Baptism Site of Bethany
A short distance north of the Dead Sea, on the east bank of the River Jordan, is Bethany Beyond the Jordan, believed to be where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. From the early 4th century this site became a place of pilgrimage-the first known pilgrim came from Bordeaux in 333.
Later, under the Emperor Anastasius I (491-518), a church was built beside the river-only to be swept away by floods and rebuilt at least twice.
Further east rises a low hill known-like the hill near Ajloun-as Tell Mar Elias. It is associated with biblical accounts of the time when Elijah escaped from King Ahab and was fed by ravens, and also where he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire
In the late 1990s, this area was cleared of landmines laid during the wars with Israel, and excavations began under the umbrella of the Baptism Site Commission. It became a major interfaith project, creating a place where pilgrims and other visitors could come for a moment of spiritual renewal.
Bethany beyond the Jordan
The Baptism Site “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) is located in the Jordan Valley, north of the Dead Sea. The site contains two distinct archaeological areas, Tell el-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar Elias, and the area of the Churches of St. John the Baptist. “Bethany beyond the Jordan” is of immense religious significance to the majority of denominations of Christian faith, who have accepted this site as the location where Jesus of Nazareth was baptised by John the Baptist. This reference encouraged generations of monks, hermits, pilgrims and priests to reside in and visit the site, and to leave behind testimonies of their devotion and religious activities, dating to between the 4th and the 15th century CE. At present, the site has regained a popular status as pilgrimage destination for Christians, who continue to engage in baptism rituals on site.
Physical remains associated with the commemoration of the historic baptism event include a water collection system and pools as well as later built churches, chapels, a monastery, hermit caves, a cruciform baptismal pool, and a pilgrim station. These archaeological structures testify to the early beginnings of this attributed importance which initiated the construction of churches and chapels, habitation of hermit caves and pilgrimage activities. Beyond its key significance, the site is also associated with the life and ascension of Elijah (also called Elias) and Elisha, which is of common relevance to the monotheistic religions.
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