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E02829: Two inscribed clay discs (eulogiae) from the sanctuary of the Refuge (kataphyge) of *Elisabeth (mother of John the Baptist, S01328) at 'Ein Kerem (near Jerusalem). One found in Jerusalem, near the Temple Mount, and the other preserved in the collection of Bobbio (Italy). Probably 6th or 7th c.

online resource
posted on 19.05.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Disc 1 (Jerusalem):

Upper fragment of a brown clay disc. About one third of the circumference is preserved. Original diameter: c. 0.08 m. The centre was apparently decorated with a scene showing a tower or staircase with a cross on top. The outer band bears an inscription which was plausibly restored based on the text from Disc 2 (below). Letter height 0.005-0.006 m.

Found in Area XV, to the south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, in a room near the courtyard of the 'Monastery of the Virgins' (Locus 15019). Now at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. First published by Leah Di Segni in 2003, and republished by her in 2012 in the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae.


[+ εὐλ]ογία Κ(υρίο)υ ἀπὸ τῆς κατα[φυγῆς τῆς ἁγ(ίας) Ἐλισαβέθ]

'[+] A blessing of the Lord from the Refuge [of Saint Elisabeth.]'

Text: CIIP 1/2, no. App. 39*. Translation: L. Di Segni.

Disc 2 (Bobbio):

An almost completely preserved clay disc. The centre of the disc shows a running woman with nimbus (Elisabeth) holding a child (John the Baptist). They seek shelter from an armed soldier. An angel floats above them and points to a rock with a rod; next to the soldier is an unidentified plant.

In the collection of eulogiae of the abbey of Bobbio (northern Italy). First published by Bellarmino Bagatti in 1947 (?). In 1958 discussed anew by André Grabar in his work on the ampullae from Monza and Bobbio.


+ εὐλογία Κ(υρίο)υ ἀπὸ τῆς κατα[φυγῆς τῆς] ἁγ(ία)ς Ἐλισαβέθ

'[+] A blessing of the Lord from the Refuge [of Saint Elisabeth.]'

Text: Grabar 1958, 44.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist : S01328

Saint Name in Source


Image Caption 1

Disc 1 (Jerusalem). Photograph. From: CIIP 1/2, 557.

Image Caption 2

Disc 1 (Jerusalem). Drawing. From: CIIP 1/2, 557.

Image Caption 3

Disc 2 (Bobbio). Photograph. From: CIIP 1/2, 557.

Image Caption 4

Disc 2 (Bobbio). Drawing. From: CIIP 1/2, 557.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Lamps, ampullae and tokens Images and objects - Narrative scenes



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Jerusalem 'Ein Kerem

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

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis 'Ein Kerem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Production and selling of eulogiai, tokens

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Relics

Ampullae, eulogiai, tokens Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Contact relic - other Transfer, translation and deposition of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Ampullae, flasks, etc.


Di Segni compares the discs and rightly concludes that, while of very similar form, they were made from different moulds. Both , however, almost certainly come from the same sanctuary of Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist and friend of Mary, Mother of Christ, known as the Refuge of Saint Elisabeth. Elisabeth, a New Testament figure with very limited cult, is here termed ἁγία/'holy'. The name of the shrine derives from an apocryphal legend first recorded in the Gospel of James, which says that during the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2,16) Herod's soldiers pursued Elisabeth with the baby John. Miraculously, a rock opened, forming a cave where the saints could hide. The site was identified by early Christians as 'Ein Kerem, a village southwest of Jerusalem. Di Segni notes that an unidentified church of Saint Elisabeth at 'Ein Kerem is mentioned in the Georgian calendar of Jerusalem on 28th of August, but the calendar mentions only a feast celebrated there, while that church appears in a Georgian lectionary preserved in a Parisian manuscript quoted by the editor of the calendar (EXXXX: in Echarim pago, memoria Elisabeth Iohannis Baptistae matris; Garitte 314), and that two Western relic labels on parchment, dating to the 7th or 9th c., also mention a shrine dedicated to her (EXXXX). She doubts, however, that all those references refer to one and the same church, as another tradition saw 'Ein el-Habis as the location of the holy cave. A church precisely named 'The Church of Refuge' is first attested at 'Ein Kerem by the Russian pilgrim, Abbot Daniel, in 1106/1107. However, Di Segni argues that a cave could have been venerated there already in the late antique period, noting that our Disc 1 was found in a layer dating to the 6th or 7th c., and that Disc 2 is usually considered 6th c. work, and is certainly late antique in date. Certainly these disks, with their reference to the 'Refuge (kataphyge)' of Elisabeth and their depiction of a rock suitable to hold a cave, prove beyond doubt that there was, somewhere in the Holy Land, a cult-site associated with a cave of Elisabeth in Late Antiquity.


Edition: Disc 1: Cotton, H.M., Di Segni, L., Eck, W., Isaac, B., Kushnir-Stein, A., Misgav, H., Price, J.J., Yardeni, A. and others (eds.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 1, part 2: Jerusalem, nos. 705-1120 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), no. App. 39*. Di Segni, L., "", in: B. Mazar, E. Mazar, D. Ariel, and others, The Temple Mount Excavations in Jerusalem 1968-1978. Final Reports, vol 2: The Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods (Qedem 43, Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University, 2003), 121-122, no. 4 and Pl. I,19,4. Disc 2: Grabar, A., Ampoules de Terre Sainte (Monza, Bobbio), with photographs by D. Fourmont (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1958), 44 and Pl. LVI. Bagatti, Il Santuario della Visitazione ad 'Ain Karim (Montana Judaeae): Esplorazione archeologica e ripristino (SBF Collectio maior 5, Jerusalem: , 1948), 22-25 and Pl. 12, Ph. 25. Bagatti, B., "L'eulogia di S. Elisabetta", La Terra Santa 22 (1947), 19-21. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2005), 534. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 49, 2065, 53, 1863.

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