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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the completion of a chapel of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), at the basilica of Moses at Mount Nebo/Siyagha (Roman province of Arabia/Jordan); also a marble reliquary. Probably c. 600-610.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures

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

ὁ κτίστης κ(αὶ) δημιουργὸς τῶν ἁπάντων Χ(ριστὸ)ς ὁ θ(εὸ)ς ἡμῶν· κ(αὶ) εὐχῇ τοῦ ἁγίου πατρὸς ἡμῶν Λεοντίου ἐπισκόπου,
ἐτελιώθη τὸ πᾶν ἔργον τῆς Θεωτώκου σπουδῇ κ(αὶ) ἀγõνι Μαρτυρίου κ(αὶ) Θεοδώρου πιεσββ κ(αὶ) ἡγου[μ]ήνον

2. ἀγõνι Gatier after the photograph, <δ>απάνῃ

'The founder and creator of all things is Christ, our God. And through a vow of our holy father, bishop Leontios, was completed this whole work of the God-Bearer (
Theotokos), by the zeal and effort of Martyrios and Theodoros, the presbyters and abbots (higoumenoi).'

I. Jordanie 2, no. 78.

Cult Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Non Liturgical Activity

Construction of cult buildings


Reliquary – institutionally owned

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - abbots


Framed mosaic panel, set in the floor of the so-called 'chapel of Mary/the Theotokos' in the basilica of Moses at Mount Nebo, next to the east border of the main geometric carpet mosaic, in front of the chancel screen. H. 0.20 m; W. 4.25. Broken and lost at the right-hand end.

The inscription was first published by Sylvester Saller in 1934, with a photograph. Later republished a number of times, including the most significant re-editions: by Pierre-Louis Gatier in 1986 in the second volume of
I. Jordanie, and by Leah Di Segni in 1998, in a collection of essays on Mount Nebo.

The chapel of Mary, where the inscription is found, is annexed to the southwest wall of the basilica and is accessible through the south aisle. The chapel has a single nave (14.80 m x 6.80 m) and an apse (c. 3.60 m x 2.80 m). The nave is paved with a geometric mosaic framed by a border of rose buds and ribbons. It used to have a panel with a hunting scene, now lost. The semicircle of the apse is decorated with a geometric mosaic, and is preceded by a rectangular mosaic showing animals (two gazelles and two unidentified creatures). In the apse there are remnants of the columns of the altar.

A grey marble reliquary in form of a sarcophagus (0.21 m x 0.165 m x 0.125 m) with no lid, was found in the chapel. It has been suggested that it should be connected with a white marble lid of a reliquary, also found in the church.

For a description of the chapel, see: Michel 2001, 338-339.


The inscription commemorates the construction of the chapel as the result of a vow made by bishop Leontios. The dating formula does not include an era year, but the archaeological context suggests that we are dealing with an early 7th c. text. This is because the altar in the apse, stylistically datable to the early 7th c., is apparently contemporary to the mosaic floor. The chapel also almost certainly postdates the late 6th c. baptistery, situated in a room immediately to the north of it. Based on this supposition, Pierre-Louis Gatier argues that our bishop Leontios is probably the homonymous bishop of Madaba, attested in mosaic inscriptions from the cathedral church in 603 (I. Jordanie 2, no. 140) and from the church of Elijah in 607/608 (E02464). The presbyter and abbot Martyrios is mentioned in two more dedicatory inscriptions from the church, both from the said baptistery, in 597 (I. Jordanie 2, nos. 80 and 81).


Di Segni, L., "The Greek Inscriptions", in: Piccirillo, M., Alliata, E. (eds.), Mount Nebo: new archaeological excavations, 1967-1997, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Stadium Biblicum Franciscanum, 1998), 433-434, no. 14.

Gatier, P.-L.,
Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 2: Région centrale (Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Main, Dhiban) (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1986), no. 78.

Saller, S.,
The Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press, 1941), 255-258 and Pl. 116 (photograph).

Saller, S., "De inscriptionibus in Monte Siaghah (Nebo) inventis",
Antonianum 9 (1934), 354-355 and Pl. 17 (photograph).

Further reading:
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), 328-339, no. 125 (for the whole basilica); 338-339 (for the chapel).

Saller, S., "L'église du Mont Nébo (Chronique)",
La Revue biblique 43 (1934), 125, and fig. 2 (photograph).

Vanni Desideri, A., "I saggi archeologici dell'Università di Firenze sul Monte Nebo-Siyagha (luglio 1987)", in: L.D. Chrupcała (ed.),
Christ is here! Studies in Biblical and Christian Archaeology in Memory of Michele Piccirillo, ofm (SBF Collectio Maior 52, Milan: Edizioni Terra Santa, 2012), 297-318.

Reference works:
Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 884.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum
8, 322.


The inscribed panel. From: Saller 1941, Pl. 116.

Plan of the basilica with the chapel in the lower left-hand corner. Form: Michel 2001, 332.

Mosaics of the apse and remnants of the altar. From: Piccirillo & Alliata 1998, 301.

Plan of the site. From:

The inscribed panel. Piccirillo & Alliata 1998, 301.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΘεωτώκοςCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E02548 -