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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 with a request for the intercession of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) as the God-Bearer, and of a saint whose name is lost. Found near Eleutherna, central-west Crete. Probably 5th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

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

διά̣σ[ωσο]ν, [Χ(ριστ)έ, διὰ τῆς (?)]
ἁγ(ίας) Θε
καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου [- - -]
γῆν τῶν ἁ[γίων τοῦ (?)]
̣ὴλ [καὶ (?)]
̣ὲ [ἀπ' αὐτῶν (?)]
[πᾶν κακόν (?)]

1-2. Χριστὲ πρεσβείαις τῆς Παν]|αγ(ίας) Θεοτόκ[ου Halbherr, ἁγίας or παναγίας Guarducci || 7. ασ[- - -] Guarducci

'Preserve, [O Christ, through the] holy God-Bearer and saint [- - -] the land of the holy [ones of] Israel, [and] turn away [from them every evil]!'

Text and translation: Bandy 1971, no. 85, lightly modified.

Non Liturgical Activity

Saint as patron - of a community


Fragment of a limestone plaque. Broken and lost on the right-hand side and bottom. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.25 m; W. 0.21 m; Th. 0.047 m; letter height 0.02-0.03 m.

Found in the collection in Rhethymnon and copied by Federico Halbherr before 1896. Said to have been brought from Prines Mylopotamou (near Eleutherna, central-west Crete). Revisited and reexamined by Margherita Guarducci before 1939. Now in the Archaeological Museum in Rhethymnon.


Federico Halbherr, the first editor of the inscription, interpreted it as an invocation of Mary as the God-Bearer, possibly asked to intercede on behalf of a deceased person. He supposed that the word 'Israel' in line 5, here spellt 'Isdrael', came from a Biblical expression, for example ὁ θεὸς τῶν φυλῶν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ / 'God of the twelve tribes of Israel', which occurs in an inscription from Ikonion in Lycaonia, central Asia Minor (Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 9270). Alternatively, he added, the prayer could be a request to receive the presumed buried person into the lap of Israel.

Having examined the stone, Margherita Guarducci noted that the reconstruction offered by Halbherr, which we reprint in the apparatus, left no place for the name of the deceased person. The name should be placed in the first line, immediately after the imperative διάσωσον/'preserve'. She also suggested that the saint, whose name was lost in line 3, could have been the patron saint of the deceased.

The recent reconstruction by Anastasios Bandy is based on the supposition that the inscription is not an epitaph, but a request for the protection of a land or the whole Christian world/
oikoumene ('the Land of the holy ones of Israel', understood as the universal Christian community) through the intercessions of Mary and a saint, whose name is lost (line 3). Bandy also supposes that such was the purpose of this text, because the word ἀπόστρεψον/'turn away' (every evil) is unlikely to be used with reference to a deceased person. According to Bandy, one could speculate that the name of the saint in line 3 was Menas, as the lacuna is very short, and the saint enjoyed extraordinary popularity in Egypt, and widely in a slightly later period.

Dating: Guarducci and Bandy date the inscription to the 5th c., based on the form of letters.


Bandy, A.C., (ed.), The Greek Christian Inscriptions of Crete (Athens: Christian Archaeological Society, 1971), no. 85.

Guarducci, M.,
Inscriptiones Creticae, vol. 2: Tituli Cretae occidentalis (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1939), no. 41.

Gerola, G.,
Monumenti veneti nell'isola di Creta, vol. 4 (Venice 1932), 408, no. 3.

Petroulakes, E.N., "", Αρχαιολογική Εφημερίς 1914, 227, no. 7.

Halbherr, F., "Cretan Expedition. II. Christian Inscriptions",
The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts 11 (1896), 607-608, no. 4.

Further reading:
"", Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et liturgie, vol. 3/2 (Paris: Librarie Letouzey et Ané, ____), vol. 3, part 2, col. 3031, no. 4.

Halkin, F., "L'Egypte, Chypre, la Crète et les autres îles grecques. La Grèce continentale et les pays balkaniques. L'Italie et la Sycylie", Analecta Bollandiana 70 (1952), 120.

Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:]
Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 375.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΘεοτόκοςCertain
S00073Menas, soldier and martyr buried at Abu MenaUncertain
S01744Saints, name lost or very partially preservedCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01379 -