Um er-Rasas

Um er Rasas

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a) is located south-east of Madaba on the edge of the semi-arid steppe. Um er-Rasas was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 2004. This archaeological site, which started as a Roman military camp and grew to become a town from the 5th century, is largely unexcavated. It comprises remains from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods (end of 3rd to 9th centuries AD) including a fortified Roman military camp and sixteen churches, some with well-preserved mosaic floors. Particularly noteworthy is the mosaic floor of the Church of St Stephen with its representation of towns in the region. A tall square tower and associated buildings are probably the only remains of the practice, well known in this part of the world, of the stylites (ascetic monks who spent time in isolation atop a column or tower). Um er-Rasas is surrounded by, and dotted, with remains of ancient agricultural cultivation, including terracing, water channels and cisterns.

The Outstanding Universal Value of the site resides in the extensive settlement of the Byzantine/Umayyad period. These remains occupy the interior of the former Roman fort and also extend outside its walls to the north. They include the churches whose mosaic floors are of great artistic value. Further to the north, in a separate group of ruins associated with quarries and cisterns, is the uniquely complete tower accommodation of the stylite monks.

The picture maps in the mosaic floor of St Stephen's Church of several Palestinian and Egyptian towns in the former Byzantine Empire are identified by their place names in Greek script. These are of particular significance both artistically and as a geographical record. Other mosaic church floors including at the Church of the Lions, the  Church of Bishop Sergius, the Church of the Rivers, the Church of the Palm Tree, the Church of Bishop Paul and the Church of the Priest Wa'il depict birds and animals, fishermen and hunters incorporated into extensive geometric mosaic carpets.




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