Jordan John the Baptist Caravaggio Jesus

Jordan John the Baptist Caravaggio Jesus

Jordan John the Baptist Caravaggio Jesus: Passing through The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the visitor is treated to a number of outstanding sites: Petra, Wadi Rumm, Amman, Mount Nebo, Aqaba and …

… the site of John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus Christ at Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

The ‘power of the place’ quietens the mind of even those of an agnostic, sceptical frame of mind.

Piero Della Francesca 'The Baptism of Christ'
Piero Della Francesca ‘The Baptism of Christ’

To give my snapshot more contextual poignancy I’ve added Piero Della Francesca’s ‘Baptism of Christ’ c1448-50, now in London’s National Gallery. I believe this gives both the painting and the site itself a far greater visceral meaning (and Caravaggio’s ‘John the Baptist to my photo of the wilderness).

Caravaggio's 'John the Baptist'
Caravaggio’s ‘John the Baptist’

In Francesca’s time as in Biblical times, the River Jordan would have been free flowing and John the Baptist’s wilderness habitat would have been marshy and fecund. Now all is dried up and the River Jordan little more than a ditch. Apparently, the Dead Sea is dropping by 1 meter a year. Israel and America have offered to build a pipeline from the Mediterranean to top the water up but would maintain its control. Jordan has said ‘thank you but no’.

Also, there is some controversy about diverting a nearby stream to fill the river; the Vatican says ‘no’ as the water would then not be ‘River Jordan water’. So, we are left with a fly blown hole in the ground, complete intransigence and therefore a necessary challenge to anybody’s imagination.

Yet more politics surrounds the site. The West Bank is a few feet away and heavily armed soldiers patrol with some fierceness. The Israeli flag flutters within touching distance of the Jordanian flag. Within a few yards the intractable complexity of this region is really brought home. As was in Biblical times, as is now and as probably will be the future.

Nevertheless, historically speaking, and for those of a religious inclination, this archaeological gem and holy site speaks loudly that ‘there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Perhaps it is all a little beyond our understanding and comprehension and that is ‘the power of the place’.

Jordan John the Baptist Caravaggio Jesus