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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Greek dedicatory inscriptions to *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023), and busts of: *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and the Apostles *Peter (S00036), and *Paul (S00008), engraved on the paten and a chalice from the silver treasure of the Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio). Provenance: a village of 'Beth Misôna' in Syria. Probably 6th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects

Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, etc.)

Images and objects - Representative images

Inscription on the paten:

+ εὐξάμενος Δόμνος υἱὸς Ζαχέου προσήνενκεν τῷ ἁγίῳ Σεργίῳ χω(ρίου) Βεθ Μισωνα

1. χω(ρίου) Βεθ Μισωνα Mundell Mango, χω(ρίῳ) Β[ε]νμισωνᾳ Downey

'+ Having made a vow Domnos, son of Zacheos, offered it to Saint Sergios of the village of Beth Misona.'

Text: Bréhier 1951, 259 with completions in Downey 1953.

Inscription on Chalice A:

+ Πρ(εσβύτερο)ς Κυριακὸς υἱὸς Δόμνου τῷ ἁγίῳ Σεργίῳ ἐπὶ Ζήνωνος πρεσβυτέρου

'+ The presbyter Kyriakos, son of Domnos, (offered it) to Saint Sergios, under the presbyter Zenon.'

Text: Mundell Mango 1986, 228, no. 57.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Use of Images

Other forms of veneration of an image

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Visiting graves and shrines

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels
Precious material objects


The silver treasure of the Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio) was acquired in 1950 from the Mallon family. It consists of three liturgical chalices (H. 0.24 m; diameter 0.14 m; weight 305-332 g) and a paten (diameter 0.325 m; weight 542 g), all of Syriac origin.

The chalices are decorated with four busts of holy figures, within medallions: Jesus, shown with a nimbus and long hair, blessing with one hand and holding a book in the other; a female figure with a nimbus, dressed in royal garments, probably Mary or the personification of the Church; Peter the Apostle, bearded, with nimbus and a cross-like sceptre; and Paul the Apostle, bearded, with nimbus.

The paten and Chalice A are inscribed with dedicatory formulas.

The objects were first examined by Louis Bréhier in 1951, with the aid of Paul Lemerle. Further remarks were published by Glanville Downey in 1953. Republished by Marila Mundell Mango in 1986.


The two inscribed items were probably offered to a church dedicated to Sergios by a father and son, perhaps pilgrims. It is not clear, whether other objects were also offered by the two, and whether the offerings were made at the same time. Though the decorations on the chalices follow the same iconographical programme, the details of the depictions of the holy figures slightly differ, which might suggest that they were manufactured on different occasions.

The first editor, Louis Bréhier, did not properly identify the original place of deposition of the vessels. He supposed that they were an offering to the famous sanctuary of Sergios in Rusafa (northeast Syria/Euphratesia) before it became a bishopric in c. 434 (as no bishops are mentioned in the inscriptions). However, Glanville Downey reasonably pointed out that there were also many local churches dedicated to Sergios in the Near East, and that the name of a village is almost certainly mentioned at the end of the inscription on the paten, which Bréhier was unable to understand. The toponym reads χω(ρίον) Β[ε]νμισωνα / 'the village of Ben Misona or Beth Misôna', which might be a place, attested by 13th Latin documents in the territory of Sidon. Maria Mundell Mango identifies the village as Mşībīn, between Beroia/Aleppo and Seleukeia/Seleucia ad Bellum (north Syria).

Dating: based on the style of garments of the depicted figures and the form of letters, Bréhier implausibly dated the objects to the 4th c. Glanville Downey notes that the form of letters, and the religious context (a dedication to Sergios), point rather to the 6th-7th c.


Mundell Mango, M., Silver from early Byzantium. The Kaper Koraon and Related Treasures (Baltimore: Walters Art Gallery, 1986), 228-231, nos. 57-60.

Bréhier, L., “Un trésor d'argenterie ancienne au Musée de Cleveland”,
Syria 28 (1951), 256-264.

Further reading:
Downey, G., “The dating of the Syrian liturgical silver treasure in the Cleveland Museum”,
The Art Bulletin 35 (1953), 143-145.

Kalinowski, A.,
Frühchristliche Reliquiare im Kontext von Kultstrategien, Heilserwartung und sozialer Selbstdarstellu (Spätantike – Frühes Christentum Byzanz 32, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2011), 122.

Mundell Mango, M., "Beth Misona Treasure", [in:] A.P. Kazhdan (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. 1 (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1991).

Reference works:
Bulletin épigraphique (1954), 241.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 15, 852; 37, 1408.







Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00008Paul, the ApostleCertain
S00023Sergios, soldier and martyr of RusafaΣέργιοςCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristCertain
S00036Peter, the ApostleCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01685 -