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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 commemorating the construction of a church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and a relief carving of Mary with her Child from a pillar of the chancel screen. Found in Church B at Ḥawa near Apamea on the Orontes. Probably 5th-7th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

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

Images and objects - Sculpture/reliefs

Images and objects - Representative images

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements


[ἐτ]έθι τὼ θεμέλιων τοῦ [εὐκτηρίου (?)]
τῆς ἁγίας Μαρί[ας τῆς Θεο]-
[τό]κου      ἔτους [...ʹ]
[ἰν]δ(ικτιῶνος) θʹ. κτίσ[μα]

1. του Ι Lassus' copy

'The foundations of the [oratory (?)] of the Holy Mary, [the God-Bearer (
Theotokos)], were laid in the year [- - -], 9th indiction. The foundation of Symeon.'

IGLS 4, no. 1773.


One of the pillars from the chancel screen, found to the east of the church, bears a notable depiction of the enthroned Mary, holding her Child. Dimensions of the pillar: H. 1.21 m; W. 0.39 m; Th. 0.31 m. See the section 'Images'.

For a similar object, possibly a pillar from a chancel screen, see: E01785.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Use of Images

Public display of an image

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Construction of cult buildings
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Inscription: Stone lintel from the central doorway in the west facade of 'Church B' at Ḥawa. Broken and lost at both ends. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.39 m; W. 1.38 m. Letter height 0.05 m.

Carved figure: The figure has been cut back, presumably in a period of iconoclasm, but is almost certainly that of the Virgin with Child on her lap, seated on a large and elaborate throne.

Church B measures c. 24.50 x 15.50 m. It was surveyed by Jean Lassus in the 1930s.

First published by Jean Lassus in 1935/1936. Republished by René Mouterde, based on Lassus' edition in 1955.


The inscription commemorates the laying of foundations of our church and names it as dedicated to Mary. The designation of the shrine was apparently present at the lost right-hand end of line 1. As it was preceded by the article τοῦ the editors plausibly restore the word as εὔκτηριον/'oratory', but one must keep in mind that actually any other masculine or neuter name of a shrine is also possible, for example μαρτύριον (for a μαρτύριον/'memorial shrine' dedicated to Mary, see: E01627).

Dating: The inscription was originally dated, but, unfortunately, the date is now lost. The indiction year date, preserved in line 4, is not sufficient to date the moment of the foundation. As Mary is here probably named Θεοτόκος/'the God-Bearer', the inscription is likely to postdate the Council of Ephesos 431 which contributed to her veneration under this name. The badly defaced depiction of a saint, almost certainly Mary and Child, from the chancel screen of this church is dated by Lassus to the late 4th/early 5th c. date, but this seems unlikely, if it was carved specifically for the church built by Symeon.


Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, Cl., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 4: Laodicée, Apamène (BAH 61, Paris: Librairie orientalise Paul Geuthner, 1955), no. 1773.

Lassus, J.,
Inventaire archéologique de la région au nord-est de Hama, vol. 1: Text (Documents d'Études Orientales 4, Damascus: Institut français de Damas, [1935-1936?]), 98, no. 55, fig. 108.

For the a description of the relief of Virgin with her Child, see: Lassus, J.,
Inventaire archéologique de la région au nord-est de Hama, vol. 1: Text (Documents d'Études Orientales 4, Damascus: Institut français de Damas, [1935-1936?]), 98-99. For a photograph, see: vol. 2: Planches, plate XVII and XVIII.

Further reading:
Peña, I., Lieux de pèlerinage en Syrie (Milan: Franciscan Printing Press, 2000), 11, 15 (with a drawing of the Virgin from Zebed, erroneously ascribed to Ḥawa).


Photograph of the carving of Mary with her Child. From: Lassus 1935-1936, plate XVIII.

Drawing of the inscription. From: Lassus 1935-1936, 98.

Photograph of the carving of Mary with her Child (the whole pillar). From: Lassus 1935-1936, plate XVII.

Apse and base of the altar of Church B. Photograph from: Lassus 1935-1936, plate XVII.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01876 -