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E02854: Wall painting with labelled depictions of Christ and the *Apostles (S00084), probably associated with a prayer on behalf of animals. Found in Caesarea Maritima (Roman province of Palaestina I), close to the presumed St. Paul's chapel. Probably 6th-7th c.

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posted on 27.05.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Poorly preserved painting showing Christ among the Apostles, within a rectangular red frame. Dimensions: H. 0.94 m; W. 3.6 m. Thickness of the frame: 0.045 m. At some point the painting was presumably covered by whitewash which later fell off together with the plaster. First recorded in 1980 by the Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima. The team, however, had no time to clean and study the painting. A preliminary edition was offered by Tamar Avner in 1999, with the aid of Boris Haimov.

The painting is located on the lower part of the barrel vault, above the west wall of a rectangular room (c. 3 x 4 m) in Vault 9 in Area CC, to the north of the site of the so-called 'chapel of St Paul' within the praetorium of Caesarea Maritima (for a description of this establishment, see: E02853). As the room was apparently open to the street from one side, Tamar Avner tentatively suggested that it could have played the function of a passageway, and not a chapel or other sort of cult place.

In 1980 the upper frame was almost completely preserved. Below it one could see fragmentary heads of thirteen figures with nimbi. The middle and right-hand heads were better preserved. Most of Apostles' faces, however, were almost completely lost and so was the face of Christ (the central figure, with his nimbus decorated with a horizontal red line ending with knobs, identified as a fragmentary Christogram). There was, likewise, almost nothing left of the bodies. The figures of the Apostles were evenly spaced. The diameter of the Apostles' nimbi was c. 0.19-0.20 m, while that of Christ was 0.24 m. One of the figures to the right of Christ could be holding a cross or a cross is painted next to his head. The posture of Christ is not clear. He could be seated on a cushioned stool. It seems that the two Apostles, situated immediately to the right and left of Christ, are sitting on chairs, providing that the identification of lines behind their heads as the upper parts of the backs of chairs is correct. Other Apostles seem to be standing and adoring Christ with the gesture of acclamation: their bodies are lightly turned towards the middle of the picture and they are raising their hands towards Christ.

In 2009 the site was revisited by the editors of the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, but by that time the painting must have had significantly deteriorated as they were unsure if they actually saw it: 'There is no report of moving the fresco; perhaps we have seen the very meagre remains still in situ in October 2009' (see CIIP 2, 79).

Inscription:

At the bottom, were remnants of the frame and a fragmentary painted inscription. Avner argued that the inscription had three distinctive parts, separated by lines, and that three different passages could have been written on the wall. However, she did not offer a transcription. A transcription was published by Kenneth Holum and Clayton Lehmann in 2000 in their corpus of the inscriptions of Caesarea, and a different one by Denis Feissel in Bulletin épigraphique in 2002, from Avner's photographs and drawings. The inscription was later republished by Walter Ameling in the new corpus of inscriptions of Caesarea in the CIIP series, using earlier editions and Avner's photographs. Basically, Ameling followed Feissel's transcription:

A: Χρ(ιστός)/'Christ'

B: [- - -]ε ἤλπισάν σ[οι], αὐτὰ σῷζον. [- - - σ]ῶσον τὰ ἄλογα/'[- - -] they put their hope in you, save them! [- - -] save the animals!'

[- - -] ε ἤλπισαν ἐ[π' τ]αῦτα σῷζον. [--]οντα ἄλογα Lehmann & Holum

Text: CIIP 2, no. 1153. Translation: W. Ameling.

History

Evidence ID

E02854

Saint Name

Apostles (unspecified) : S00084

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Images and objects - Narrative scenes

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

650

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

650

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

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

Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Discussion

Avner and Haimov argue that the painting is similar to western images of Christ in the assembly of the Apostles (for a list of parallels, see their edition). It could show a generic scene of the acclamation of Christ, or specifically Christ teaching the Apostles the New Law ('Dominus legem dat' scene). In addition, Avner notes that Christ's nimbus was rarely shown with the monogram chi-rho in eastern art, and in Rome, but does appear in the apse mosaic of San Aquilino and in Ravenna in the Theodosian period. The cross, probably held by St. Peter, bears some resemblance to the crosses held by Christ, St. George, and St. Theodore in icons from the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai. Inscription B is apparently based on verse 4 of Psalm 21(22): ἐπὶ σοὶ ἤλπισαν οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, ἤλπισαν, καὶ ἐρρύσω αὐτούς/'Our fathers trusted in Thee: they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them', followed by an invocation of help for the animals, probably horses, camels, and oxen (if it is correctly read). For a similar invocation, see E00927 and E01139. The room, where the painting was displayed, bears no traces of religious use. Dating: based on the form of letters, the inscription was dated by Avner to the 6th or 7th c. Our database does not normally include generic depictions of the Apostles, as in this scene, since they are not good evidence of specific cult; but in this case, these frescoes shed light on the complex Christian history of this part of Caesarea, so we have kept this fresco (a very rare survivor from the Near East) in.

Bibliography

Edition: Ameling, W., Cotton, H.M., Eck, W., and others, Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 2: Caesarea and the Middle Coast 1121-2160 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2011), no. 1153 (with further bibliography). Bulletin épigraphique (2002), 474. Lehmann, C.M., and Holum, K.G., The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Caesarea Maritima (The Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima Excavation Reports 5; Boston, Mass.: The American Schools of Oriental Research, 2000), no. 113. Avner, T., "Early Byzantine Wall-paintings from Caesarea", in: K.G. Holum, A. Raban, J. Patrich (eds.), Caesarea Papers, vol. 2: Herod's Temple, the Provincial Governor's Praetorium and Granaries, the Later Harbor, a Gold Coin Hoard, and Other Studies (Portsmouth: R.I., Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1999), 108-128. Further reading: Di Segni, L., "A Chapel of St. Paul at Caesarea Maritima? The Inscriptions", Liber Annuus 50 (2000), 383-400. Patrich, J., "A Chapel of St. Paul at Caesarea Maritima?", Liber Annuus 50 (2000), 363-382. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 712-716. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 49, 2057; 61, 1423.

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