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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

Greek inscription labelling a collective martyr shrine dedicated to *George (presumably the soldier and martyr, S00259), *Konon (one of the several homonymous martyrs of Anatolia, probably that of Isauria, S00430)), *Christophoros (presumably the martyr of Pamphylia, S00616), and, probably, *Kyrikos/Cyricus and Ioulitta/Julitta (child and mother, martyrs of Tarsus, S00007). Found at Yanıkhan near ancient Elaioussa-Sebaste (Cilicia, south-east Asia Minor). 5th-6th c., possibly 470-484.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)

μαρτύριον Γεωργίου, + Κόνωνος, Χριστοφόρου,
Κηρύκ<ου>, <Ἰου>λίττας. τοῦ κυρίου κόμ(ητο)ς (?) Ματρωνιανοῦ, Κ(ύρι)ε, βοήθησον.

2. κηρύκων λιττὰς Hellenkemper & Hild Hill, Gough, Κηρύκ<ου> <Ἰου>λίττας Feissel, Κηρύκ(ου) Ἰουλίττας Hagel & Tomaschitz
in apparatus || κυρίου after Gough's reading in 1959, κ[υρίο]υ preserved in 1976 || κ(όμητο)ς Hill, ΚΟ Μc Gough's copy, Κομ(ιτᾶ) Hellenkemper & Hild Hagel & Tomaschitz in apparatus

'The martyr shrine (
martyrion) of George, + Κonon, Christophoros, Kyirik<os>, <Iou>litta. Lord, help the lord Matronianos, the count (comes)!'

Text: Hagel & Tomaschitz 1998, no. Yan 1.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)
Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Non Liturgical Activity

Construction of cult buildings


Collections of multiple relics

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



A lintel block: H. 0.56 m; W. 2.78 m; Th. 0.56 m.; letter height c. 0.067 m. First seen and copied in September of 1959 by Michael Gough, at the main west entrance of the South Basilica near modern Yanıkhan (c.12 km from ancient Elaioussa-Sebaste). The stone was probably complete. When Stephen Hill revisited the site in 1976, the lintel lay on the ground and was broken into two parts. The right-hand one was easily legible. The other had fallen with the inscribed face down to the ground, but was slightly raised by rubble, and the letter forms could be felt by hand. At the point of fracture four letters were missing. Before Hill saw it for a second time in 1979 (together with James Crow), it had been inserted, face down, into a wall. Recently revisited and discussed in detail by Philipp Pilhofer (2018, 240-243 with a photograph).


The inscription marked a martyr shrine, where relics of at least three martyrs: George, Konon, and Christopher, were kept. Line 2 begins with scarcely legible words, originally read by Gough and Hill as κηρύκων λιττάς. Though the word λιττάς is otherwise unparalleled, they interpreted it as an alternative spelling of λισσά = πέτρα, stone, here used as a designation of a tomb or inscription, and understood the whole text in the following way: 'The martyrion of George, + Konon, Christopher, the heralds (of God). The inscription (Or: The tomb) of the lord com(e)s Matronianos. Lord, help!'. However, Denis Feissel (see CEByz, 517) plausibly suggests that the first two words in line 2 are probably names of two more holy figures: Kyrikos and Ioulitta and, therefore, must be corrected to Κηρύκ<ου>, <Ἰου>λίττας.

The identity of the martyrs, to whom the shrine was dedicated, is not clearly specified. Hill argued that they were all local, otherwise unattested, martyrs of Cilicia and supposed that their relics were deposited in a square domical chamber at the east end of the South Basilica, where an
arcosolium tomb was found (presumed to be a burial ad sanctos). But Hill's only argument was that these names were quite popular in the region in Late Antiquity. On the other hand, all these names can be associated with saints famous in the period: George, the soldier and very successful martyr; Konon of either Isauria, Iconium or Magydos (in this case, given the location of Elaioussa/Sebaste, probably Isauria); Christophoros, martyr of Samos (Lycia) or Antioch (Syria); and finally Kyrikos, child martyr of Tarsus, and his mother Ioulitta. Such an accumulation may not be a mere coincidence: probably we are dealing with a collection of their relics (be they corporeal or contact ones), kept in the martyr shrine. For a martyr shrine with a similar collection of relics, see: E01689.

