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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Greek painted inscriptions on pottery fragments, just possibly mentioning 'alms of the God-Bearer', i.e. *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found at the Nea Church at Jerusalem (Roman province of Palaestina I). 6th c. or later.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects

Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, etc.)

Fragment 1:

Yellowish-brown fragment of a jar. Dimensions not specified. The inscription is in red ink. Line 2 could include a cross. Found in the north apse of the Nea Church.

[- - -]

Di Segni's interpretation:

ῥ(όγα) Θ(εοτόκου) (?) [+ (?)]

'Alms of the God-Bearer.'

Fragment 2:

Greyish-brown fragment of an amphora. The inscription is in red ink. Letter height c. 0.018 m. Other dimensions not specified. Found in front of the Nea Church.


Di Segni's interpretation:

ῥ(όγα) Θ(εοτόκου), ῥ(όγα) Θ(εοτόκου)

'Alms of the God-Bearer. Alms of the God-Bearer.'

CIIP 1/2, no. 1047-1048. Translation: L. Di Segni, lightly adapted.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Distribution of alms


Di Segni hypothetically interprets the inscriptions as abbreviated phrases ῥ(όγα) Θ(εοτόκου), recording 'alms of the God-Bearer' (possibly corn, flour, oil, or wine). This reasoning is solely based on the fact that the fragments were found at the Nea Church in Jerusalem, a splendid Justinianc foundation dedicated to Mary, Mother of Christ, completed in 543 (see Procopius, EXXXXXX).

Although it is true that the term ῥόγα is a derivative of the Latin 'erogatio' and denotes 'largesse' in Byzantine Greek, while the verb ῥογεύω is respectively used for the expression 'to distribute alms', the expansion ῥ(όγα) Θ(εοτόκου) is extremely hypothetical. As Di Segni herself notes, the letters ΡΘ can also stand for the number 109, and refer, for example, to the transported goods. Similarly, Julien Aliquot (2014, 430) points out that further research on this kind of ostraca is badly needed, and does not accept the expansion of the letters as an abbreviated reference to alms of the church of Mary.

Di Segni publishes several more pottery fragments from the site, but they bear different formulas. One of them (
CIIP 1/2, nos. 1049) arguably refers to an offering (προσφορά), but the text is very fragmentary: [- - -]ΟΠΡΟΣ[- - - |- - -]ΩΝΙΝ[- - -] ([ἀπ]ὸ προσ(φορᾶς) | [Ἀντ]ωνίν[ου] (?)).


Cotton, H.M., Di Segni, L., Eck, W., Isaac, B., Kushnir-Stein, A., Misgav, H., Price, J.J., Yardeni, A. and others (eds.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 1, part 2: Jerusalem, nos. 705-1120 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), no. 1047, 1048.

Di Segni, L., "", in: Jewish Quarter excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, vol. 5: The Cardo (Area X) and the Nea Church (Areas D and T) Final report (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society; Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2012), 396-397, nos. 1-2.

Further reading:
Aliquot, J., "Inscriptions de Jérusalem romaine et Byzantine. Àpropos d'un corpus récent", Syria 91 (2014), 430.

Reference works:
Bulletin épigraphique (2015), 711.


Fragment 1. From: CIIP 1/2, 433 (courtesy of O. Gutfeld).

Fragment 2. From: CIIP 1/2, 434 (courtesy of O. Gutfeld).

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristUncertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E02796 -