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E01727: Lid of a marble reliquary, bearing a Greek dedicatory inscription, just possibly containing relics of a *Zechariah (either the Old Testament prophet, S00283, or the father of John the Baptist, S00597). Found at El Bassah/Khirbet Ma'asub (near Tyre, west Phoenicia). Probably 6th c.

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posted on 14.07.2016, 00:00 by Bryan
+ ὑπὲρ σωτ(ηρίας) Ἠλία
διακό(νου) υἱοῦ Ἰαννοῦ Σά-
[β]α κώμ(ης) Τιριας +

'As a vow for the salvation of Elias, deacon, son of Ioannes Sabas, from the village Tiria'.

Text: Michon 1905, 576.

History

Evidence ID

E01727

Saint Name

Zechariah, father of John the Baptist : S00597 Zechariah, Old Testament Prophet : S00283

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

600

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

600

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tyre El Bassah

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tyre Thabbora Thabbora El Bassah Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Peasants

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - oil Making contact relics Reliquary – institutionally owned

Source

The inscription is carved on one of the faces of the sloping roof of the lid of a stone reliquary. Damaged at both ends. On top there is a hole for the introduction of holy oil or a metal rod. The reliquary chest itself is missing. H. 0.083 m; W. 0.164 m; L. 0.275 m; letter height 0.02-0.025 m. Acquired by the Louvre Museum in 1901. Said to have been found in El Bassah/Khirbet Ma'asub. The first editor, Étienne Michon, notes that an almost identical object was donated to the Louvre Museum in 1864 by Félicien de Saulcy, and said to have been found in Hebron (see: Michon 1905, 576, note 1; cf. Duval, Metzger & Feissel 1996, 319-321, fig. 12 and 14).

Discussion

The inscription commemorates the dedication of this reliquary by a deacon, or by a member of his family, praying for his health and prosperity. Unfortunately, the relics of which martyrs were kept in the chest is not specified. The only clue is the account of Tristram de Guérin (see: Comte 2012, 246), who visited the village, where our lid was found, and reported that he saw there an inscription mentioning a church dedicated to 'the prophet Zechariah' (almost certainly our E04405). Though it is still a hypothesis, it is possible that his relics could have been kept in the chest, as a saint (or saints) so named was widely venerated in south Asia Minor and the Near East. For a reliquary with undoubted relics of 'Saint Zechariah', see: E01036. The exact location of the village of the dedicant, Tiria, is unknown, but it was probably situated in the territory of Tyre. Dating: Probably 6th c., based on the forms of letters.

Bibliography

Edition: 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), 246-247. Duval, N., Metzger, C., Feissel, D., “Tables et reliquaires du Louvre”, Zbornik Narodnog Muzeja u Beogradu 16 (1996), 321-322 and fig. 13a-13b. Buschhausen, H., Die spätrömischen Metallscrinia und frühchristlichen Reliquiare (Wiener byzantinistische Studien 9, Wien: , 1971), 315, no. C68. Michon, É., “Antiquités gréco-romaines provenant de Syrie conservées au Musée du Louvre”, Revue biblique 2 (1905), 576. Further reading: Kalinowski, A., Frühchristliche Reliquiare im Kontext von Kultstrategien, Heilserwartung und sozialer Selbstdarstellu (Spätantike – Frühes Christentum Byzanz 32, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2011), 125. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1997), 631. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 46, 1803.

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