Saint NameMichael, the Archangel : S00181
Gabriel, the Archangel : S00192
Saint Name in SourceΜιχαήλ
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Images and objects - Sculpture/reliefs
Images and objects - Representative images
Evidence not before450
Evidence not after600
Activity not before450
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 - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult activities - Use of Images
- Public display of an image
SourceStone lintel of the middle side doorway (the entrance for men) in the south wall of the basilica in Qalb Lozeh in Jabal Barisha. The inscription is written above a disc with christogram, and flanked by two deliberately erased busts, probably of the named Archangels. Length of the inscribed field: 0.39 m; letter height 0.04 m.
The basilica was first surveyed by Charles-Jean-Melchior de Vogüé during his journeys across the Near East in the mid-19th c. It is a well preserved, richly decorated three-aisled structure (25x13 m) with bema, circular apse and narthex, and hence it has attracted many other scholars since its discovery (see: Loosley 2012, 244-248: described as 'perhaps the most famous monument on the limestone massif after Qal'at Sem'an'. It might indeed have been a station on the way to Qal'at Sem'an). It is believed that the south chapel, adjacent to the apse, served as a martyr shrine, and that the rite of incubation was practised in the room above the chapel. The basilica was probably built in the second half of the 5th c. For further bibliography on the site, see: Peña 2000, 172.
De Vogüé copied the inscription and published it together with a description of the erased carvings in 1865. The stone was then seen and copied by Joseph Mattern in 1929 (republished in 1933). It was also recorded by the American Expedition to Syria 1899-1900 (copy, photograph, and squeeze by William Prentice; followed by a new edition with photograph of the cast of the squeeze in 1908). Revisited by René Mouterde and republished by Mouterde and Jalabert in 1939. The site was later the object of studies by numerous scholars, including Georges Tchalenko, Christine Strube, and Ignazio Peña, but their research focused mostly on the architectural elements of the church. A high quality photograph of the inscription was published by Emma Loosley in 2012.
DiscussionDe Vogüé believed that the inscription and the busts were placed over the entrance to protect the church, as well as those who passed through the doorway. He also hypothesised that the names of these Archangles might have been the expansion of the enigmatic sign ΧΜΓ, frequently put on lintels in churches and Christian houses in the East. This is, however, implausible. The inscription simply labelled the aforementioned busts, which is noteworthy, as figural depictions are rare in basilicas in north Syria.
Ignazio Peña (2000, 171) suggests that the church might have been dedicated to the Archangels, and notes that inside the church, above the keystone of the triumphal arch, there was a a low-relief carving of the bust of Christ, supported by two Archangels. This relief was also deliberately destroyed.
Dating: The inscription must be contemporary with the construction of the basilica, which is placed stylistically in the second half of the 5th c.
Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 2: Chalcidique et Antiochène: nos 257-698 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1939), no. 632.
Prentice, W.K. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions (Publications of an American archaeological expedition to Syria in 1899-1900 3, New York: Century 1908), 29, no. 5.
Mattern, J., "A travers les villes mortes de Haute Syrie", Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beyrouth, Lebanon) 17 (1933), 79 and plate XXIV 4.
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. 136 and vol. 2, plates 122-129.
Selected further reading:
Butler, H.C., Architecture and other Arts (Publications of an American Archæological Expedition to Syria in 1899–1900 2, New York: Century, 1903), p. 33, no 24 and p. 224.
Krautheimer, R., Ćurči, S., Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1986, 4th ed.), 151.
Loosley, E., The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema in Fourth- to-Sixth-Century Syrian Churches (Boston: Brill, 2012), 244-248 (with a new photograph).
Peña, I., Lieux de pèlerinage en Syrie (Milan: Franciscan Printing Press, 2000), 169-172 (with further bibliography).
Scheck, F.R., Odenthal, J., Syrien - Hochkulturen zwischen Mittelmeer und Arabischer Wüste (Köln: DuMont Reiseverlag, 1998), 305-307.
Strube, Ch., "Die Formgebung der Apsisdekoration in Qalbloze unde Qalat Siman", Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 20 (1977), 181–191.
Tchalenko, G., Villages antiques de la Syrie du Nord. Le massif du Bélus à l'époque romaine, vol. 1 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1953), 343-344.
Tchalenko, G., "La Basilique de Qalbloze", Les annales archéologiques arabes syriennes: revue d'archéologie et d'histoire 24 (1974), 9-15.
Tchalenko, G., Eglises de village de la Syrie du nord, vol. 1 (Paris: Librairie orientaliste P. Geuthner, 1979), 256-262.
Tchalenko, G., Eglises de village de la Syrie du nord, vol. 2 (Paris: Librairie orientaliste P. Geuthner, 1980), 100-109.
Trombley, F.R., Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2 (Leiden, New York, Cologne: Brill, 1994), ??
For Butler's photographs from Qalb Lozeh, see: http://vrc.princeton.edu/archives/items/show/9114 and the following items.
For other photographs from Kfer Fenche, see: Emma Loosley, “Qalb Lozeh 1962,” Architecture and Asceticism, accessed August 18, 2016, http://architectureandasceticism.exeter.ac.uk/items/show/704