The Sanctuary of Agios Lot
The Sanctuary of Agios Lot, At Deir 'Ain 'Abata is part of the Tentative list of Jordan in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Sanctuary of Agios Lot is a Byzantine monastic complex and pilgrimage site at the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The spot of construction was thought to have been where Biblical Lot sought shelter after Sodom was destroyed. The church of the monastery is depicted on the 6th century Madaba Mosaic Map.
Map of The Sanctuary of Agios LotLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
We visited the Sanctuary of Lot as part of our eleven days tour of Jordan. We had originally planned to stop there on our way to the southern part of the country, but we would have failed to get there before dusk on the fixed day, so we skipped it and took it in on our return back to the north. It is located no more than one km away from the main Dead Sea road, next to the small road entering the village of Safi from the north. It is actually very easy to find it: it is quite surprising to see road signs pointing to this small place and to the “Museum of the Lowest Place on Earth”, as far away as about 100 km from it. The museum is a new white circular building, where we entered to ask for information.
Having been told that the sanctuary was closed (!!!) for restoration, we tried to think how to get in anyway, noticing only then a small unsurfaced road turning left just before the museum and climbing uphill a few hundreds of meters to the sanctuary entrance. Wrongly assuming there would be some locked gate on that road and hoping to pass unnoticed, we climbed up the very steep slope of the hill from another point, away from the museum. We were fortunate enough to arrive at the entrance just in time to stumble upon a big group of English tourists easily reaching it by their bus on the unsurfaced road. The group was allowed in by the watchman and we followed it, pretending to be part of it. When we had to leave a tip to the watchman later on at the end of the visit, it would have become clear that we were illegitimately let it for his own profit and only because it was Friday. We then proved to be very lucky to be there on a public holiday as well.
We arrived to the Byzantine sanctuary itself after having enjoyed the beautiful view on the southern branch of the Dead Sea, the Wadi Araba Valley and the Negev Desert in Israel beyond it. It then became clear why the site was officially closed: a protective shelter is being built over the ruins of the church, together with the already completed staircase from where we had come and another one, on which we deemed still too dangerous to walk, apparently leading further uphill to some hermit cells. Generally, the early Christian sites in Jordan appear to be very well taken care of, as demonstrated also by the complete closure for restoration of the Sanctuary of Moses on Mount Nebo we had seen some days earlier. A layer of sand was concealing the mosaic floor that is supposed to cover the church floor and a great amount of working equipment was scattered all over it. The church is a small building with three naves and apses standing on a high supporting wall. Its peculiarity is given the very unusual fact that a small portal decorated with crosses on the wall of the left apse leads to a tiny natural cave behind it, supposedly the place where Lot and his daughters found shelter after the destruction of Gomorrah. The church is situated in the middle of the ruins of a monastery, featuring an impressively big water reservoir to the south and a refectory, a hostel and a burial chamber to the north. I didn’t expect much from the site and it indeed turned out the be rather small and unimpressive: half hour would be more than enough to visit it. The only unusual fact about it is that it is built around a natural cave but this alone together with the fact that it was an important early Christian pilgrimage site couldn’t be considered enough to deserve it a World Heritage inscription.
Lot's Sanctuary is a stunning, well-restored site with immense religious and historical interest. This combined with an amazing on-site museum certainly deserves a World Heritage status!
2001 Added to Tentative List
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