maghtas (in Arabic “baptism” or “immersion”) in the Tell al Kharrar area. This is the biblical site called Bethany beyond the Jordan where baptismal purifications took place. Nearby there is a place known as Laura, where there are foundations of structures used as a place of prayer and residence of the ancient monks. This side of the park also hosts Tell Elias, a monument recognized by the three religions as the hill where Prophet Elijah is believed to have ascended to heaven. On the edge of Elijah’s Hill, the visitors can admire churches and monasteries (with mosaic carpets), a prayer hall and a complex of rectangular and square baptismal fonts from the late Roman period (3rd-4th century AD) provided with a functional water system.

After the visit of the sites of the Tell al Kharrar area, the journey continues to the opposite end of the Wadi. Here there is a pilgrimage station, a large pool, presumably used for collective baptisms in the Byzantine era; nearby there are the springs of John the Baptist, which are believed to have been used for baptismal rites. The area also hosts caves, used by the monks both as places of prayer and as hermitages. The caves were carved into the walls of the cliffs and to access them, the monks had to use ropes. The path leads to the church of Saint John the Baptist, erected between 491–518  Byzantine emperor Anastasius. The Jordan River is a short distance away. Until today the river is used for baptismal rites according to the Christian tradition, however, as the river is highly polluted, the water used for the rites is purified. Isolated from the main highlights there is the House of Mary the Egyptian, a repented sinner who retired on the banks of the Jordan to dedicate her life to praying.

The Baptism site highlights

·        Tell Elias
·        Spring of John the Baptist
·        Jordan River
·        Site of Jesus’ baptism
·        House of Mary the Egyptian
·        Heremit cave
·        Rothorios Monastery

Baptism Site

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