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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Copper disc with a depiction of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) and *Gabriel (the Archangel, S00192) in the Annunciation scene. Probably from Constantina/Tella (north Mesopotamia/Osroene). Probably 6th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects

Images and objects - Lamps, ampullae and tokens

Images and objects - Narrative scenes

Copper disc/medallion, resembling the bottom of a cup. Diameter: c. 0.14 m; Th. c. 0.01-0.015 m. Broken and lost on the lower, left-hand quarter.

The disc is now in a private collection in Munich. It probably comes from Constantina/Tella (modern Viranşehir) in north Mesopotamia.

The inner part of the disc shows the scene of the Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel is approaching Mary from the left. He is wearing a
chlamys and stretching his right arm towards the Virgin. In his left hand he is holding a staff (a spear?). Mary is facing the viewer of the object. She is wearing a maphorion, holding a spindle, and taking (purple) wool out of a basket lying next to her feet. The scene renders the story of the Annunciation, as described in the Protoevangelium of James (11,1-2). It is said there that Mary was chosen from among eight women, descendants of David, to make a new purple curtain for the Temple.

The inscription runs in a band, around the edges of the object. It reads:

+ εὐλογία τῆς ἁγ(ίας) Μαρίας δια[- - -]

The inscription is fragmentary and so far two possible completions have been suggested. Brigitte Pitarakis read the label of the objet as: + εὐλογία τῆς ἁγ(ίας) Μαρίας δια[κονία τῆς Κω]νσταντίνης (corrected to διακονίας by Christian Schmidt), which means '+ Blessing of the Holy Mary from the
diakonia in Constantina'. In her opinion diakonia means here a charitable institution, run by a monastery. Pitarakis points out that some of such institutions, located near Constantina/Tella, owned copper mines and several copper liturgical vessels, found in that area, were identified as their products. The other possible reconstruction, paralleled by an inscription from a terracotta medallion that served as a souvenir of a pilgrimage/eulogia (see: $EXXXX), is: + εὐλογία τῆς ἁγ(ίας) Μαρίας δια[μονῆς τῆς Κο]νσταντίνης, i.e.: '+ Blessing of the Holy Mary from her dwelling in Constantina'. It is probable that our disc was, likewise, a souvenir that was acquired by a pilgrim, visiting a sanctuary of Mary or that it was used as a patera for serving blessed bread, distributed at the end of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Dating: Schmidt notes that the Annunciation scene with standing Mary, and Gabriel approaching her from the left, is characteristic of the 6th c.

Cult Places

Cult building - monastic
Cult building - secondary installation (fountain, pilgrims’ hostel)

Places Named after Saint

Hospital and other charitable institutions

Use of Images

Public display of an image
Private ownership of an image


Ampullae, eulogiai, tokens

Cult Related Objects

Ampullae, flasks, etc.
Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels


Stiegemann, Ch.,
Byzanz, das Licht aus dem Osten: Kult und Alltag im Byzantinischen Reich vom 4. bis 15. Jahrhundert: Katalog der Ausstellung im Erzbischöflichen Diözesanmuseum Paderborn, Paderborn 2001 (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 2001), 142-144, no. I 45 (descr. Ch. Schmidt).

Israeli Y., Mevorah, D. (eds.),
Cradle of Christianity (Exhibition in Jerusalem 2000, Jerusalem: 2000), 148, 223.

Wamser, L., Zahlhaas, G. (eds.),
Rom und Byzanz. Archäologische Kostbarkeiten aus Bayern (Ausstellung München, Prähistorische Staatssammlung München, 1998/1999; Munich: 1998), 28-30, no. 18 (descr. Ch. Schmidt).

Vassiliaki, M. (ed.),
The Mother of God, Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art (Exhibition in Athens 2000, Mailand: 2000), no. 5 (descr. B. Pitarakis).

Reference works:
Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 1092.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 55, 1933.


From: Stiegemann 2001, no. I 45.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain
S00192Gabriel, the ArchangelCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01430 -