Saint NameUnnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518
Saint Name in Sourceἅγιοι
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Evidence not before549
Evidence not after549
Activity not before549
Activity not after549
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcGaza
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Gaza
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
SourceMosaic panel shaped as a medallion, framed by several circular bands of tesserae. Black letters and guidelines. Letter height 0.052-0.06 m.
Set in 'locus 11', i.e. in the north half of the central carpet-mosaic situated to the east of the baptismal font of the baptistery of the church at el-Mkheitim in Jabaliya, 3 km to the northwest of Gaza.
The church is a three-aisled basilica with an inscribed apse flanked by two rectangular chambers. A large rectangular baptismal complex is annexed to the north part of the church. The church and the baptistery could belong to a monastic complex. A total of seventeen inscribed mosaic panels were recorded, but only one of them contains a direct reference to saints. The earliest mosaic in the church is dated to 496/497, however the majority of them refer to mid-6th and 7th/8th c. restorations.
The site was excavated by the Gaza section of the Palestinian Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (DACH), and the results were published in 2000 with the aid of the French-Palestinian mission in Gaza (DGRCST), by Catherine Saliou. The mosaics themselves were, however, published earlier, in 1998, in Arabic, by S. Arafat el-Mobid. Slight changes in accentuation were then offered by Denis Feissel, and in 2014 the mosaics were included in the third volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae.
DiscussionThe inscription records a vow of one Paulos, son of Ulpianos, for the salvation of himself and the repose of his sister, Maria, styled 'eternal virgin'/aeiparthenos. It appears that this epithet, normally describing the Virgin Mary, was sometimes used to praise women, probably ascetics and/or nuns (see E02964 from Ozem near Askalon; in his comments on the inscription Ameling gives references to other cases, e.g. from Beroia and Edessa). Both Paulos and Maria appear in other mosaics in the baptistery and in the church (CIIP 3, no. 2447 where both are apparently alive, 2453, 2454).
Of importance to us, the donor says that the paving of the baptistery was also an act of thanksgiving to unnamed saints. However, we cannot say whether this was just a set phrase or whether he referred to a specific saintly intervention in his life.
Dating: the inscription contains no dating formula, but another panel from the same pavement (CIIP 3, no. 2450) is dated to July/August 549. Another nearby panel (CIIP 3, no. 2452) is dated 548/549.
Ameling, W., Ecker, A., Hoyland, R. (eds.), Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, vol. 3: South Coast, 2161-2648: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad ( Berlin - Boston, Massachusetts: De Gruyter, 2014), no. 2451.
Saliou, C., "Gaza dans l'antiquité tardive: nouveaux documents épigraphiques", La Revue biblique 107 (2000), 400-401, no. 10 and Pl. 4b.
Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 64-68, no. 81.
Bulletin épigraphique (2001), 502; (2014), 516.
Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 731.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 50, 1480-1495.