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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Clay stamp for making eulogiae with a Greek inscription referring to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and probably the Archangels *Michael (S00181) and *Gabriel (S00192). Found at Tel Mefalsim/Khirbet Deir Dusawi near Gaza (Roman province of Palaestina I). Probably 6th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects

Images and objects - Lamps, ampullae and tokens

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

Round clay stamp, broken and lost in the lower right-hand quarter. Diameter 0.1 m. Found in the 1960s by a member of Kibbutz Mefalsim at Tel Mefalsim/Khirbet Deir Dusawi, c. 9 km to the east of Gaza. Now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

The stamp is made of greenish-yellow clay. The back is fitted with a handle. The central field on the front side is occupied by an image of the enthroned Virgin Mary, with her feet on a foot-stool, holding the Child Christ on her
laps. Mary's head is flanked by two stars. Jesus is holding a book in the form of a codex, probably a Gospel, in his left hand and is performing a benediction with his right hand. To the left and to the right of Mary's throne one can see two male figures: certainly an (arch)angel, and a male saint or an (arch)angel whose wings are worn and not visible, both carrying scepters. Rahmani identified them as the Archangels *Michael and *Gabriel. Ameling is less certain about their identity.

An inscription runs around the edge of the stamp (in mirror writing):

εὐλογία τῆς δεσποίν[ης ἡμῶν Θεοτό]κου Μαρίας

'Blessing (
eulogia) of (our) Lady, the God-Bearer (Theotokos), Mary.'

CIIP 3, no. 2526.

Cult Places

Cult building - unspecified

Activities accompanying Cult

Production and selling of eulogiai, tokens

Use of Images

Public display of an image
Private ownership of an image

Non Liturgical Activity

Visiting graves and shrines


Contact relic - other
Ampullae, eulogiai, tokens
Making contact relics

Cult Related Objects

Ampullae, flasks, etc.


First published with photographs and a drawing in 1970, by Levi Yizhaq Rahmani, Chief Curator of Israel Antiquities Authority. Later mentioned by Yiannis Meimaris (with a fragmentary transcription and no reference to the editio princeps), and by Carol Glucker. A new edition is offered by Walter Ameling in the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae Palaestinae.


The stamp was certainly designed for making small breads (eulogiae) distributed to pilgrims and locals attending liturgy in a sanctuary of Mary. But the missing fragment made Rahmani, the first editor, think that the stamp was damaged during the firing, was discarded by the potter, and, therefore, actually never used.

Rahmani compares the image of Mary with those from the Monza ampullae (
EXXXXX: where Christ does not hold the Gospel, does not bless, and the angels are in flight), an image of Mary from Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome ($EXXXX), and from the Cathedral of Parenzo (EXXXXX).

Rahmani supposes that the stamp was possibly either brought to Gaza from one of significant nearby sites of the cult of Mary (Jerusalem: see
EXXXXX, Bethlehem, 'Ein Kerem: see E02829, or Nazareth), or that it was made in a workshop at Gaza, for one of those shrines, or for a local sanctuary. The latter possibility is more convincing, and Rahmani quotes a passage by Chorikios of Gaza, saying that the Church of *Sergios in Gaza housed in its apse a magnificent mosaic showing Mary with the Child Christ on her laps ($EXXXX). Ameling notes that the formula resembles somewhat those of clay lamps, labelled as originating from the workshop of one Ioannes (see E01657; E02830).

Dating: according to Rahmani the stamp can be safely dated to the 6th c., based on its archaeological context.


Ameling, W., Ecker, A., Hoyland, R. (eds.), Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, vol. 3: South Coast, 2161-2648: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad ( Berlin - Boston, Massachusetts: De Gruyter, 2014), no. 2526.

Glucker, C.,
The City of Gaza in the Roman and Byzantine Periods (Oxford: B.A.R, 1987), 154-155, no. 44.

Rahmani, L.Y., "A "Eulogia" Stamp from the Gaza Region",
Israel Exploration Journal 20 (1970), 105-108 and Pl. 28A-C.

Fuerther reading:
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), 84, no. 538 (fragmentary transcription).


The inscribed face of the stamp. From: Rahmani 1970, Pl. 28.

The back side of the stamp. From: Rahmani 1970, Pl. 28.

An impression of the stamp. From: Rahmani 1970, Pl. 28.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain
S00181Michael, the ArchangelUncertain
S00192Gabriel, the ArchangelUncertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E03081 -