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E01014: Greek painted inscriptions from a rock-cut church located to the north of the village of Göreme (ancient Matiane, Cappadocia, central Asia Minor), probably dedicated to *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023). Probably 6th c.

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posted on 2015-12-22, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
The church was explored by Catherine Jolivet-Lévy and Nicole Lemaigre Demesnil before 2005. The inscriptions were edited by Denis Feissel and Jean-Luc Fournet. Three of them are invocations of *Sergios.

1) A painted inscription found on the western wall of the porch. The letters are painted red, to the left and to the right of the lower vertical bar of a painted cross, framed by a painted circle.

ἅγηε Σ- έργι βωή-
θη ̣τὸν δ- οῦλό̣ν σου
̣Σ{ρ}̣έργην (?) ̣μετὰ π̣α̣ν-
τὸς τοῦ ὔ- κου [. . .]
(καὶ) τοῦ χω- ̣ρ̣ί̣ου

'Saint Sergios, help your servant Sergios with all [his (?)] household and the village!'

Text: Feissel 2005, no. 1.

Line 3 gives us the name of a supplicant. Denis Feissel notes that the name of an original supplicant could have been erased and substituted with the name 'Sergios'. The spelling of the name is unusual. The last two letters, ΗΝ, are clearly legible and painted red. At the same time the first part of the name is not painted (just scratched) and probably erroneously spelt CΡΕΡΓ ('Srerg').

2) A cryptographic painted inscription from the eastern wall of the nave, written with uncial letters, painted red and framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.35 m; W. 0.5 m. This kind of cipher was in use already in the Hellenistic period, and was later especially popular in late antique Egypt. The letters of the alphabet are divided into three groups (each consisting of nine letters) and then switched within each group (the first with the last, the second with the penultimate, etc.; for example: α = θ, β = η). For a recent commentary on the cipher, see: Łajtar & Górecki 2012, 154-156. Jean-Luc Fournet guessed that, in our case, the cipher was used because of a belief that it possessed some mystical meaning. However, there is also the possibility that the author of the inscription simply enjoyed wordplay.

ciphered version:

[.]̣Λ̣Ω[. . .]Ο[. .]̣Ν +

deciphered version:

+ ἅγιε Σέργι,
βοήθησον τὸ-
ν δοῦλόν σου
Λονγῖνον καὶ
τὴν δούλεν
σου Μαρίαν
καὶ τὸν π̣α̣ρ̣αμεν[. .]
[.]̣ο̣σ[. . .]̣λ[. .]̣ν +

'+ Saint Sergios, help your servant Longinos and your servant Maria and [- - -]! +'

Text: Fournet 2005, no. 3.

The author of the inscription erroneously ciphered the name Maria: ΞΘΡϘΘΝ instead of ΞΘϠϘΘΝ (Ϡ should stand for Ρ). The letter Ρ is again left unciphered in line 7, in the word ΘΡΘΞΕΝ, which stands for ΠΑΡΑΜΕΝ.

3) Another ciphered painted inscription from the eastern wall of the nave. It is likewise painted red, but this time not framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.2 m.; W. 0.17 m.

ciphered version:


deciphered version:

+ ἅγιε
γι, βοή-
θι τὸν
σου Λον-
̣γ̣ῖνον +

'Saint Sergios, help your servant Longinos!'

Text: Fournet 2005, no. 4.

It seems likely, given the similarity of form, that the supplicant, Longinos, of this inscription is the same Longinos of Inscription 2 (as already suggested by Jean-Luc Fournet).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Matianē Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Other lay individuals/ people Peasants


These invocations are the first, and so far the only, attestations to the cult of *Sergios in Cappadocia in Late Antiquity. They are dated by Feissel and Fournet to the 6th century on the basis of the style of architecture, decorations, and the occurrence of the 'servant-of-saint' formula).


Edition: Feissel, D., Fournet, J.-L., "Appendice épigraphique", in: Jolivet-Lévy, C., Lemaigre Demesnil, N., "Saint-Serge de Matianè son décor sculpté et ses inscriptions (avec un appendice épigraphique par Denis Feissel et Jean-Luc Fournet), Travaux et Mémoires 15 (2005), 67-84. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2006), 558. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 55, 1522-1525. For a commentary on the cipher used in inscriptions 2 and 3, see: Łajtar, A., Górecki, T., "An ostracon from the Christian hermitage in MMA 1152", The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 42 (2012), 135-164.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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