Saint NameBakchos, soldier and martyr of Barbalissos, ob. c. 303-311 : S00079
Saint Name in SourceΒάκχος
Image Caption 1Inscription 3. From: Dahari 2012, 111.
Image Caption 2Reconstruction of the church with drawings of Inscriptions 1 and 2 in the atrium. From: Dahari 2012, 107.
Image Caption 3Plan of the church. From: Dahari 2012, 108.
Image Caption 4Fragment of the altar with a cavity. From: Dahari 2012, 109.
Image Caption 5Marble token with a bust of Tyche. Photograph by Sara Kopelman-Stavisky. From: http://museum.imj.org.il/imagine/galleries/viewItemE.asp?case=5&itemNum=548731
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Archaeological and architectural - Altars with relics
Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after800
Activity not before500
Activity not after800
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcHorvat Tinshemet
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Horvat Tinshemet
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult Activities - RelicsReliquary – institutionally owned
SourceThe inscriptions come from a church first recorded in 1986 in the outskirts of Horvat Tinshemet (also known as Sheikh 'Ali Malikina; Khirbet esh-Shamiya) near Shoham. The site was excavated in 1995 by Uzi Dahari on behalf of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Further conservation of the floor-mosaics took place in 2002/2003, and a new project aimed at the preservation of the site and dissemination of knowledge about it was launched in 2011 with the aid of the Jewish National Fund and a local school.
The building was a three-aisled basilica (27 m x 11.7 m) with an inscribed apse, and a narthex, preceded by an atrium at its west end. To the north of the atrium there was a compound with an oil press and a cistern.
The floors of the church were laid-out with mosaics decorated with rosettes, geometric motifs, crosses, and vine shoots sprouting out of vases. The carpet mosaic in the north aisle is completely preserved. Of the mosaic in the nave, only the north half survives. The mosaics of the apse and the south aisle are in very poor condition. The atrium was also paved with a mosaic which is very well preserved.
In the apse the excavators found a marble altar (shaped as a table: 0.60 m x 0.64 m), with a round cavity and a hole at its base. Four iron nails lay inside the cavity. Uzi Dahari says that the nails 'were probably meant to support a small ciborium that was intended to enhance the sanctity of the relics that were placed in the reliquary below the center of the altar' (2012, 106). As for the reliquary, only a fragment of its lid, made of marble, was recorded.
A remarkable marble token (diameter 0.67 m) with a sculpted portrait of Tyche was found in the church. This kind of marble is traced to west Asia Minor (Aphion, Aphrodisias, or Ephesos). The medallion was inscribed with a dedicatory inscription probably for a public building and a date in a Pompeian era, probably corresponding to AD 585. It is believed to have been brought from Gaza (where the Pompeian era of 61 BC was used) and donated to the church. In Madden's corpus of mosaic pavements (2014, 133) this object is probably by mistake referred to as a fragment of a broken chancel screen with a dated inscription. Now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (IAA 1996-3434).
DiscussionThe inscriptions unquestionably label the church as a sanctuary of a Saint Bakchos. Dahari is not sure of the identity of the saint: whether this is the companion of the famous *Sergios, martyr of Rusafa (who was usually venerated alone), or a local martyr. If it is really Bakchos of Barbalissos, his independent occurrence would be of great importance. For another church dedicated to Bakchos, with no evidence for the simultaneous cult of Sergios, see E02085 (Qarfa near Bostra in Arabia, AD 589/590).
Dating: Uzi Dahari dates the construction of the church to the 6th c., based on the style of its mosaics and architecture, and on the fact that it must predate the presumed offering of the marble token, almost certainly produced in AD 585. The church was probably abandoned in the 8th c.
BibliographyDahari, U., "The church of St. Bacchus near Horvat Tinshemet", in: L.D. Chrupcała (ed.), Christ is here! Studies in Biblical and Christian Archaeology in Memory of Michele Piccirillo, ofm (SBF Collectio Maior 52, Milan: Edizioni Terra Santa, 2012), 105-124.
Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Colloquia Antiqua 13, Leuven, Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 132.
Dahari, U., Tinshemet, "Ḥorvat (Church of St. Bacchus)", in: New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 5, 2054-2056.
Dahari, U., "Horbat Tinshemet, Church of St. Bacchus", Excavation and Surveys in Israel 18 (1996), 67-68.
Dahari, U., "Horbat Tinshemet: Church of St. Bacchus", Hadashot Arkheologiyot 106 (1996), [in Hebrew].
Ashkenazi, J., "Family rural churches in late antique Palestine and the competition in the ‘field of religious goods’: A socio-historical view", Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68 (2018), 719.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 62, 1683.