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E02966: Greek inscriptions on a floor-mosaic, the altar base, and pulpit, commemorating the aid of saint *Theodore (probably the soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480) in the construction of a church and the deposition (katathesis) of relics. Found at Khirbet Beit Sila, c. 10 km to the northwest of Jerusalem (Samaria, Roman province of Palaestina I). Probably 6th c.

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posted on 12.06.2017, 00:00 by Bryan
Inscription 1:

Rectangular mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.57 m; W. 1.10 m. Letter height, c. 0.05 m. Set in the floor of the nave in front of the chancel screen. The panel is surrounded by a row of flowers or crosses. Flanked by two asymmetrical rosettes. The inscription is partially written outside the frame, below the right-hand ansa. The inscription belongs to the first phase of the existence of the church (Di Segni 2012, 409: '[not] later than the first third of the sixth century').

+ ὑπὲρ σωτ[ηρίας κ(αὶ) ἀ]ντιλή-
μψεως Πέτρου [τ]οῦ πρε-
σβυτέρου∙ ἐξ ὧν παρίσχ-
εν αὐτοῦ ὁ ἅγιος Θεόδ-
ωρος ἐποίησεν τὴν προ-
σθίκην τῆς ἐκλεσίας κ(αὶ) τὴ-
ν κώνχην κ(αὶ) γήνοντε τὰ κ- ατα-
θέσια
μη(νὶ) Νοεμ-
βρίῳ δ-
εκάτῃ

'+ As a vow for the salvation and succour of Petros the presbyter. From what Saint Theodore granted him, he made the extension of the church (prostheke), and the apse (konche), and the deposition (katathesia) took place on the 10th day of the month of November.'

Text: SEG 52, 1662, ed. L. Di Segni = Di Segni 2012, no. 1. Translation: L. Di Segni, lightly adapted.

Inscription 2:

On rectangular grey marble plaque set in the floor of the presbyterium, beneath the altar, next to a reliquary slot. Dimensions not specified. This is certainly the altar base which belongs to the second phase of the existence of the church.

ὑπ(ὲρ) μν(ήμης) κ(αὶ) ἀναπαύσ(εως) τῶν ἀδελφών ἡμῶν
Πέτρου, Ἰωάννου, Μαρίας, Ἀναστασίας,
Μαρίας κ(αὶ) Ἀνδρέου τῶν φιλοχρίστõν

'As a vow for the memory and repose of our Christ-loving brothers Petros, Ioannes, Maria, Anastasia, Maria, and Andreas.'

Text: SEG 52, 1663, ed. L. Di Segni = Di Segni 2012, no. 3. Translation: L. Di Segni, lightly adapted.

Inscription 3:

On three of the six vertical faces of the base of the marble pulpit/ambo. Diameter 1.01 m; L. of each side 0.58 m; Th. 0.08 m. Letter height 0.025-0.03 m. The pulpit was probably installed in the church at a later date.

Face A: + Κ(ύρι)ε, προσδέξαι τὴ[ν] καρποφο-
Face B: ρίαν τοῦ δούλου σου Πέτρου τ-
Face C: οῦ πρεσβυτέρου

'+ O Lord, accept the offering of Thy servant Petros, the presbyter!'

Text: SEG 52, 1664, ed. L. Di Segni = Di Segni 2012, no. 5. Translation: L. Di Segni (lightly adapted).

History

Evidence ID

E02966

Saint Name

Theodore Tiro, martyr of Amaseia (Helenopontus, north-eastern Asia Minor), ob. 306 : S00480 Theodoros, Ioulianos/Julianus, Euboulos, Malkamon, Mokimos, and Salomone/Salamanes, martyrs of Philadelphia/Amman (province of Arabia/Jordan), ob. c. 303 :

Saint Name in Source

Θεόδωρος Θεόδωρος

Image Caption 1

Inscription 1 in front of the chancel screen. From: Comte 2012, 151.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2 on the altar base. From: Comte 2012, 151.

Image Caption 3

Reliquary 1. From: Comte 2012, 151.

Image Caption 4

Reliquary 2. From: Comte 2012, 151.

Image Caption 5

Plan of the church. From: Comte 2012, 150.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures Archaeological and architectural - Altars with relics

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

550

Evidence not after

600

Activity not before

550

Activity not after

600

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Jerusalem Khirbet Beit Sila

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

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Khirbet Beit Sila Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - nails, hair and bodily products Contact relic - oil Making contact relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Reliquary – institutionally owned Construction of cult building to contain relics

