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E04425: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) built a splendid church of *Mary Theotokos, Mother of God (S00033) and a church of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) in the city of Antioch on the Orontes in Syria. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by julia
Procopius, On Buildings, 2.10.24-25

24 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἱερὸν ἐνταῦθα τῇ θεοτόκῳ πεποίηται μέγα, οὗ δὴ τό τε κάλλος καὶ τὸ ἐς ἅπαντα μεγαλοπρεπὲς ἐπελθεῖν λόγῳ ἀμήχανον· ὃ δὴ καὶ προσόδῳ ἐτίμησε χρημάτων μεγάλων. 25 ἔτι μέντοι καὶ Μιχαὴλ τῷ ἀρχαγγέλῳ νεὼν παμμεγέθη ἐδείματο.

'24 Moreover, he built there a great church (hieron) to the Mother of God. The beauty of this, and its magnificence in every respect, it is impossible to describe; he also honoured it with an income of a very large sum. 25 Moreover, he built an immense church (neōs) for the Archangel Michael.'

Text: Haury 1913. Translation: Dewing 1940.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Saint Name in Source

Θεοτόκος Μιχαήλ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


Procopius of Caesarea, (c. 500 – c. 560/561 AD) was a soldier and historian from the Roman province of Palaestina Prima. He accompanied the Roman general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian (527-565). He wrote the Wars (or Histories), On Buildings and the Secret History. On Buildings is a panegyric in six books. It lists, and sometimes describes, the buildings erected or renovated by the emperor Justinian throughout the empire (only on Italy is there no information). The bulk of these are churches and shrines dedicated to various saints; the Buildings is therefore a very important text for the evidence it provides of the spread of saintly cults by the mid 6th c. On Buildings dates from the early 550s to c. 560/561; a terminus post quem is 550/551 as the text mentions the capture of Topirus in Thrace by the Slavs in 550 and describes the city walls of Chalkis in Syria built in 550/551; a probable terminus ante quem is 558 when the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople collapsed, which is not mentioned in the book; or before 560 when the bridge on the river Sangarius was completed, as Procopius reports on the start of works. On Buildings thus belongs to the later years of Justinian’s reign. The work is not finished and is probably Procopius’ last work. It glorifies Justinian, depicting him as a great builder and an emperor restlessly transforming the state, expanding and reforming it, destroying paganism, extirpating heresy, and re-establishing the firm foundations of the Christian faith (Elsner 2007: 35). More on the text: Downey 1947; Elsner 2007; Greatrex 1994 and 2013. Overview of the text: Book 1. Constantinople and its suburbs Book 2. Frontier provinces of Mesopotamia and Syria. Book 3. Armenia, Tzanica, and the shores of the Black Sea. Book 4. Illyricum and Thrace (the Balkans). Book 5. Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. Book 6. North Africa, from Alexandria to central Algeria.


According to John Malalas (Chronogr. 17.16; E05735) both the churches mentioned by Procopius were originally built by the emperor Leo I (r. 457–474) and burnt down along with all the buildings of the city during the earthquake of 29 May 526. He goes on to record (Chronogr. 17.16-19) that Justinian (r. 527-565) soon afterwards rebuilt the former, providing it with a bathhouse and hospice, and adds that it was situated opposite the so-called 'basilica of Rufinus' and near the church of Kosmas and Damianos; whereas the latter church was rebuilt by the empress Theodora along with the so-called 'basilica of Anatolius' (cf. Downey 1961, 454 n. 21). However, again according to Malalas, this was a futile effort, since another earthquake in 528 destroyed the churches along with the city walls (John Malalas, Chronogr. 18.27). Procopius seems to recording yet one more restoration of the churches, ordered by Justinian after the Persian capture of Antioch in June 540 (Mayer and Allen 2012, 99, 107). The picture drawn by Procopius of the emperor patiently and generously rebuilding the same church all over again is suspicious according to scholars, as it fits very well the author's panegyrical strategy of magnifying the emperor's accomplishments and merits (Mayer and Allen 2012, 107). W. Mayer and P. Allen (2012, 98-99, 108-109) assume that both Malalas and Procopius refer to the same restoration, which actually happened shortly after 526, and that Procopius' version conflates major works carried out after 526 with some minor renovation after the Persian attack in 540. In other words, damage to the churches in 540 was not total, even though Procopius describes extensive destruction in the city by the Persian army in his Wars (2.9.14-17; 2.10.6-9). Further reading: Downey 1961, 525, 552 566, 568; Mayer and Allen 2012, 98-99, 107-109.


Edition: Haury, J., Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 4: Περι κτισματων libri VI sive de aedificiis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1962-64). Translations and Commentaries: Compagnoni, G.R., Procopio di Cesarea, Degli Edifici. Traduzione dal greco di G. Compagnoni (Milan: Tipi di Francesco Sonzogno, 1828). Dewing, H.B., Procopius, On Buildings. Translated into English by H.B. Dewing, vol. 7 (London: William Heinemann, New York: Macmillan, 1940). Grotowski, P.Ł., Prokopiusz z Cezarei, O Budowlach. Przełożył, wstępem, objaśnieniami i komentarzem opatrzył P.Ł. Grotowski (Warsaw: Proszynski i S-ka, 2006). Roques, D., Procope de Césarée. Constructions de Justinien Ier. Introduction, traduction, commentaire, cartes et index par D. Roques (Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2011). Veh, O., and Pülhorn, W. (eds.), Procopii opera. De Aedificiis. With a Commentary by W. Pülhorn (Munich: Heimeran, 1977). Further Reading: Croke, B., and Crow, J., "Procopius and Dara," Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983), 143-159. Downey, G.A., “The Composition of Procopius’ ‘De Aedificiis’," Transactions of the American Philological Association 78 (1947), 171-183. Elsner, J., “The Rhetoric of Buildings in De Aedificiis of Procopius”, in: L. James (ed.), Art and Text in Byzantine Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 33-57. Greatrex, G., “The Dates of Procopius’ Works,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 18 (1994), 101-14. Greatrex, G., “The Date of Procopius Buildings in the Light of Recent Scholarship,” Estudios bizantinos 1 (2013), 13-29. Mayer, W., and Allen, P., The Churches of Syrian Antioch (300-638 CE) (Leuven: Peeters, 2012). Ulbert, T., "Procopius, De Ædificiis. Einige Überlegungen zu Buch II, Syrien," Antiquité Tardive 8 (2000), 137-147.

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