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E01327: Greek inscriptions from the present-day monastic church of St Spyridon at Trimythous (central-east Cyprus) with references to a Sphyridon 'of holy memory', just possibly Spyridon (bishop of Trimythous, ob. 348, S00790), and *Matthew the Evangelist (S00791). A room dedicated to unnamed holy (hagioi) bishops is also mentioned. Probably 4th c. and later.

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posted on 2016-05-02, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Floor-mosaic with a metric inscription in clumsy iambs. L. 2.31 m; W. 0.6 m, letter height 0.08 m. Found in 1966 during the restoration of the monastic church of St. Spyridon at Trimythous, supervised by Athanasios Papageorghiou. Originally published in capital letters by Papageorghiou in 1966. The first edition in minuscule with accents and diacritics (but without comments) was offered by Jean and Louis Robert in 1970. The most important editions with commentary are by Demetrios Pallas (1977), Michael Donderer (1989), and Olivier Masson (1995).

ψηφί[δι γρα]πτῇ ποικίλῃ ται τὴν χρόαν
τόπον ̣κ̣ο̣σμῆσαι ἁγίων ἐπισκόπων
Καρταιρίου χερσὶν προσέταξεν ἀγαθε͂ς
μνήμης Σφυρίδων μεταίχων ἁγίας
ἴσος ὁμοίῳ δυνάμι πνευματικῇ +

1. ψηφὶ[ς γρα]πτὴ <πε>ποικίλ{η}ται Donderer || ται =τε || 3. ἀγαθε͂ς = ἀγαθαῖς || 4. μεταίχων = μετέχων || 4-5. ἁγίασ|ισος = ἁγιάσεως Donderer

'Sphyridon, of holy memory, ordered the good hands of Karterios to adorn the room of the holy bishops with a mosaic of figures and various colours, an offering by a peer to a peer sharing the same spiritual power. +'

Text: Masson 1995, 410-413. Translation: E. Rizos, P. Nowakowski.

The inscription commemorates the paving of the church with a mosaic floor, commissioned by a certain Sphyridon, and carried out by the artisan Karterios. Though the general sense is clear, Olivier Masson notes that the syntax of the poem is still problematic, and various implausible interpretations have been suggested by subsequent editors (see: Masson 1995, 412-413).

The first editor, Athanasios Papageorghiou connected the epithet ὅμοιος with δύναμις, making the phrase: 'being equal to (them, i.e. other bishops) by the same spiritual power', which he referred to the commissioner of the mosaic, allegedly Saint Spyridon himself. However, the gender of the epithet ὅμοιος and of the noun δύναμις are different, which presupposes a mistake of the author of the inscription. Ino Nicoalou suggests that the mosaic describes a miraculous appearance of Spyridon, probably in a vision to a local bishop, when he ordered the embellishment of the church (see: Nicolaou 1971, 36; cf. Michaelides, Karageorghis 1987, 36). Another interpretation was offered by Demetrios Pallas. He suggests that bishop Sphyridon, mentioned in line 4 of our inscription, was a regular bishop, bearing the same name as the patron of the church, and that he equated himself with his holy predecessor, saying that he was 'equal to him in the spiritual power' (line 5). This interpretation was accepted by Denis Feissel and Olivier Masson.

We partially support the interpretation by Pallas, but it is more plausible that our donor, Sphyridon, a regular bishop, equals himself not with the famous holy figure, but with other deceased bishops, whom he calls ἅγιοι/'holy' (line 2). It is possible that the shrine of Sphryridon hosted the tombs of bishops of Trimythous, and that the donor Sphyridon was himself probably already dead when the inscription was made, as he is named 'of holy memory'/μνήμης μεταίχων ἁγίας. For a list of bishops of Trimythous, see: Papageorghiou 1966, 25.

Dating: Papageorghiou dated the mosaic to the last decades of the 4th c.. Michaelides and Karageorghis note that the depiction of a jewelled cross above our inscriptions implies a date before 427, when an imperial law banned the use of the cross in mosaic floors.

Inscription 2:

Inscription from two plaques, found close to the northern wall of the monastic church of St. Spyridon in Trimythous, probably parts of a pulpit.

A: μέσος πέφυκεν χῶρος ἡγηασμένος

B: + ὁ κλῆρος [--]ΙΩΣ κὲ [-]Ε[-] Σφη[ρίδων (?)]

A: 'The middle room is sacred and completed.'

B: '+ The clergy [- - -] and [- - -] Sphy[ridon (?)]'

Text: Papageorghiou 1966, 30.

The inscription on Plaque B may refer to Spyridon, the patron of the church, or to a homonymous bishop (cf. Inscription 1 above). It is however, too fragmentary, to draw any firm conclusions.

Inscription 3:

Label of a seriously damaged wall painting, showing a saint. The painting is displayed in a hexagonal chapel, behind the third buttress of the northern wall in the monastic church of St. Sphyridon in Trimythous. Date unknown, but probably much later than the 4th c. mosaic (Inscription 1).

