Saint NameThekla, follower of Apostle Paul : S00092
Thekla from Gaza, martyr in Palestine, ob. ca. 306 : S00189
Saint Name in SourceΘέκλα
Image Caption 1Inscription 1. From: Saarisalo & Palva 1964, Pl. 38.
Image Caption 2Inscription 1. From: Saarisalo & Palva 1964, 11.
Image Caption 3Inscription 2. From: Saarisalo & Palva 1964, Pl. 39.
Image Caption 4Inscription 2. From: Saarisalo & Palva 1964, 14.
Image Caption 5Reliquary. From: Saarisalo & Palva 1964, Pl. 29.
Image Caption 6Plan of the complex. From: Saarisalo & Palva 1964, Pl. 44.
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - 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
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcKafr Kama
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Kafr Kama
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
Cult Activities - RelicsReliquary – institutionally owned
SourceThe inscriptions were first published in 1966 in the report of the excavations at Kafr Kama by Aapeli Saarisalo and Heikki Palava, with drawings and photographs. The excavators were unsure about the actual function of two apsed buildings the foundations of which were found at the site, located next to each other and facing East, and name their sections 'Rooms'. Both mosaics were found in Room 2, that is in the west section (nave?) of the south building. Another dedicatory mosaic was found in Room 1 (apse) of the same structure.
From the description and shape of the buildings, it is clear that they were churches or chapels (they are referred to as chapels by subsequent scholars commenting on these excavations). The south building housed a water basin in its apse/Room 1, identified as a baptistery, and another, smaller basin, probably a reliquary pit, situated to the east of the former. The apse/Room 1 was separated from the nave/Room 2 (W. c. 6.6 m) by a chancel screen. The north building was similar in shape. Its apse housed a marble reliquary, embedded in a reliquary slot in the floor. The carpet mosaics were decorated with geometric patterns, floral motifs, and images of birds and fish.
Both inscriptions were partially reprinted by Yiannis Meimaris in 1986. Inscription 1 was reprinted based on photographs and the first edition by the Ovadiahs in 1987, Leah Di Segni in 1995, Andrew Madden in 2014, and by the editors of the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. It was also commented on by Pierre-Louis Gatier (2015) and Denis Feissel (1996).
DiscussionInscription 1 commemorates the construction and paving of the south building as a vow for the salvation of bishop Euphrasios (identified by Di Segni as probably the bishop of nearby Helenoupolis). Saarisalo and Palva suggested that the stratelates Theodoros could have been Theodoros (sometimes named Theodoros Simos after the account of Malalas), the Justinianic commander entrusted with the suppression of the Samaritan uprising in 529, mentioned in the Life of Sabas (§ 70) by Cyril of Scythopolis. Di Segni, based on an examination of a greater number of sources on the Samaritan revolt, rejects this identification (for details, see Di Segni 1995, 313-314, note 2), and considers our Theodoros to have been an otherwise unknown Magister Militum per Orientem, or more probably just an honorary magister militum, as a person of high rank, she says, would not have been interested in making a donation to a remote village/small town church. In Bulletin épigraphique Denis Feissel wrote that some of the conclusions drawn by Di Segni were contestable.
As for Saint Thekla, to whom the church or chapel was dedicated, Saarisalo and Palva identified her as the famous follower of the Apostle Paul. However, Yiannis Meimaris rightly underscores that in this region we might also expect Thekla, the martyr of Gaza, described by Eusebius of Caesarea (E00376).
Inscription 2 invokes the help of Thekla for one Anastasios. Saarisalo and Palva suggested that this was an architect or a mosaicist, as he bore not peculiar titles. However, in a dedicatory inscription set in such a prominent place one should expect rather another donor.
Dating: Inscription 1 mentions the 15th indiction year, but given the lack of a local era year, this is unconvertible. Saarisalo and Palva, assuming that the stratelates Theodoros must have been the Justinianic commander of 529, dated the mosaics to the nearest 15th indiction year, i.e. 536/537. But as there are no good arguments for this identification, we cannot accept this date. A stylistical examination of the mosaic ornamentation and the lettering points to a date in the 6th c.
Di Segni, L., "The involvement of local, municipal and provincial authorities in urban building in late antique Palestine and Arabia", in: The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research (Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series 14, Ann Arbor, MI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1995), 313-314.
Ovadiah, R. & A., Hellenistic, Roman and Early Byzantine Mosaic Pavements in Israel (Rome: "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1987), no. 138.
Saarisalo, A., Palva, H., "A Byzantine Church at Κafr Kama", Studia Orientalia Societatis Orientalis Fennicae 30/1 (1964), 11-15.
Gatier, P.-L., "Les Jafnides dans l'épigraphie grecque au VIe siècle", in: D. Genequand, Chr. J. Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides : des rois arabes au service de Byzance : VIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne: actes du colloque de Paris, 24-25 novembre 2008 (Orient et Méditerranée 17, Paris, 2015), 200, note 19 (mentioned).
Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 152-153, no. 222 (with further bibliography).
Meimaris, Y., Sacred names, saints, martyrs and church officials in the Greek inscriptions and papyri pertaining to the Christian Church of Palestine (Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity, 1986), 130, nos. 693-694.
Schick, R., The Christian Communities of Palestine from Byzantine to Islamic Rule: A Historical and Archaeological Study (Studies in late antiquity and early Islam 2, Princeton, N.J: Darwin Press, 1995), 362.
Bulletin épigraphique (1996), 491.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 45, 1954.