Petra Church Conservation

This page is part of a series on the Petra Church. To start from the beginning, click here.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, ACOR has served as a leader in conservation and public education efforts surrounding the Petra Church and the remarkable 6th-century papyri found there, working in close partnership with the Petra Authority and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. We are proud to say that the Petra Church represents a major legacy of ACOR and many of ACOR’s donors, whose directed donations served as a critical source of support.

Conservation efforts took place in 1992 and 1993 after the excavations. This work was directed by Tom Roby, assisted by Livia Alberti and Fatma Marii. The floor mosaics were cleaned, gaps filled with mortar, and uneven areas reset. Walls were pointed with mortar and restored up to a height of 3 m. Original wall plaster, where preserved, was consolidated. Intact marble and stone floor paving slabs were consolidated. and elsewhere new limestone slabs were cut and laid out in the original pattern of the floor. The marble steps leading up to the bema (sanctuary) and original marble furnishings were restored. Column drums and capitals of the Nabataean period, which had been reused in the construction of the church, were installed according to their general positions. A small shelter was installed over the restored baptistery font.

The Petra Church Shelter from the North West as completed in 1998. Photo: Robert Shutler. 

A shelter designed by architect Robert Shutler, consisting of an aluminum frame with a vinyl covering set on stanchions, was installed in 1998 (see right). This protects the church and its mosaics from the elements and provides natural light and ventilation, while having minimal impact on the site and landscape. Wooden barriers, security gates, and signage were installed, making it accessible to visitors. Newer signage was added as part of the USAID Siyaha Project (2005-2008).

Ongoing documentation and conservation efforts by ACOR continued in the 2000s. Under the direction of ACOR associate director Christopher Tuttle, conservator Franco Sciorilli’s interventions included re-placing the mosaic in southwest corner of the church on new bedding to help preserve it. The church’s floor mosaics are periodically monitored and repaired, and the fragile opus sectile section in the atrium requires ongoing conservation and protection. A new temporary shelter was installed in 2017 to better protect the baptistery and adjacent rooms. Drainage and other protections from the elements remain key priorities for the Petra Church in the future.

The Petra Church Conservation Endowment

Sections of mosaics in the Petra Church have been “adopted” by private donors who generously contributed support for the Petra Church Conservation Endowment. To find out about the people who donated to this campaign, often in honor of loved ones, please see below (or click here). Thanks to our generous donors, ACOR was able to implement a long-term preservation plan for the site involving archaeological excavation, conservation and stabilization, and finally the construction of a protective shelter over the Petra Church. Today, the Petra Church Conservation Endowment stands as a testament to this archaeological wonder and to ACOR’s ongoing efforts to conserve this site for future generations and make sure the full potential of publication and outreach is achieved to magnify the impact of its study. Further donations are welcome to help us address changing conservation needs associated with local environmental change and increasingly severe weather events at the site.

We thank the following individuals for their generous support:

Judith Adams; Anonymous; Joan Barker; Thomas and Francesca Bennett; Willoughby Bishop and Augusta W. Bishop; Lee and Doris Ann Brigham; Carlisle Foundation (through the auspices of Mr. and Mrs. Grant M. Wilson), Cavaliere Foundation, Inc. (through the auspices of James Knight); Joyce E. Chelberg; Gilbert and Marie Cleasby; James and Dorothy Conant; Cynthia Infantino Trust (in memory of Stephen Infantino); Colin Davies and Mary Lane; Gene and Judy Flath; Gambs Family Foundation; James Garland and Carol Andreae; Edward Gnehm; Ruth S. Hughes; William and Letitia Jarvis; Yona Joest; Joukowsky Family Foundation (through the auspices of Artemis A. W. Joukowsky and Martha Sharp Joukowsky); Robert and Emily King; The Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation (through the auspices of Melva Bucksbaum); Joan MacIver; John and Nancy Neerhout; San and Joanne Orr; Jon and Barbara Pearl; John Prinscott; Nancy C. Reynolds; Austin Ritterspach and Norma Sullivan; Charles and Anne Roos; Seven Wonders Travel (through the auspices of Janice Lynn Brannon); David and Janelle Shaffer; Kathleen Daubert Smith; Luther Soules III and Andrea Marie Morrison; Ronald and Ruth Anna Stolk; Paula Swart; T.C. Swartz and TCS Expeditions; Britt Tidelius; Tony and Gail Vander Heide; Ronald Verdoon; Harold and Judy Zimmerman

Click here to learn more about Petra Church mosaic adoptions.

Next up | 6. Learn More (Bibliography)

See also:
1. The Petra Church (Introduction), 2. Excavations, 3. Petra Church Mosaics, 4. The Petra Papyri

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