Jordan -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 12:3 (Summer 1999)
Article: Jordan
Author: Anonymous


“Flee to the mountains” (Gn 19:17) was what the angels told Lot and his family. This is a view of the region where the Monastery of Lot’s Cave is located. At the southeastern corner of the Dead Sea, the mountains of Moab and Edom loom to the east of the Cities of the Plain. The Monastery is situated 7 km (4 mi) northeast of the modern town of Safi, believed to be ancient Zoar. Lot left Sodom for Zoar first, and then to the cave in the mountain (Gn 19:23, 30).

Konstantinos Politis, of the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities of the British Museum in London, excavated a Byzantine church in the Edomite mountains on the shore of the southern Ghor of the Dead Sea from 1988 through 1996. He concluded that it is the site of the Sanctuary of Holy Lot identified on the sixth century AD mosaic floor map at Madaba in Jordan. It was constructed in front of a cave with evidence of occupation from the Early Bronze Age, the general period of Abraham and Lot.

The site is located at the southeastern end of the Dead Sea (map reference: E 197.9; N 052.77) on a steep mountain slope overlooking the modem town of Safi (Biblical Zoar). It is accurately depicted as the Sanctuary of Agios (= “Saint” in Greek) Lot next to Zoara on the Madaba map.

The existence of Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata (= “monastery at the abbot’s spring” in Arabic) was first officially reported in 1986, by B. MacDonald during his survey of the area. The following year the author began a systematic survey of the site and in 1988 he started an excavation project supported by the British Museum which continued until 1996.

The Sanctuary of Agios Lot consists of a Byzantine monastic complex with a number of hermits’ cells above it.

“Sanctuary of Holy L[ot]” is the inscription above the monastery depicted in the mountains of Edom on the Madaba mosaic map. Churches and monasteries are identified on the map by red roofs.

Aerial view of the Monastery of Lot’s Cave. The Chapel with its three apses facing east can be seen in the center. The main apse with the chancel and nave is in the middle, while the left apse serves as the doorway to the cave. More than just a church, the complex is a full monastery including a refectory, a hostel for pilgrims, a large water reservoir and communal burial chamber. The entire complex sits precariously on the steep western slope of the mountains of Edom.

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