Saint NameMary, Mother of Christ : S00033
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionSyria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAntioch on the Orontes
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Antioch on the Orontes
Cult activities - Liturgical Activity
- Other liturgical acts and ceremonies
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
SourceTwo fragments of a fallen stone lintel. Found in the west section of the ruined church in the north part of Deir Sēta, in the southern edge of Jabal Barisha.
Deir Sēta is known for three ecclesiastical structures. The so-called north church, the south monastic church, and the baptistery. The north church was first surveyed by Charles-Jean-Melchior de Vogüé during his journeys across the Near East in the mid-19th c. It was revisited by William Waddington, by the American Archaeological Expedition 1899-1900, and by Georges Tchalenko in the 1950s. Recent archaeological work was conducted at the site by Christine Strube, Jean-Pierre Sodini, and Wedad Khoury. The church is a three-aisled basilica (32.2 m x 18.7 m) with a semi-circular apse and the so-called martyrion, a chamber adjacent to the apse, accessed through the south aisle, and presumably housing some relics. The basilica has been dated stylistically to the 6th c.
Our lintel comes probably from the north doorway of the church. The inscription was not mentioned by de Vogüé in his report from the site. It was apparently first copied by William Waddington and published by him in 1870. Revisited by William Prentice and republished in 1908, based on his own copy. Republished by René Mouterde in 1939, based on the edition by Prentice.
DiscussionThe inscription begins with the Trinitarian formula: 'In the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit' which was quite often displayed on lintels in Syria. According to Waddington and Prentice, in our text the Virgin Mary was almost certainly added as the fourth person. For possibly a similar case (rejected by the editor), see: E01895.
Both the original location and purpose of this inscription are not clear. It was found lying loose on the ground. Butler and Prentice observed that the north doorway of the church was at some point blocked, and they connected this blocking with our inscription, assuming that it described some rites, which accompanied the permanent closing of that passage. The reconstruction of the whole of line 2 is based on this fragile supposition. Needless to say, this is very dubious. Even Prentice himself noted that the portal could have been blocked in the 15th or 16th c. as Arabic inscriptions from the site prove that the village was then still inhabited, and the building possibly in use, perhaps as a citadel. If so, the inscription must be much earlier and does not refer to the blocking.
According to Waddington the right-hand part of line 2 was deliberately erased in ancient times.
Dating: The inscription must postdate the construction of the church, which is placed in the 6th c., as the structure is modelled on the church of *Simeon Stylites the Elder from Qal'at Sem'an.
Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 2: Chalcidique et Antiochène: nos 257-698 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1939), no. 604.
Prentice, W.K. (ed.), Greek and Latin inscriptions (Publications of an American archaeological expedition to Syria in 1899-1900 3, New York: Century 1908), 43, no. 17.
Prentice, W., “Fragments of an Early Christian Liturgy in Syrian Inscriptions”, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 23 (1902), 93.
Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2679.
Butler, H.C., Architecture and other Arts (Publications of an American Archæological Expedition to Syria in 1899–1900 2, New York: Century, 1903), 195-196.
Khoury, W., Deir Seta – Prospection et Analyse d'une Ville Morte Inedite en Syrie, vol. 1-2 (Damascus: Dar Tlass, 1987).
Peña, I., The Christian Art of Byzantine Syria ([England]: Garnet Publishing, 1997), ????
Strube, Ch., Baudekoration im Nordsyrischen Kalksteinmassiv, vol.1: Kapitell-, Tür- und Gesimsformen der Kirchen des 4. und 5. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. (Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern, 1993), ????
de Vogüé, Ch.-J.-M., Syrie centrale. Architecture civile et religieuse du Ier au VIIe siècle (Paris: J. Baudry, Libraire-Éditeur, 1865-1877), vol. 1, p. 131 and vol. 2, plate 116.
For Butler's photographs from Deir Sēta, see: http://vrc.princeton.edu/archives/items/show/9576 and the following items.