Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo

Religious significance :

According to the Bible (Deuteronomy), Moses ascended Mount Nebo, in the land of Moab (today in Jordan), and from there he saw the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land), which God had said he would not enter; Moses then died there. The Bible (Deuteronomy 34:6) says Moses' burial place was unknown. A monument atop Mount Nebo commemorates Moses' death after seeing Canaan, across the Jordan valley. A purported grave of Moses is located at Maqam El-Nabi Musa, in the West Bank, 11 km (6.8 mi) south of Jericho and 20 km (12 mi) east of Jerusalem.

Mount Nebo is then mentioned again in the Bible in 2 Maccabees (2:4–7), when the prophet Jeremiah hid the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant in a cave there.

A Christian church from Byzantine times stands on the top of Mount Nebo.

On March 20, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the summit of Mount Nebo during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During his visit, he planted an olive tree next to the Byzantine chapel, as a symbol of peace. Pope Benedict XVI visited the site in 2009, gave a speech, and looked out from the top of the mountain in the direction of Jerusalem.

A serpentine cross sculpture atop Mount Nebo was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. It is symbolic of the miracle of the bronze serpent invoked by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4–9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified (John 3:14).


Archaeology :

Systematic exploration begun by Sylvester J. Saller O.F.M. were continued in 1933 by Jerome Mihaic of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. On the highest point of the mountain, Syagha, the remains of a Byzantine church and monastery were discovered in 1933. The church was first constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses' death. The church design follows a typical basilica pattern. It was enlarged in the late fifth century AD and rebuilt in AD 597. The church is first mentioned in an account of a pilgrimage made by a lady Aetheria in AD 394. Six tombs have been found hollowed from the natural rock beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church.

Bellarmino Bagatti worked on the site in 1935. Virgilio Canio Corbo later excavated the interior of the basilica.


History of the modern Memorial of Moses :

The ancient church, a pilgrimage destination since the 4th century, was excavated between 1933 and 1938 by Sylvester Saller, bringing to light the basilica with its chapels and the annexes of the monastery. The exquisite mosaics were then covered back with soil for protection. In 1963, the Custody of the Holy Land decided to restore the mosaic floors and Virgilio Corbo was put in charge of the project. A metal shelter designed in Oxford was erected over the ruins, but work was interrupted by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Renewed work ensued between 1976-1984, when a new mosaic was discovered in the diaconicon-baptistery. By 1984 the consolidation work was completed, and as a result the basilica could be used both for liturgical purposes, as well as for displaying the restored mosaics, either in situ or mounted on the walls. After renewed plans drawn in 1989 and geological surveys and assessments of the ancient and modern structures made a decade later, a new shelter, basically a complete basilica was built over the ancient church between December 2007 and the reopening day on 15 October 2016. Not even the sudden death of Michelle Piccirillo, a key figure in the project, in October 2008, did lead to a break in the work.