ΜΑΤ[- - -]


Text: Papageorghiou 1966, 31.

The partly preserved inscription allows us to identify the depicted person as the Evangelist Matthew. The other saint, painted on the same wall, was not identified by the editor.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Spyridon, bishop of Trimythous (Cyprus), ob. 348 : S00790 Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist : S00791 Unnamed ascetics (or name lost) : S00117

Saint Name in Source

Σφυρίδων Ματ[θαῖος]

Image Caption 1

Inscription 1 (after the restoration); from: Nicolaou 1971, plate XLVII.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 1 (before the restoration); from: Papageorghiou 1966, plate VIII.

Image Caption 3

Plan of the basilica; from: Pallas 1977, 287.

Image Caption 4

Inscription 1 (after the restoration); from: Masson 1995, 412.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Trimythous Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Merchants and artisans


The present monastic church of St. Spyridon at Trimythous (central-east Cyprus) was constructed in the mid 18th c. The excavations by Athanasios Papageorghiou revealed the remnants of at least three earlier sanctuaries below it: a 4th c. three-aisled basilica with columns separating the central nave from the aisles, a later basilica with pillars, and a church dating to the Venetian period. Saint Spyridon, the patron of the church, was bishop of Trimythous (c. 270-348). He was exiled under Maximianus (295), but returned to Cyprus and participated in the council of Nikaia/Nicaea 325, opposing Arius. He was later venerated as a saint and miracle worker. His first Life (actually a collection of miraculous stories in verse) was written as early as the mid-4th c., by Triphyllios, bishop of Ledra/modern Nikosia (central Cyprus). This work was followed by two texts in prose: an anonymous Life and the Life authored by Theodore of Paphos (Cyprus) in the 7th c. See: Efthymiadis, Déroche 2011, 77.


Inscription 1: Edition: Nicolaou, I., "The transition from paganism to Christianity as revealed in the mosaic inscriptions of Cyprus", in: J. Herrin, M. Mullet, C. Otten-Forux (eds.), Mosaic. Festschrift for A.H.S. Megaw (Athens-London 2001), 13-17 (using, however, the text of the first edition with a wrong interpretation of line 1, see the comments in the SEG 51, 1871). Masson, O., "Kypriaka, XIX", Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 119 (1995), 410-413. Donderer, M., Die Mosaizisten der Antike und ihre wirtschaftliche und soziale Stellung: eine Quellenstudie (Erlangen: Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg Universitätsbibliothek, 1989), 66, no. A 19. Daszewski, W.A., Michaelides, D., Mosaic Floors in Cyprus (Ravenna: Mario Lapucci, Edizioni del Girasole, 1988), 103. Michaelides, D., Karageorghis V., Cypriot Mosaics (Nicosia: Published by the Dept. of Antiquities, Cyprus, 1987), 36, no. 38. Pallas, D., Les monuments paléochretiens de Grèce découverts de 1959 à 1973 (Sussidi allô studio délie antichità cristiane 5, Vatican 1977), 287-288. Pelekanides, S., Atzaka, P., Σύνταγμα τῶν παλαιοχριστιανικῶν ψηφιδωτῶν δαπέδων τῆς Ἑλλάδος, vol. 1: Νησιωτικὴ Ἑλλάς (Thessalonike: , 1988), 142-143, no. 135. Nicolaou, I., Cypriot Inscribed Stones (Nicosia: Republic of Cyprus, Ministry of Communications & Works, Dept. of Antiquities, 1971), 35-36, plate XLVII. Karageorghis, V., "Chronique des fouilles et découvertes archéologiques à Chypre en 1966", Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 91 (1967), 365. Karageorghis, V., Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 22 (1966), Χρονικά, 549. Papageorghiou, A., "Ἔρευνα ἐν τῷ ναῷ τοῦ Ἁγίου Σπυρίδωνος ἐν Τρεμετουσιᾷ", Κυπριακαὶ Σπουδαί 30 (1966), 17-33. Further reading: Efthymiadis, S., Déroche, V., "Greek hagiography in Late Antiquity (Fourth-Seventh Centuries)" with contributions by André Binggeli and Zissis Aïalis, [in:] S. Efthymiadis (ed.), Ashgate research companion to Byzantine hagiography, vol. 1: Periods and places (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 77. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1970), 648. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 544. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 39, 1556; 42, 1319; 45, 1869; 51, 1871. Inscription 2: Edition: Papageorghiou, A., "Ἔρευνα ἐν τῷ ναῷ τοῦ Ἁγίου Σπυρίδωνος ἐν Τρεμετουσιᾷ", Κυπριακαὶ Σπουδαί 30 (1966), 30. Reference works: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 51, 1875. Inscription 3: Edition: Papageorghiou, A., "Ἔρευνα ἐν τῷ ναῷ τοῦ Ἁγίου Σπυρίδωνος ἐν Τρεμετουσιᾷ", Κυπριακαὶ Σπουδαί 30 (1966), 31.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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