Close to the village of Faysaliyah seven km west of Madaba, Mount Nebo rises from the Trans-Jordanian plateau. It is bound on the east by the Wadi Afrit (which extends into the Wadi el-Kanisah) and the Wadi Judeideh further south and on the north by the Wadi Judeideh further south and on the north by the Wadi en-Naml and further the Wadi Ayoun Mousa. It is flanked on the west by the Jordan Valley. Nebo provides a unique natural balcony for a bird’s eye view of the Holy Land and southern Jordan. If the observer looks to the south, the panorama extends over the Dead Sea and the Desert of Judah. Looking to the west, it includes the Valley of the Jordan with the mountains of Judea and Samaria, and more to the north Jebel Osha and the southern slopes of the Wadi Zerqa.
According to the final chapter of Deuteronomy, Mount Nebo is where the Hebrew prophet Moses was given a view of the promised land that God was giving to the Jews. “And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho.” (Deuteronomy 34:1). According to Jewish and Christian tradition, Moses was buried on this mountain by God himself, and his final resting place is unknown. Scholars continue to dispute whether the mountain currently known as Nebo is the same as the mountain referred to in the Torah.
On the highest point of the mountain, Syagha, the remains of a church and monastery were discovered in 1933. The church was first constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses’ death. The church design follows a typical basilica pattern. It was enlarged in the late fifth century A.D. and rebuilt in A.D. 597. The church is first mentioned in an account of a pilgrimage made by a lady Aetheria in A.D. 394. Six tombs have been found hollowed from the natural rock beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church. In the modern chapel presbytery, built to protect the site and provide worship space, you can see remnants of mosaic floors from different periods. The earliest of these is a panel with a braided cross presently placed on the east end of the south wall.
The serpentine cross sculpture (the Brazen Serpent Monument) atop Mount Nebo was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified (John 3:14).
On March 19, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the site during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Mount Nebo being one of the most important Christian sites in Jordan). During his visit he planted an olive tree beside the Byzantine chapel as a symbol of peace.