The feast of the Epiphany is a Catholic celebration held on the 6th of January, or 12 days after Christmas Day. The 12th night of Christmas is said to be the moment that the Wise Men visited baby Jesus with gifts. It also commemorates his baptism.
The site where Jesus is believed to have been baptised by John the Baptist marks the foundations of one of the world’s holiest Catholic sites. The bible pinpoints ‘Bethany Beyond the Jordan’ (John 1:28) as the location where Jesus came to John, ‘to be baptised of him’ (Matthew 3:13).
Situated on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, some five miles north of the Dead Sea, the humble site marks a landmark moment in the birth of Catholicism. The baptism site was only rediscovered after the Israel-Jordan peace treaty and when mine-clearing operations exposed the ancient riverbed.
Sandstone walls dating back to the first century AD still bear rudimentary crosses etched by early pilgrims who stopped here on their route from Jerusalem to Mount Nebo. Over the centuries, many medieval saints, monks and popes continued to affirm this as the site of the baptism.
In 2015, supported by the extensive work of contemporary archaeologists, scholars, and church leaders, Al Maghtas (‘the place of baptism’) was inscribed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
During the Feast of Epiphany, thousands of Catholic pilgrims gather at the site to attend Mass and submerge themselves in the holy water.