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E01388: Seals with invocations in Greek, and depictions of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), as the God Bearer. Found in the ruins of Gortyna (south Crete). Probably 6th-8th c.

online resource
posted on 2016-05-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Seal 1:

Diameter 0.02 m.
Inscription on the obverse, written as a cross-like monogram: (Θωμᾶ)/'(Of Thomas)'
Reverse: Mary holding the Christ Child, flanked by two crosses.

Seal 2:

Diameter c. 0.018 m.
Inscription on the obverse, written as a cross-like monogram: (Θεοτόκε, βοήθι)/'(O God-Bearer, help!)
Inscription on the reverse, written as a cross-like monogram: (N Z Y OY) Guarducci or (Π Ν Ζ Υ ΟΥ) Xanthoudides

The editors supposed that the second monogram noted the name of the owner of the seal, but did not attempt to expand it. Perhaps a form of the name Zeno is meant.

Seal 3:

Diameter 0.023 m.
Inscription on the obverse: Θεοτ(όκε) βοήθ(ι)/'O God-Bearer, help!' accompanied by a depiction of Mary, standing and holding the Christ Child.
Inscription on the reverse, written as a cross-like monogram carried by an eagle between his wings: Σεργίου/'Of Sergios'

Seal 4:

Diameter 0.028 m.
On the obverse: depiction of Mary holding the Child Christ, flanked by two crosses.
Inscription on the reverse:

+ Σ[τ]-
ου στρ-

'+ Of Stephanos, strategos'


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Rings and seals Images and objects - Representative images


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Crete Gortyn

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

Crete Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Gortyn Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Four circular lead tokens, certainly seals (bullae), found in the ruins of Gortyn. Kept in the Museum of Crete in Heraklion. Seen there and first reported by Stephanos Xanthoudides in 1909. Revisited by Margherita Guarducci before 1950.


The preserved objects are seals, marked with the names of their owners and placing them under the protection of Mary as the God-Bearer and of her Child, Christ. Dating: based on the typology of such objects, established by Mordtmann and Schlumberger, Xanthoudides dated our seals to 'the first Byzantine period', i.e. before 717 (the accession of the first iconoclast emperor Leo III the Isaurian). He pointed out that Seal 2 might be of a 6th c. date, Seals 1 and 3 might belong to the 6/7th c., and Seal 4 to the 8th c. The fourth seal might mention a governor of a theme (strategos), based on Crete itself or just exchanging letters with the officials or other people there. Themes were introduced as a new administrative division in the mid-6th c., the theme of Crete (θέμα Κρήτης) is first attested in 767.


Edition: Guarducci, M., Inscriptiones Creticae, vol. 4: Tituli Gortynii (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1950), nos. 514-517. Xanthoudides, S., "Μολύβδιναι βοῦλλαι Κρήτης καὶ Ἁλμυροῦ", Byzantinische Zeitschrift 18 (1909), 176-177, nos. 1-4.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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