Source

The inscriptions were found in a church at Khirbet Beit Sila, a village situated near Betunia in Wadi el-Mahbus, northwest of Jerusalem. The site was excavated in 1997 by Shahar Batz and Amihai Reuven, on behalf of the Archaeological Administration of Judea and Samaria. The excavators unearthed ruins of a three-aisled basilica (19.8 m x 11.5 m) with an apse flanked by two chambers (with a baptismal font in the north one), and a narthex. It was built over an abandoned earlier structure, probably baths, and had two major phases of existence. The basilica was named by the excavators a 'church of Saint Theodore' after the contents of Inscription 1. The three inscriptions, we record above, were in the nave and presbyterium of the church. Two more inscriptions, on the plaque of the original altar, and on a the mosaic in the north aisle mention donors: a certain Chrysippos and Ioannes. Two unlabelled stone reliquaries were found in the church: one in a niche in the north aisle, at its west end (rectangular limestone box with two compartments and flat covers, one of which is preserved), the other was retrieved from the reliquary slot beneath the altar (it is made of marble, shaped as a small sarcophagus fitted with a hole for pouring-in oil or inserting a metal or wooden rod to gain direct contact with the relics; it was sealed and contained brown hair, c. 19 cm long; the lid was fixed to the chest by small bronze chains and clasps clearly visible in the photograph). For a detailed description, see Comte 2012, 152-153. The inscriptions were first published in photographs by Batz in 2002 and re-published as such by Marie-Christine Comte in 2012. A preliminary transcription was offered by Leah Di Segni, in a letter to the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. She also published the proper first edition in 2012. Some of the mosaic panels from the church are now in the Good Samaritan Museum (sited by the highway connecting Jerusalem to the Dead Sea).

Discussion

Inscription 1 commemorates the construction of the church from the offering of one Presbyter Petros. He distinguishes two parts of the church: the apse (konche/'conch'), and the protheis: that is the aisles and the narthex (for a similar formula from roughly the same period, see E00839). Interestingly, Petros says that he made his offering from the goods he earned through the generosity of Saint Theodore. The formula is a variation of a popular dedicatory formula τὰ σὰ ἐκ τῶν σῶν σοι προσφέρομεν ('thine own from thine own we offer unto thee'), common in dedicatory inscriptions and present in the Liturgy of Basil and the Liturgy of John Chrysostom. Normally the formula is, however, referred to God. We recorded one case, where it refers to *Michael the Archangel (E00913). Inscription 1 also records the deposition of relics (katathesis) on 10 November of an unspecified year. They might be of the mentioned Saint Theodore. His identity is not clear. He could be the famous martyr of Euchaita in Pontus, in northeast Anatolia, or Theodoros, one of the martyrs of Amman. Anyway, the day of the deposition was certainly celebrated as an annual feast in our church. An interesting element of the church is a 'reliquary pit', situated to the east of the altar base. The original altar was a grey marble table, with a base measuring c. 0.66 m x 1.19 m. It possibly housed the plain limestone Reliquary 1. During a refurbishment of the presbyterium the base was enlarged to the west (0.865 m x 1.19 m) and a new altar was set there. Reliquary 1 was possibly taken to the niche in the north aisle, where it was found, and the altar was fitted with Reliquary 2, made of marble. Inscription 2 belongs to the second phase. Comte hypothesised that the names mentioned in Inscription 2 could be those of the venerated martyrs, and the hair found in the reliquary could belong to one of them. The truth is, however, that the inscription is clearly a symbolic manifestation of the perpetual presence of the donors close to the altar and their relics. Although they were almost certainly buried elsewhere, their names personify them in the centre of the sanctuary. For a similarly set panel with names of donors, see E03562 and E03581. In the middle of the altar base there is a large hole (diameter c. 0.10 m) surrounded by four small holes. It could have served as a slot for a decorative element or could be used for gathering 'the liquids that accumulated on the altar base and flowed through the hole in its center down to the niche below', according to the excavators, that were later poured into the reliquary. Comte rightly says that its actual function is not clear. Shahar Batz (2012, 382) identifies it as socket for the central pole of the altar. Dating: based on the archaeological context, the construction of the church was dated to the first half of the 6th c., and the first refurbishment to the second half of the 6th c. The sanctuary was probably abandoned in the mid-7th c. The inscriptions come from the second phase of the existence of the church.

Bibliography

Edition: Di Segni, L., "Greek inscriptions from the church at Khirbet Beit Sila", in: N. Carmin, E. Levin, C. Ebert, M. Gugenheim (eds.), Christians and Christianity, vol. 3: Churches and Monasteries in Samaria and Northern Judea (Judea and Samaria Publications 15, Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2012), 409-416. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 52, 1662-1664. Further reading: Batz, S., "", Israel Museum Studies in Archaeology 1 (2002), 39-54. Batz, S., "The Church of St. Theodore at Ḥ. Beit Sila /כנסיית תיאודורוס הקדוש בחורבת בית סילה", Qadmoniot 128 (2004), 113-119 [in Hebrew]. Batz, S., "A Byzantine church at Khirbet Beit Sila", in: N. Carmin, E. Levin, C. Ebert, M. Gugenheim (eds.), Christians and Christianity, vol.3: Churches and Monasteries in Samaria and Northern Judea (Judea and Samaria Publications 15, Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2012), 373-408. Comte, M.-Ch., Les reliquaires du Proche-Orient et de Chypre à la période protobyzantine, IVe-VIIIe siècles: formes, emplacements, fonctions et cultes (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 20, Turnhout : Brepols Publishers, 2012), 148-153. Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 29-30, no. 27. Magen, Y., The Good Samaritan Museum (Judea and Samaria Publications 23, Jerusalem: Staff Officer of Archaeology - Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, Israel Antiquities Authority, 2010), 202-209. Reference works: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 55, 1724; 62, 1678.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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