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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions commemorating the completion and paving of a church (naos) dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) in 533, and the restoration of the mosaics in 582. Also the help of the God of Mary and of *All Saints (S01151) is invoked. Found at Riḥāb, between Bostra and Gerasa/Jerash (Jordan/the Roman province of Arabia).

Evidence ID

E02051

Type of Evidence

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

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Inscription 1:

An elongated mosaic panel framed by a
tabula ansata with semicircular ansae. Dimensions not specified. Very dense lettering. Situated in the floor at the entrance to the choir, in front of the chancel screen.

Line 1: + ἐψηφόθη καὶ ἐτελειόθη ὁ ναòς οὗτος τῆς ἁγία<ς> Μαρίας ἐπὶ Μαρτυρίου (καὶ) Ἠλίου (καὶ) Ὀλέφου υἱῶν Ὀλέφου

Line 2: τῶν μακαρ(ίων) ὑπὲρ ἀναπαύσεως αὐτῶν καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν γονέων τοῦ ἔτους υκη΄ μη(νὶ) Πανέμου θ΄ χρό(νων) ια΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος)

Line 3: νῦν δὲ ἀνανεοθέσαντα ψηφία ταῦτα ἐπὶ Ἠλιου Βάσσου τοῦ θεοσεβ(εστάτου) πρεσβ(υτέρου) καὶ παραμ(οναρίου) τοῦ ἔτους υοζ΄ χρ(όνων) α΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος)

'This church (
naos) of the Holy Mary was paved with mosaics and completed under Martyrios, and Elias, and Olephos, sons of Olephos, the blessed ones (i.e. deceased), as a vow for the repose of themselves and their parents. In the year 428, the 9th day of the month of Panemos, in the times of of the 11th indiction. And now these mosaics were refurbished under Elias son of Bassos, the most God-fearing presbyter and watchman (paramonarios), in the year 476, in the times of the 1st indiction.'

Text: Piccirillo 1981, 84. Translation: P.Nowakowski.

The first part of the inscription commemorates the paving and completion of our church as a vow for the repose of the donors and their parents. This event is dated to the 9th day of the month of Panemos of the 428th year of the era of the province of Arabia, i.e. to June AD 533. The second part commemorates a subsequent restoration in the year 476 of the same era. Together with the mentioned 1st indiction year, this date corresponds to AD 582 (49 years after the construction). As there is no significant difference between the first and second part of the mosaic, one can suppose that the whole panel was re-laid in 582.

The inscription says that the construction was funded by three brothers: Martyrios, Elias, and Olephos. They are named 'blessed' (
makarioi), that is 'deceased'. Presumably this epithet was inserted into the text during the restoration when the panel was probably laid anew. The restoration was supervised by the presbyter and sacristan Elias, son of Bassos. Piccirillo notes that a certain Bassos is mentioned also in a mosaic inscription from the local church of *Paul the Apostle (E02053), dated 595, but they are probably two different people.

Inscription 2:

Rectangular framed mosaic panel. Dimensions not specified. Situated between the third and fourth pillar of the south aisle.

Κ(ύρι)ε ἀνάπαυσον Ἰωάννην Ἀζιζέου
+ Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ θ(εò)ς τῆς ἁγ(ίας) Μαρίας καὶ πάν-
των τῶν ἁγίων ἐλέησον παν-
τòς τοῦ κόσμου καὶ βοήθεσον τοὺς +
προσφέροντας κ(αὶ) Ἰωάννην Ἀνα-
ήλου τοῦ εὐλαβ(εστάτου) διακ(όνου) μη(νὶ) Ξανθικοῦ α΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος)

'Lord, grant rest to Ioannes, son of Azizeos! + Lord, God of the Holy Mary and of All the Saints, have mercy upon the whole world and help the donors and Ioannes, son of Anaelos, the most pious deacon. In the month of Xanthikos, 1st indiction.'

