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Baptism Site “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas)

Date of Submission: 28/10/2015
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Palestine to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Governorate of Jericho & Al Aghwar, Jericho
Coordinates: N 31.837028 E 35.546414
Ref.: 6155
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Description

The Baptism Site, or “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas), is located on the Western Bank of the Jordan River about 10 km east of Jericho in the southern Jordan Valley, and 9 km north of the Dead Sea. The Jordan Rift Valley stretches from Lake Tiberias to the Dead Sea and includes numerous cultural heritage sites dating from the prehistoric eras up to the present. The Baptism Site was immensely populated, especially during the Roman period (1st century BC) through the Mamluk period (15th century AD).

Beginning of the 4th century AD, many travellers and pilgrims—notably Bordeaux (333), Bishop Williband (beginning of the eight century AD), and the Russian Abbot Daniel (1106 AD)—wrote detailed descriptions about the baptism place and the ecclesiastical buildings in their environs. According to Christian tradition, it is the location where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. It is considered the third holiest Christian site after the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and is deemed the birthplace of Jesus’s spiritual strength.  

From the Byzantine period onward, numerous monasteries, chapels, cells and churches have been erected in the area in commemoration of the baptism of Jesus. It is satiated with sights of Baptismal ceremonies, a regular occurrence which attracts Christian pilgrims from all over the world and testifies to the religious significance of the location.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Baptism Site, or “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas), is an outstanding universal value association with the baptismal event of the Jesus Christ, making the site an essential ritual element of the developmental history of one of the world’s great religions. According to Christian tradition, the property is the location where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. It is considered the third holiest Christian site after the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and is considered the birthplace of Jesus’s spiritual strength. 

Criterion (iii): The Baptism Site, “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas), is a tremendous contributor to the cultural and religious heritage associated with the baptism of Jesus Christ, an event which is of high significance to the Christian tradition.

Criterion (iv): The Baptism Site, “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas), displays outstanding examples of ecclesiastical architecture integrated with a unique cultural landscape. That and its association with the baptismal event make the site an essential element of the developmental history of one of the world’s great religions.

Criterion (vi): The Baptism Site, “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas), is the direct and physical connection to the Christian tradition of the baptism of Jesus Christ, marking his spiritual birth, and therefore embodies significant religious and spiritual meaning for the Christian faith.  

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Baptism Site retains its complete authenticity and integrity. Its cultural and religious values and their physical attributions are well preserved. They are evidenced by archaeological remains of the various churches, monasteries and other installations of the area, the accounts of pilgrims, travellers and historians, within religious texts and as a lasting part of the traditional Christian narrative. The site and its ecclesiastical features remain well preserved in their original Byzantine form, existing within a rare natural and cultural landscape. 

Comparison with other similar properties

The Baptism Site, “Eshria’a” (Al-Maghtas), is a unique Christian pilgrimage site associated with the baptism of Jesus Christ.  It is known as the location where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and is considered the place of the spiritual birth of Jesus Christ.

No other sites are comparable to the Baptism Site in its spiritual and material value except the Baptism Site, Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Al-Maghtas) in Jordan, which is located on the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River and which was added to the World Heritage list in 2015.

The another site which may be compared with the Baptism Site is the Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem in Palestine, which was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2012.