Borrowed Finery

Part of the Petra exhibition.

Petra exhibition
© AMNH Photo Studio

Petra's new churches were magnificent structures, large and richly decorated with costly imported stone from Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere. Builders often recycled parts of older Roman and Nabataean monuments to get the distinctively colored marbles and granites that create this splendor.

The city's Christians also reused entire buildings. The Nabataean sanctuary Ed-Deir, or "the Monastery," as Arabs later called it, bears painted crosses on its back wall, suggesting use as a church. And Christians remodeled the vast "Urn Tomb" of Nabataean times into a cathedral of sorts, adding Byzantine architectural features and consecrating the space for Christian worship in AD 446. On one wall worshippers wrote, "In the time of the most holy bishop Jason this place was Christ the Savior."