The “Madaba Map” is the oldest surviving original cartographic description of the Holy Land.
Driving through the King’s Highway a half an hour south of Amman, one finds Madaba, a relatively small city that is nowadays home to around 60,000 people. This city, which belonged to the Moabites, the Nabateans, the Romans, the Byzantine, the Rashidun and the Umayyad throughout history, is now home to the biggest Christian community in all of Jordan, proportionally speaking: both Catholics and Greek Orthodox make up around 10 percent of the total population of Madaba.
Archaeologists affirm Madaba has been inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age. In fact, it is mentioned twice in the Bible: once in Numbers 21:30, and once in Joshua 13:9. The city then stood in the very borders of the Moabite empire. But during Roman (and consequently, Byzantine) rule, it belonged to the broader Arabian Province, founded by Trajan to substitute the Nabatean Kingdom.
It was during those centuries, from the 2nd to the 7th, when the Christian community of the city established itself. In fact, one already finds “Medaba” mentioned as an Episcopal See in the acts of the Council of Chalcedonia, in the 5th century.