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E02968: The North-West Church at Hippos/Sussita (Roman province of Palaestina II) provides us with important archaeological evidence for the cult of saints. The finds from its south pastophorion (apparently a martyr's chapel), north apse, and an annexed room include a sealed reliquary with a metal rod for contact with the relics within, a flask with bone fragments, a lamp holder, etc. Probably 6th-7th c.

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posted on 12.06.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Four reliquaries have so-far been discovered in different parts of the church, a convenient description of which is offered by Marie-Christine Comte (2012, 168-173):

Reliquary 1:

Marble casket, shaped as a small sarcophagus. W. c. 0.25 m; L. c. 0.15 m. The lid, broken into several conjoining fragments, is fitted with acroteria and a hole on top. One of the corners is missing. The interior of the casket is divided into three compartments. They were filled with soil. One of them contained a glass flask, c. 10 cm high, encapsulating bones. The flask resembles similar glass objects from reliquary no. 1 from Ras el-Bass, and from the church of Saint John at Khirbet es-Samra (for that church, see E02040). The compartments are apparently not connected, and there is no hole at the bottom for collecting effluents. Because of the lack of any means of effluent collecting, the relics are presumed to have been touched with a rod inserted into the upper hole.

The reliquary was found in 2000, during the first season of excavations, in the north apse, among fragments of a broken marble table, and a limestone base. Now in the Museum of Haifa.

The reliquary must have been in use during the last phase of the existence of the church (7th/8th c.?). It is possible that the table in the north aisle served as an altar for the celebration of Eucharist when the sacred space was re-arranged as a result of damage inflicted by earthquakes.

Reliquary 2:

Marble casket, shaped as a sarcophagus. H. 0.10 m; W. 0.16 m; L. 25.5 m. The lid has four acroteria and a hole on top. A twisted metal (probably brass) rod was found inserted into the hole, almost certainly designed to touch inner relics. Comte stresses that this is a very rare case when we see a stone reliquary with its auxiliary equipment, so well preserved. The interior of the casket was divided into three compartments. The central one contained soil and fragments of the stick. Fragments of bone were discovered in the other two sections. There is no hole at the base for collecting effluent.

The reliquary was found in 2003, during the fourth season of excavations, on the floor of the south pastophorion, on top of Reliquary 3, among remnants of four columns. Now in the Museum of Haifa.

It is not clear whether the reliquary was a mobile or stationary one, but its placement in the south pastophorion must postdate the completion of the floor-mosaic and the installation of Reliquary 3 in that room. The mosaic was laid probably in the late 6th c. Therefore, we can assume that Reliquary 2 was brought somewhat later. Its installation may be contemporary to the construction of the side chancel screen in the south aisle, probably in the early 7th c.

Reliquary 3:

Red limestone casket, sunk into the floor-mosaic of the south pastophorion. H. 0.24 m; W. 0.44 m; L. 0.66 m. One of the wide sides of the casket is decorated with a cross and a hollow, possibly for placing a gem inside it. The interior is divided into three compartments: the middle reliquary slot is a large circle, the other two are rectangles. Each reliquary slot has its own flat lid. The central round lid, made of clay, is fitted with a hole. The others have no holes and are made of red limestone. Fragments of small columns, probably legs of a table, were found near the four corners of the reliquary. Further cylindrical fragments lay in the room and in the aisles. The excavators suppose that the reliquary was set beneath a table, possibly with a wooden or marble top.

The reliquary was detected by the excavators in 2002 and examined in 2003, during the fourth season of excavations. In the same room, under the fallen blocks of the arched entrance, a brass lampholder (polycandelon) was found. Now both objects are in the museum of Haifa. The same room also had a niche in its north wall, apparently with wooden doors, which could have been used for storing the Gospel books.

Reliquary 3 must be contemporary or somewhat later than the paving of the south room. Therefore, it must date to the late 6th c. The table could have been installed there in the early 7th c.

A very similar reliquary was found in the apse of the South-West Church at Hippos, beneath the altar, see $E04019 (perhaps even a copy of the one discussed here). Marie-Christine Comte notes that this kind of reliquary was also found in Jerash, in the church of *Peter and *Paul (for the church, see E02366), in the complex of *John the Baptist (E02367), and in Khirbet Hebeileh in Palestine.

Reliquary 4:

Rough limestone casket. H. 0.20 m; W. 0.44 m; L. 0.79 m. The interior is divided into two asymetrical cavities, also of different depth.

Found in a room annexed to the south aisle of the church, the so-called diakonikon. Pottery fragments, small bronze objects, and unused clay lamps were found in the same location. It is not clear whether the casket was used as a reliquary when it was moved to that room. Marie-Christine Comte supposes that it could have been originally displayed in the south pastophorion, before Reliquary 3 was installed there, and was later moved to its find-spot, which could have been a kind of a chapel arranged in the finale stages of the existence of the church.