Text: Piccirillo 1981, 86. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

The inscription commemorates the restoration of the church (or of a specific part, for example the south aisle, where the panel was located) in the 1st indiction year. Though no era year is given, we can safely suppose that the work was done in 582, which is the year of the restoration mentioned in Inscription 1 above, also dated to the 1st year of the indiction cycle.

Line 1 contains an invocation of God, as the Lord, on behalf of a certain deceased Ioannes, son of Azizeos. The second invocation is addressed to the God of Mary and of All Saints. The latter formula is interesting, as mentions of All Saints (
pantes hoi hagioi) as a peculiar heavenly community are extremely rare in eastern inscriptions.

Liturgical Activities

Ceremony of dedication

Festivals

Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation
Vow
Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Construction of cult buildings
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people

Source

The church and its floor-mosaics were discovered near a road, close to the south entrance to the town.

The site was excavated in 1979 by the Service of Antiquities of Jordan and revealed remnants of a three-aisled, oblong basilica (21 x 14 m) with an apse with a partially preserved
synthronon, flanked by two 'sacristies'. Some of the mosaic panels in the floor of this church, showing figural depictions, were destroyed, apparently in a period of iconoclasm. The same happened in the nearby church of *Peter the Apostle (see: E02054). A cistern was found inside the building, near the west wall.

Both mosaic inscriptions were first published by Michele Piccirillo in 1981, in
Revue Biblique, and then republished by the same author in his corpus, Chiese e mosaici della Giordania settentrionale. In 2000 Inscription 1 was reprinted by Annie Sartre-Fauriat, based on the first edition.

Bibliography

Edition:
Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici della Giordania settentrionale (Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1981), 82-87.

Piccirillo, M., "Les antiquités de Riḥāb des Benê Ḥasan",
Revue Biblique 88 (1981), 67-68.

Further reading:
Gatier, P.-L., "Inscriptions grecques, mosaïques et églises des débuts de l'époque islamique au Proche-Orient (VIIe-VIIIe) siècles", in: A. Borrut, M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abassides : peuplement et dynamiques spatiales : actes du colloque "Continuités de l'occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles," Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 18.

Haensch, R., "Damnatio et recordatio nominis dans les inscriptions des églises de l'Antiquité tradive", in: S. Benoist, A. Daguet-Gagey (eds.),
Mémoire et histoire: les procédures de condamnation dans l'Antiquité romaine (Metz: Centre de recherche histoire et civilisation, 2007), 215-222.

Meimaris, Y.,
Sacred names, saints, martyrs and church officials in the Greek inscriptions and papyri pertaining to the Christian Church of Palestine (Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity, 1986), 17, no. 9.

Michel, A.,
Les églises d'époque byzantine et umayyade de Jordanie (provinces d'Arabie et de Palestine), Ve-VIIIe siècle: typologie architecturale et aménagements liturgiques (avec catalogue des monuments; préface de Noël Duval; premessa di Michele Piccirillo) (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 221, no. 80.

Sartre-Fauriat, A., "Georges, Serge, Élie et quelques autres saints connus et inédits de la province d'Arabie", in: Fr. Prévot (ed.), Romanité et cité chrétienne. Permances et mutations. Intégration et exclusion du Ier au VIe siècle. Mélanges en l'honneur d'Yvette Duval (Paris: De Boccard, 2000), 308-309.

Reference works:
Bulletin épigraphique (2007), 531; (1982), 465.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 30, 1711-1716; 50, 1518.

Images



Location of the church. From: Piccirillo 1981, Tav. 51.


Plan of the church. From: Piccirillo 1981, Tav. 72.


Drawing of Inscription 1. From: Piccirillo 1981, 84.


Photograph of Inscription 1. From: Piccirillo 1981, Tav. 76.


Drawing of Inscription 2. From: Piccirillo 1981, 86.


Photograph of Inscription 2. From: Piccirillo 1981, Tav. 76.














Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified

27/10/2017

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain
S00518Saints, unnamedCertain
S01151All Saintsπάντες οἱ ἅγιοιCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E02051 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E02051