Sunday, July 18, 2010


THE presence of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land on Mount Nebo was made possible thanks to the enthusiasm and enterprise of brother Jerome Mihaic. In 1932, with the consent and collaboration of the Emir Abdallah bin al-Hussein, the Custody of the Holy Land acquired the summit of Siyagha and that of al-Mukhayyat. It was on the summit of Siyagha that the Christian community of the 4th century had built a sanctuary in honour of Moses, commemorating the Prophet's death as recounted in Deuteronomy 34.

The archaeological investigations carried out by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum between 1933 and 1937 on the summit of Siyagha brought to light the basilica of Moses and the monastery which surrounded it. At the same time three churches with mosaics were unearthed at the summit of al-Mukhayyat. Those excavations were directed by Father Sylvester Saller and Father Bellarmino Bagatti.

A second period was inaugurated in the 1960s. The Custody of the Holy Land decided to upgrade the area in order to cater for those visitors to the site. The work was entrusted to Father Virgilio Corbo, and in 1976 to Father Michele Piccirillo. This permitted, in 1967, the continuation of archaeological research under the mosaic floor, resulting in the discovery of new mosaic pavements and a better knowledge of the construction history of the sanctuary.

To protect the environment of the site, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum suggested to the Jordanian Government the establishment of the Archaeological Park of Mount Nebo. In 1991 a mission from the Danish Palestine Society led by Peder Mortensen, took up the survey of the mountain, paying particular attention to the systematic study of the monuments and artifacts of the prehistoric periods, in order to prepare an Archaeological Map of the Park


The 60th anniversary of the beginning of the archaeological investigations was celebrated in 1993. Prince Hassan, brother of King Hussein, sent a congratulatory message: "In recent years through publications, lectures and exhibitions, the work of the Franciscans at Mt. Nebo/Madaba and the archaeological wealth of Jordan are both better known and more widely appreciated throughout the world. On behalf of the people and government of Jordan, I would like to congratulate the Franciscans of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum for their scholarship, co-operation, and friendship, and to affirm to them once again our commitment to continue working together for the goals we share - particularly the quest for historical truth and the promotion of our shared moral values as the bases for a world of friendship, justice and peace".

This volume, so necessary after 30 years of uninterrupted work on the mountain, is dedicated to the memory of Giambattista Massolini, a friend who passed away prematurely. In his name we wish to remember all those who have preceded us and those who have helped us in this endeavour in bringing back to life a sanctuary which millions around the world come to visit; millions brought together by their common faith in the God of Abraham.

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