History

Evidence ID

E02968

Saint Name

Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518 Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060

Image Caption 1

Reliquary 1. From: Comte 2012, 169.

Image Caption 2

Reliquary 1 and the glass flask. From: Młynarczyk & Burdajewicz 2013, 210.

Image Caption 3

Reliquary 1 and the glass flask. From: Comte 2012, 170.

Image Caption 4

Reliquary 2. From: Młynarczyk & Burdajewicz 2013, 212.

Image Caption 5

Reliquary 2 with the twisted manipulum. From: Comte 2012, 171.

Image Caption 6

Reliquary 3. From: Młynarczyk & Burdajewicz 2013, 205.

Image Caption 7

Reliquary 3. From: Comte 2012, 172.

Image Caption 8

Reliquary 3 (reconstruction). From: Comte 2012, 172.

Image Caption 9

Reliquary 4. From: Comte 2012, 172.

Image Caption 10

Plan of the church (Phase I). From: Młynarczyk 2011, 280.

Image Caption 11

Plan of the church (Phase II & III). From: Młynarczyk 2011, 281.

Type of Evidence

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

530

Evidence not after

750

Activity not before

530

Activity not after

750

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hippos/Sussita

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

Hippos/Sussita Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned Bodily relic - bones and teeth Ampullae, eulogiai, tokens

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Ampullae, flasks, etc.

Source

The so-called 'North-West Church' at Hippos/Sussita is located in the city centre. It was built of basalt spolia over a presumably 1st c. AD sacred precinct (temenos), of which some parts of cella were incorporated in the Christian building. The church has the shape of a three-aisled basilica with an atrium, and an inscribed apse with a synthronon, flanked by two trapezoidal chambers (pastophoria). At some point, at the east end of the north aisle a smaller apse was added, blocking the connection between the aisle and the north pastophorion. The south chamber was accessible from the south aisle through an arched doorway. Several other rooms are annexed to the north and south walls of the church. One of those at the south wall housed tombs, probably of founders/benefactors. The church is believed to have been built in the first half of the 6th c.: its construction must postdate coin-finds from beneath the pavement of the atrium (one of the emperor Arcadius, 395-408; the other of the emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III, 425-455). The church was active until the end of the Umayyad period and was apparently abandoned after the earthquake of 749. The excavators divided the periods of the existence of the church into three main phases: Phase I refers to the original three-aisled basilica (22.30 m x 15.40 m) with the atrium (22 m x 22 m). In this phase the north pastophorion was connected with the central apse by a small doorway, and was easily accessible from the north aisle. Jolanta Młynarczyk and Mariusz Burdajewicz object to the suggestion of Asher Ovadiah that the pastophoria played here the roles of diakonikon and prothesis. They were probably: a generic service room (north chamber) and a martyr shrine (south chamber). Phase II is marked by the construction of a wall with a small apse, separating the north pastophorion from the north aisle. The newly created room behind the wall was accessible only through the passage from the central apse, and probably served as a skeuophylakeion (treasury). Other changes were also introduced. Młynarczyk and Burdajewicz suppose that the refurbishment of the church was triggered specifically by the introduction of the Great Entrance rite into the Near Eastern liturgy in the second half of the 6th c. Phase III corresponds to the period of the final decline of the church, probably started by the earthquake of 658 or 717. The floor-mosaics were then carelessly restored. The last coin found in the complex dates to 737-746. The church was first excavated by Michael Avi-Yonah, Moshe Dothan, Ruth Amiran, and Aaron Shulman with permission of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums in 1951-1952. The excavations were resumed in 2000 by Arthur Segal (Univeristy of Haifa) and a team of Polish archaeologists under the supervision of Jolanta Młynarczyk and Mariusz Burdajewicz, on behalf of the Research Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, and the National Museum in Warsaw).

