The Byzantine Church at Amman’s Darat al Funun

Photos courtesy of the Rami Khouri Photographic Collection at ACOR (1993).

Beginning in 1993, while director of ACOR, Dr. Pierre Bikai conducted excavation and restoration work on a sixth-century Byzantine church and cave in the southern gardens of Darat al Funun, located in Amman’s historic Jabal Weibdeh neighborhood. The work was conducted as a CRM project with a grant made to ACOR from the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation (see ACOR Newsletter 5.2: 12-13 & 6.2:14). The site was originally discovered and partially excavated by British explorer Major C.R. Conder in 1881. During the 1990s, further excavation and restoration was conducted, including resetting the church’s column drums and a Corinthian capital, studying mosaic remnants, and recovering ancient artifacts now on display in Darat al Funun’s library (including a Nike relief, an Arab copy of a Byzantine coin, two complete Abbasid lamps, a late Abbasid or early Fatamid steatite lamp, and pottery from various phases of the Islamic era). The project records are archived at ACOR.

The remarkable ruins at Darat al Funun demonstrate constant reuse throughout the millennia by different cultures and religions, who saw something special in the location. Inscriptions found at the site name the Roman god Herakles and the Christian martyr Saint George, and other evidence points to veneration of the Islamic figure Al Khadr.

Since the excavations, ACOR has continued to consult regarding the site, and in 2020 agreed to assist in the preservation and conservation of the mosaics.

Want more details?

See Darat Al Funun’s website and the excavation reports (Bikai, P.M. and M. Sha’er. 1998. Archaeology, in Darat al Funun: Art, Architecture, Archaeology [Amman: Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation]: 89–142; Bikai, P.M., Sha’er, M. and B. Fitzgerald. 1994. The Byzantine Church at Darat al-Funun. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 38: 401–416.).

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