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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Fragmentary Greek inscription mentioning the intercession of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), as the God-Bearer. Found at Argala near Mytilene (island of Lesbos; Aegean Islands). Probably late antique.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

[ὑπὲρ εὐχῆς (?) Δή]μητρας παρθένου, Χ(ριστ)ὲ, δ[ιὰ τῆ]ς πρεσβίας τῆς Θεοτό[κου - - -]

1. [- - - Δή]μητρας παρθένου Kiourtzian, [- - -] μήτρας Παρθένου Evangelides

'[As a vow] of the virgin Demetra, Christ, through the intercessions of the God-Bearer (
Theotokos) [- - -]'

Text: Kiourtzian 1998, 376, lightly altered.

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Fragment of a marble cornice. L. 1.04 m. Found in the ruins of the church beneath the modern chapel of Saint Euprepeia at Argala. First published by Demetrios Evangelides in 1930.

The ruined basilica is a three-aisled structure (W. 17 m; L. 16.80 m) with a narthex (ending with an apse at its south end), a baptistery, and possibly a guesthouse. Next to the southwest corner of the church there is a small building, tentatively identified as a martyr shrine or a mausoleum. The basilica is presumed to have been constructed in the 5th c.


The first editor supposed that the inscription commemorated a dedication, or the fulfillment of a vow, through the intercessions of Mary, here addressed as the God-Bearer. Georges Kiourtzian adds that the name of the dedicant might have been mentioned at the beginning of the preserved fragment and he reconstructs it as Demetra. He also notes that the word παρθένος/'virgin', which occurs after the presumed name of the dedicant, does not refer to Mary (as suggested by Evanglides), but to Demetra herself, who might have been a consecrated virgin.

Dating: Inscriptions addressing Mary as the God-Bearer are unlikely to occur before the council of Ephesus 431, which greatly contributed to the development of her cult and the spread of this epithet.


Evangelides, D., “Πρωτοβυζαντινὴ βασιλικὴ Μυτιλήνης”, Arachaiologikon Deltion 13 (1930-1931), 17.

Further reading:
Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 376.


Inscription; from: Evangelides 1930-1931, 17.

Plan of the church; from: Evangelides 1930-1931, 5.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01724 -