The identity of the
comes Matronianos is the only clue to date the inscription. Stephen Hill supposed that he was the dux and praeses of Isauria (PLRE 1, Matronianus 2) mentioned in the Theodosian Code (IX 27,3) in c. 382 and in an undated inscription from Anemurion, commemorating the completion of a sea-wall (see SEG 48, 1752). Therefore, Hill concluded that the construction or restoration of the martyr shrine was not an act of personal devotion of Matronianos, but rather one of his public duties, as late antique governors funded restorations of, for example, city walls, churches, etc. Denis Feissel challenged this identification, stating that a governor of Isauria would have been very unlikely to act in Cilicia, which in Late Antiquity constituted a separate administrative district; and in 1986 Hansgerd Hellenkemper and Friedrich Hild questioned even the identification of Matronianos as comes/κόμης. They argued that the abbreviated word ΚΟΜS stood for the second name of the founder, Κομιτᾶς. This interpretation is, however implausible. The most detailed attempt to date the inscription was offered by Ralf Scharf. He tried to reconstruct the history of the family of the governor of Isauria and identified our Matronianos with one of his descendants, active in c. 470-484.

The inscription is especially important as it is so far the only certain attestation of a martyr shrine (
martyrion) in Cilicia (see: Edwards 1982, p. 29). It may be also the only late antique Anatolian inscription, mentioning Ioulitta, mother of Kyrikos, as her child was normally venerated alone. To the best of our knowledge, Ioulitta appears again only in a middle Byzantine inscription from Smyrna, see: Orlandos 1937, 147.


Hagel, St., Tomaschitz, K., (eds.), Repertorium der westkilikischen Inschriften (Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse 265, Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris 22, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1998), no. Yan 1.

Hellenkemper, H., Hild, F.,
Neue Forshungen in Kilikien (Österreiche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse 186, Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für die Tabula Imperii Byzantini 4, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1986), 82.

Hill, St., "Matronianus, comes Isauriae: an inscription from an Early Byzantine basilica at Yanıkhan, Rough Cilicia",
Anatolian Studies 35 (1985), 93-97 (from both his own and Gough's copy, and his personal examination of the stone).

Further reading:
Destephen, S., "Martyrs locaux et cultes civiques en Asie Mineure", in: J.C. Caillet, S. Destephen, B. Dumézil, H. Inglebert, Des dieux civiques aux saints patrons (IVe-VIIe siècle) (Paris: éditions A. & J. Picard, 2015), 73, 108.

Edwards, R.W., "Two new Byzantine churches in Cilicia",
Anatolian Studies 32 (1982), 29.

Mietke, G., "Monumentalisierung christilcher Heiliger in Kilikien in frühbyzantinischer Zeit",
Olba 17 (2009), 123.
Hill, St.,
The Early Byzantine Churches of Cilicia and Isauria (Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman monographs 1, Aldershot : Variorum, 1996), 257.

Pilhofer, Ph.,
Das frühe Christentum im kilikisch-isaurischen Bergland (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 184, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2018), 240-243.

Scharf, R., "Die Matroniani – Comites Isauriae",
Epigraphica Anatolica 16 (1990), 147-152.

For another (middle Byzantine) inscription mentioning *Julitta, see:
Orlandos, A.K., "Χριστιανικὰ γλυπτὰ τοῦ Μουσείου Σμύρνης", Ἀρχεῖον τῶν βυζαντινῶν μνημείων τῆς Ἑλλάδος 3 (1937), 147.

For Matronianos, governor of Isauria, see:
The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 1, Matronianus 2.

Theodosian Code IX 27,3.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum
48, 1752.

Reference works:
Bulletin épigraphique (1989), 958; (1987), 493.

Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine
, 517 (improved interpretation).

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 40, 1313; 35, 1451.

Record Created By

Pawel Nowakowski

Date of Entry


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00007Kyrikos/Cyricus and Ioulitta/Julitta, child and his mother, martyrs of TarsusΚήρυκ<ος>Uncertain
S00177Konon, gardener and martyr of Magydos of PamphyliaΚόνωνUncertain
S00259George, soldier and martyr, and CompanionsΓεωργίοςUncertain
S00429Konon, martyr of Iconium ΚόνωνUncertain
S00430Konon, martyr of Isauria ΚόνωνUncertain
S00616Christophoros, martyr of PamphyliaΧριστοφόροςUncertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Pawel Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01076 -