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E01940: Inscribed reliquary cross with an invocation of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259). Seen in Ḥimṣ/Emesa (northwest Phoenicia). Probably the 6th-7th c.

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posted on 18.10.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
A cross-shaped bronze reliquary consisting of two plaques connected by two hinges. Dimensions of plaque A: H. 0.087 m; W. 0.056 m. Dimensions of plaque B: H. 0.095 m; W. 0.058 m. Seen and photographed by René Mouterde in Ḥimṣ/Emesa. First published in 1959.

Plaque A bears an image of a slim man (orant) with a nimbus, wearing a robe with decorative bands, reaching his feet. The inscription reads:

Γεόργη/'O George!'

Letter height 0.007 m.

Plaque B is decorated with a cross consisting of 'four conic flames' (as described by the editor) within a medallion also containing the bust of a man with nimbus. The following inscription is to the right and to the left of the bust:

ἅ(γιε) Γε- όργη

'O Saint George!'

Letter height 0.004 m.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Representative images Images and objects - Narrative scenes Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Ḥimṣ/Emesa Thabbora Thabbora

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – privately owned

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Mouterde does not discuss the exact meaning of the depiction on plaque B but in our opinion the encircled cross consisting of four flames may actually refer to the flaming wheel, a device used to torture George, as reported in his hagiography. This suggests that the manufacturer of this reliquary had some knowledge of hagiographic writings dedicated to the saint or was commissioned with producing the object by a person well aware of literary traditions concerning this saint. One can conclude that one plaque of the reliquary shows the martyrdom of George and the other depicts him wearing his triumphal garments in Heaven. The size of this reliquary cross suggests that it was a personal item.


Edition: Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, C., Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 5: Émésène (BAH 66, Paris: P. Guethner, 1959), no. 2477.

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