Inscriptions - Graffiti
Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures
Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics
An arched niche (c. 1.60 m high, 1.15 m wide, and 0.60 m deep), carved in a stone block (c. 4.10 m high, 4.30 m wide) in the outer wall of the apse of the so-called cathedral of the episcopal complex in Jerash, and facing all visitors approaching the complex up the stairway from the main street of the city, bears the names of Mary and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, painted in red on the archivolt of its semi-dome (letter height: 0.02 m).
Μιχαήλ ἡ ἁγία Μαρία Γαβριήλ
'Michael' 'The Holy Mary' 'Gabriel'
Text: I. Gerasa, no. 288.
The niche was partially damaged and subsequently restored during the excavations. It seems that it was covered by a grill and an image of Mary with the Archangels might have been displayed on its wall or semidome, as traces of three painted figures were recognisable on the conch. A hypothetical restoration of the niche was presented in the classic study of Jerash by Carl Kraeling.
The date of the creation of the niche is not clear. We do not know whether it was contemporary with the construction of the cathedral church (whose chronology is also blurred, but which might date to the late 4th c.), or was made later, in the late 5th or 6th. It is also impossible to say whether the painted inscription was added at the same time as the niche's construction.
For a possibly similar niche in the outer wall of an apse, see the comments and images in: E01832 (inside the ambulatory of the cathedral church of Apamea in Syria).
Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)Use of Images
Cult building - secondary installation (fountain, pilgrims’ hostel)
Cult building - independent (church)
Other (mountain, wood, tree, pillar)
Public display of an imageRelics
Reliquary – institutionally owned
SourceThe so-called 'episcopal complex' of Jerash consists of several churches, richly surrounded by annexes and situated in the centre of the city, immediately to the north of the temple of Artemis. For an overall plan and list of the structures, see the attached plan. The two principal churches are the so-called 'cathedral church'/east basilica (22.40 m x 42 m), and the church of Saint Theodore (21.60 m x 42 m, see: E02342) with an atrium (32 m x 12 m), sited to the west. The two are separated by a courtyard (31 m x 30.40 m including porches), with a fountain at its centre. The complex was accessible at both ends, at its eastern end by way of a monumental colonnaded stairway leading up from the main street of the city .
The chronology of the episcopal complex of Jerash is thoroughly summarised by Anne Michel (2001, 238-240). The scholar stresses that the dating of its specific elements is surprisingly obscure, given the well-established chronology of other churches in Jordan. The reason is that only one structure within the complex, the church of Saint Theodore, has a dated building inscription which places its foundation in 494 and completion in 496. The dedication of the east/'cathedral' church is unknown,and its dating is uncertain, though its masonry differs from that of the 6th c. shrines of the city, is perhaps of a relatively early date. A small undecorated stone reliquary was found in the chamber to the south of its apse (see: Comte 2012, 210).
It seems that the cathedral church was also significantly refurbished in the 6th c., as its apse differs from the rest of the building. The complex fell into decline in the later 6th c. and over the course of the 7th c., and in the end was abandoned.
Our niche is set into the outer wall of the apse of the east church/'cathedral', and directly faced all visitors to the cathedral complex if they were approaching up the monumental stairway from the main street of the city.
The dates of the niche and its painted dedication are not clear. We do not know whether the niche was contemporary with the construction of the cathedral church (whose chronology is also blurred, but which might date to the late 4th c.), or was made later, in the late 5th or 6th; it is also impossible to say whether the painted inscription was added at the same time as the niche's construction, or was a later addition. However, as Anne Michel notes (2001, 238) a dedication to Mary is unlikely to pre-date the 431 Council of Ephesus which popularised her cult.
The presence of this niche dedicated to Mary at the main entrance to the episcopal complex, might be used to argue that the east church (into which it is set) was at some point dedicated to the Virgin; but it is just as likely to be an independent dedication.
Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), 209.
Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), no. 288.
Brenk, B., "The last phases of the cathedral church of Jerash", in: M. Blömer, A. Lichtenberger, R. Raja (eds.), Religious identities in the Levant from Alexander to Muhammed: Continuity and Change (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), 399-413.
Comte, M.-Ch., Les reliquaires du Proche-Orient et de Chypre à la période protobyzantine, IVe-VIIIe siècles: formes, emplacements, fonctions et cultes (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 20, Turnhout : Brepols Publishers, 2012), 210.
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), 229 (no. 85a) and 238.
Hypothetical reconstruction of the colonnaded stairway, with the niche dedicated to Mary facing the visitor at the top. From: PEFQS (1930), 36.
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Certain||S00181||Michael, the Archangel||Certain||S00192||Gabriel, the Archangel||Certain|
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E02341 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E02341