About the Baptism Site

“This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” John 1:28

On the eastern banks of the Jordan river in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is the location of Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Bethabara east of the river), where the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist took place over 2000 years ago. This site is in the heart of the Biblical Holy Land, and several biblical references, as well as historic and archaeological evidence, confirm that this is indeed the place where John baptized Jesus Christ. This most Holy and sacred event makes the site unique and singles it out from all the other sites where John baptized along the river Jordan. Many early Christians then followed in the footsteps of Christ, and went to be baptized in this special place on the eastern bank of the river.

“This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” John 1:28

The Baptism Site has been sacred to Christians since that time and today archaeological remains from millennia past confirm its holy status. As well as being the place where Jesus was baptized, it is also here where, according to the bible, the Holy Trinity appeared to the public for the first time:

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”” Mathew 3:16-17

This is also the site where discipleship with Jesus commenced:

“Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” John 1:35-40

The Baptism Site also rests along an ancient Christian pilgrimage route between Jerusalem and Mount Nebo.

The Baptism Site was declared an official pilgrimage site in 2000 by John Paul II and thereafter was visited by Pope Benedict the XVI in 2010 and placed the corner stone for the Baptism church.

Bethany beyond the Jordan has long been a revered place, and several biblical events have taken place there, referenced in both the old and new testaments. It was here that Joshua led the Israelites across the River Jordan, and where the prophet Elijah ascended to Heaven on a chariot of fire from ‘the little hill of Hermon’ (the same area became a sanctuary that attracted pilgrims for centuries afterwards). Saint Mary the Egyptian spent the last 47 years of her life nearby, praying and fasting in the Jordanian desert to repent her earlier life of sin. Many other saints, monks and spiritual figures lived ascetic lives here, dedicating themselves to God.

There are hermit caves nearby referred to as a ‘Laura’, which is a monastery made up of many hermit cells within an area. A pilgrim’s station was also unearthed here, as pilgrims would stop and rest here in Bethany, along their journey between Jerusalem and Mount Nebo. The station was made up of rooms that were served by a number of pools. In addition, many ancient pools were found at the Baptism site, which were used for drinking and baptism.

About 30 kilometers from the Baptism Site lies the village of Madaba, where the famed Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land is sheltered in a church. The map is the oldest cartographic reference to biblical lands and includes the site where Jesus was baptized; Bethany was known as Aenon or Saphsaphas in Byzantine times.

( Map of Madapa for the river Jordan, showing the baptism site east of the river Jordan)

Aenon can be seen on the mosaic map, further verifying its location.  The Madaba church is open to visitors from all over the world.

Near Madaba is Machaerus, today called Mukawir, the hilltop where Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist and beheaded him at the request of Salome. The remains of Herod’s fortress can still be seen there today, and it is said that John’s body was buried in a nearby cave.

The foundations of several churches, chapels and basilicas are clustered at the Baptism site, most of which date to the Byzantine era. The Latin Vicariate seeks to uphold an active spiritual and religious presence at the site today, as many have done for centuries before, in order that pilgrims from all over the world can visit and enjoy a unique spiritual experience in the sanctuary built on this site.

“Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:5)