The Baptism Site “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) is located in the Jordan Valley, north of the Dead Sea. The site contains two distinct archaeological areas, tell el-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar Elias, and the area of the Churches of St. John the Baptist. “Bethany beyond the Jordan” is of immense religious significance to the majority of denominations of Christian faith, who have accepted this site as the location where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist
The Jordan River holds a special place in Christian tradition, for it is here that Christ was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist, as recalled in Matthew 3:13-17, after which Christ fasted in the Judean Desert for 40 Days. In many ways, this moment marked the beginning of the ministry, and is so commemorated on the Feast of Epiphany in the Catholic and Protestant traditions, and as Theophany in the Orthodox Christian tradition; with both feasts being held in January. The specific location of this baptism along the Jordan River has been known in local tradition since at least the early Byzantine era, and has been referred to by its Arabic name, Qasr al-Yahud.
Visitors to the site today can be baptized in the river Jordan with prior arrangement. UNESCO has declared Bethany Beyond the Jordan a World Heritage site, identifying present-day Jordan as the location where Jesus’ baptism is believed to have taken place. The Vatican and Orthodox Christian patriarchs have given their blessings to the site as the spot where the defining moment of Christianity began.