Churches and mosques light up Jordan's skyline

  • A Coptic Orthodox church against the backdrop of Modern Amman. Christian churches are visible throughout the city.
  • One of many mosques, some very large, in Amman, Jordan. Minaret and dome are a dominant urban motif.
  • A mosque atop one working class quarter of Amman...
  • Two Christian churches atop a hill in a working class quarter of Amman.
  • In a Greek Melkite Catholic's car, Amman, Jordan.
  • Just as one might commonly find rosaries dangling from mirrors in some Catholic countries, Muslim prayer beads are common here, a common way that faith is shown through material things.
  • Goods for sale in a tourist shop near the Roman ruins in Amman, Jordan.
  • A mosaic Mary for at a tourist shop in Amman, Jordan.
  • In rug shops in Amman, both Christian images and Muslim designs can be found on rugs.
  • Altar and sanctuary behind the iconostasis at St. George Cathedral, Amman, Jordan.
  • Icon of the Virgin and Child from the iconostasis at St. George Cathedral, Amman, Jordan.
  • Icon of the church's patron saint from the iconostasis at St. George Cathedral, Amman, Jordan.
  • Stained glass is not a traditional feature of the Byzantine style, but this one of St. George is far above the front entrance of St. George Cathedral, Amman.

Islam opposes the representation of the divine in religious art, so a good deal of the visual culture in Jordan is represented through architecture and design, rather than images. Christian Jordanians, however, do display religious images in public, and are not prevented from doing so. Many women do so discreetly by wearing a gold or silver cross, but other kinds of religious images are commonly for sale in shops that sell to both Christians and Muslims. In general, Jordanian norms emphasize modesty, not flashiness or bright colors (though there are brightly lit exceptions on the skyline of Amman).

Churches, both Orthodox and Catholic, have a relatively prominent place on the skyline of Amman. There are at least two ancient religious sites—a mosque and a church—in downtown Amman, but in almost every other instance, churches and mosques are modern buildings that update the ancient mosque and church forms of the region. Christian buildings are either domed or 1960s modern. Despite migration from the region, churches continue to be built and remodeled. The Melkite Cathedral was built in 2005.

Perhaps in deference to the Muslim culture of Jordan, most churches tend to reserve their iconography and images for the interior, though this style is in keeping with many other churches in the Byzantine world. Churches and mosques alike tend to be built of tan-pink stone commonly referred to as Jerusalem limestone. Christian images tend to be either Byzantine in style, in terms of mosaics, or to reflect indigenous culture through the choice of woods and through carpets and mosaics as media.

Icons play a major role in the visual culture and spiritual life of Melkite Catholics here.