Discussion

Currently, it is not known, whose relics were kept in the church. There is a supposition that a mosaic inscription was set in the floor of the south pastophorion, possibly mentioning a saint or saints venerated there. It was, however, destroyed during a 7th or 8th c. earthquake, and restored so as to be illegible (see Młynarczyk & Burdajewicz 2013, 210). Other mosaics do not record the names of the holy patrons, nor any other designation of the sanctuary. They were published by Adam Łajtar in several papers (see the bibliography). One, found in the south porch of the atrium, records a donation (prosphora) made for the repose of the deaconess Antona (= Antonia?). The other two, from the south aisle, are somewhat puzzling due to their unconventional abbreviations. One says probably that a person offered half of a solidus (nomisma) for the restoration of the mosaic pavement. The other mentions another donor of half a solidus, Petros, whose name is followed by the enigmatic sequence of letters ΚΩΚΑΙ. In her comments in SEG, Leah Di Segni implausibly argues this should be understood as Κω(ρνηλίῳ) και(ντορίωνι), and that the inscription says that Saint *Cornelius the Centurion (mentioned in Acts 10), was the recepient of the donation: ἐκαρποφόρησεν Πέτρος Κω(ρνηλίῳ) και(ντορίωνι) νο(μίσματος) τὸ (ἥμισυ)/'Petros offered half of a solidus to Cornelius the Centurion'. This explanation was rejected by Łajtar who in his subsequent works on the epigraphic dossier of the North-West Church offered a better explanation of the abbreviation: as a kind of ethnic identifier of the benefactor: Πέτρος Κώ(μης) Και(νῆς)/'Petros of Kome Kaine (literally: New Village)'. According to Łajtar's plausible suggestion, both Petros and Antona are mentioned in the dedicatory inscription from the baptistery of the cathedral of Hippos, SEG 41, 1554, cf. Młynarczyk 2011, 259-260. For that church, see E04010. Our database does not usually include anonymous reliquaries of which there were a large number in the Near East. But we have included these as exceptionally good examples of multi-chambered reliquaries, found with their relics still in situ and even still accompanied with a metal rod for achieving a closer contact with the relics within.

Bibliography

Edition: 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), 167-173. Młynarczyk, J., Burdajewicz, M., "The North-West Church (NWC)", in: Segal, A., Młynarczyk, J., Burdajewicz, M., Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita: Fifth Season of Excavations (September - October 2004) and Summary of All Five Seasons (2000 - 2004) (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2004), 52-72. Reliquary 1: Segal, A., Młynarczyk, J., Burdajewicz, M., Hippos. First Season of Excavations (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2000), fig. 47. Reliquary 2: Segal A., Młynarczyk J., Burdajewicz M., Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita: Fourth Season of Excavations: June-July 2003 (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2003), fig. 47. Młynarczyk, J., Burdajewicz, M., "North-West Church in Hippos", Eastern Christian Art in its Late Antique and Islamic Contexts 2 (2005), 49, Pl. 9. Reliquary 3: Segal A., Młynarczyk J., Burdajewicz M., Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita: Fourth Season of Excavations: June-July 2003 (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2003), figs. 18, 66. Segal A., Młynarczyk J., Burdajewicz M., Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita: Fifth Season of Excavations: September-October 2004 and Summary of All Five Seasons 2000-2004 (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2004), fig. 101. Reliquary 4: Segal A., Młynarczyk J., Burdajewicz M., Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita: Fifth Season of Excavations: September-October 2004 and Summary of All Five Seasons 2000-2004 (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2004), fig. 24. Further reading: Burdajewicz, J., "Wall painting decoration from the North-West Church in Hippos-Sussita of the Decapolis", Études et travaux 30 (2017), 161–180. Burdajewicz, M., "From pagan temple to church in Late Antiquity Palestine. A view from Hippos-Sussita", Études et travaux 30 (2017), 181–209. Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 150, no. 220. Młynarczyk, J., Burdajewicz, M., "The Northwest Church Complex (Hippos – Sussita)", in: A. Segal, M. Eisenberg, J. Młynarczyk, M. Burdajewicz, M. Schuler, N. Shtober-Zisu, Hippos - Sussita of the Decapolis: The First Twelve Seasons of Excavations (Haifa, Israel: The Zinman Institute of Archaeology, 2013), 195-217. Młynarczyk, J., "Churches and society in Nyzantine and Umayyad-period Hippos", ARAM 23 (2011), 253-284. For the inscriptions, see: Łajtar, A., "Two mosaic inscriptions from the North-West Church in Hippos", in: A. Segal, J. Młynarczyk, M. Burdajewicz, M. Schuler, Hippos (Sussita), Third Season of Excavations, July 2002 (Haifa: The Zinman Institute of Archaeology, 2002), 60-63. Łajtar, A., "The mosaic inscription of Antonia, a deaconess", in: A. Segal, J. Młynarczyk, M. Burdajewicz, Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita, Sixth Season of Excavations, July 2005 (Haifa: The Zinman Institute of Archaeology, 2005), 51-53. Łajtar, A., "Mosaic inscriptions of the North-West Church", 2008 (forthcoming?) Młynarczyk, J., "Churches and society in Byzantine and Umayyad-period Hippos", ARAM 23 (2011), 259-260. Segal, A., Eisenberg, M., "Hippos-Sussita of the Decapolis – First five years of excavation", Qadmoniot 38 (2005), 15-29. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 54, 1661-1662.

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