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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Greek graffito with an invocation of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found in the temple of Bel at Palmyra (east Syria/northeast Phoenicia Libanensis). Probably 6th-7th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti

Images and objects - Narrative scenes

Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics

[Χ]ερε, κεχαρητωμένη ἁγήα Θεωτώκε.
Λάζαρος Θ(ε)οῦ δοῦλος ἐποίει.

'Hail, full of grace, holy God-Bearer (
Theotokos)! Lazaros, servant of God, did (this).'

IGLS 17/1, no. 47.

Use of Images

Public display of an image

Non Liturgical Activity

Appropriation of older cult sites

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Merchants and artisans


Graffito incised (possibly with the use of a hammer) on the east wall in the cella of the temple of Bel. Dimensions of the inscribed field: H. 0.16 m; W. 1.12 m. Letter height c. 0.09 m.

First published with a transcription and a facsimile by Jean Cantineau in 1933, later revisited by a number of scholars (see Bibliography).


To the best of our knowledge this is the only published inscription, from the large number of inscriptions known from the city of Palmyra, that mentions a saint (for a reference to 'holy angles', which are, however, entities beyond the scope of our project, see: IGLS 17/1, no. 502). The same wall, until its recent destruction, bore faint traces of a painting, probably showing a saint and a fragmentary inscription in red paint: [- - -] βοήθει [- - -]/'[- - -] help [- - -]' (IGLS 17/1, no. 48). It is very possible that the temple was converted to a church, possibly dedicated to Mary.

Line 1 of our text is actually a quotation of the greeting of Gabriel the Archangel, as reported in the
Gospel of Luke (1,28). Line 2 contains the name of the author of this inscription, Lazaros. He is introduced as the maker of an unspecified object: possibly the inscription itself, the painting on the wall of the cella, or indeed something else.

Dating: This kind of invocation with the 'servant-of-a saint' formula is usually dated to the 6th or 7th c.


Yon, J.-B., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 17/1: Palmyre (BAH 195, Beyrouth: Presses de l'IFPO, 2012), no. 47.

Westphalen, S., "Die byzantinische Malereien im Beltempel und der Kirchenbau Palmyras: ein Resümée" in: Strube, Chr., Eichner, I., Tsamakda, V. (eds.), Syrien und seine Nachbarn von der Spätantike bis in die islamische Zeit (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2009), 157, note 21 and Tafel 43, fig. 3.

Yon, J.-B., As'ad, K., Inscriptions de Palmyre: promenades épigraphiques dans la ville antique de Palmyre (Guides archéologiques de l'Institut français d'archéologie du Proche-Orient 3, Beyrouth: Direction générale des antiquités et des musées de la République arabe syrienne, Institut français d'archéologie du Proche-Orient [Paris], 2001), no. 29.

Kowalski, S.P., "Late Roman Palmyra in literature and epigraphy",
Studia Palmyreńskie 10 (1997), 57, no. 14.

Cantineau, J., Inventaire des inscriptions de Palmyre, vol. 9 (Publications du Musée national de Damas 1, 1933), 49, no. 38.

Reference works:
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 47, 1958.


Drawing. From: IGLS 17/1, 55.

Photograph. From: IGLS 17/1, 55.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of Christἁγήα ΘεωτώκοςCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01955 -