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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 with a poem describing an image of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found at el-Rashidiyah, near Buseira (ancient Bosor in Edom) and Gharandal (ancient Arindela) in south Jordan/Roman province of Palaestina III. Dated 574.

Evidence ID

E02633

Type of Evidence

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

Literary - Poems

Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Images and objects - Images described in texts

ἐνταῦθα εἰ-
σελθὼν κατανοή-
σις μητέρα παρθένον,
Χ(ρίστο)ῦ, ἄφραστον λόγον, θ(εο)ῦ
οἰκνομίαν καὶ, εἰ πιστεύ-
σῃς, σωθήσει. σὺν θ(ε)ῷ ἐτελιώ-
θη ἡ ψήφωσις μη(νὶ) Περιτίῳ
τοῦ ἔτ(ους) υξη΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνι) ζ΄. ὑπὲρ
σωτηρίας Μεγάλις τῆς
φιλοχρίστου. ἔργ(ον) γε-
νάμενον διὰ Ἀνδρέ-
ου Ἐληώτου
ψι(φοθέτου)

13. ψι(φοθέτου) Feissel, ψι(φιστοῦ) Di Segni

'Entering hither you will see the Virgin Mother of Christ, the ineffable Logos, dispensation of God, and if you believe, you will be saved. With God's help this mosaic was finished in the month of Peritios of the year 468, indiction 7, for the salvation of Christ-loving Megale. Work done by Andreas Ailiotes (= of Jerusalem), mosaic layer.'

Text and translation: Di Segni 2006, 587-588; lightly modified.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Use of Images

Public display of an image
Praying before an image
Descriptions of images of saints

Non Liturgical Activity

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

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women
Foreigners (including Barbarians)
Merchants and artisans

Theorising on Sanctity

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Source

Octagonal medallion set in the floor of the narthex of a ruined ancient church at el-Rashidiyah.

The church was excavated by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the inscription was first published as a drawing and photograph (with no transcription) by Hakim Mahamid in 2003, in the
Annual of the Department. A transcription based on the photograph was offered in 2005 by Denis Feissel in BE, and in 2006 Leah Di Segni published a proper edition in Liber Annuus (with an English translation). The text was also reprinted in SEG.

Discussion

The inscription addresses the person entering the church and encourages him/her to behold an image of Mary and pray in order to attain salvation. Feissel compared this poem with a similar work from Madaba (E02477), where an epigram from the rotunda church dedicated to Mary drew the attention of the reader to an image of the saint.

Di Segni suggested that the poem refers to a wall mosaic representing Mary with her Child. We are told that the mosaic panel, and perhaps also that image of Mary, was a vow for the salvation of a certain woman, Megale, apparently a living person and a native speaker of Arabic (as suggested by the spelling γενάμενον). As she says nothing about her family, Di Segni concludes that she could be a nun or lived 'in retirement in [her] own house'. But this is not the only explanation. We know a number of churches where family members of the main donor were mentioned in separate panels, set in different parts of those sanctuaries. That this can be the case here is supported by the fact that the inscription does not mention the current bishop and the clergy of the church who supervised the work, so the proper inscription commemorating the embellishment and all contributors must have been located elsewhere, probably in front of the chancel screen.

The last line mentions a mosaicist, a certain Andreas Ailiotes. At first Feissel supposed that he came from Aïla/modern Eilat on the Red Sea or from Jerusalem (which was re-named Aelia Capitolina after Hadrian's re-foundation). In her edition Di Segni argued for the latter possibility and her arguments were accepted by Feissel.

Dating: the inscription is dated to the 468th year of the era of the province of Arabia and the seventh indiction year. Together they correspond to January - February AD 574.


Bibliography

Edition:
Di Segni, L., "A mosaic inscription from el-Rashidiyah", Liber Annuus 56 (2006), 587-589.

Mahamid, H., "Results of the excavation of the church of al-Rashidiya/al-Tafilah" [in Arabic],
Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 47 (2003), 7-16.

Reference works:
Bulletin épigraphique (2005), 555; (2008), 571.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 53, 1884; 56, 1913.

Images



Photograph. From: Mahamid 2003.


Drawing. Photograph. From: Di Segni 2006, Pl. 56, fig. 7.


Plan of the church. From: Mahamid 2003.




















Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified

28/10/2017

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E02633 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E02633