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E01440: Greek lintel inscription commemorating the translation of relics of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023), from an old church to a new sanctuary in Rusafa, and the beginning of the rebuilding of the former shrine. Found in Rusafa (north-east Syria/Euphratesia). Dated 518.

online resource
posted on 2016-06-03, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
+ ἡ ἁγία αὕτη ἐκκλη(σία) πάλαι μὲν [- - -] κ(αὶ) ἀπὸ ̣π[λ]ίνθων οὖσα τὰ ἅγια ἔσχεν
λίψανα Σεργίου τοῦ πολυάθλου μάρτυρος μέχρ[ι] ̣κατασκευῆς τοῦ ἄλλου
σεβασμίου ναοῦ τοῦ νῦν τὴν ἁγίαν ἔχοντος [λ]άρνακα, μετεσχηματίσθη δὲ
κ(αὶ) ἐκ θεμελίων οὕτω φιλοτίμως οἰκοδομή[θ]η ὑπὸ Σεργίου τοῦ θεοφιλ(εστάτου)
β΄ ἐπισκ(όπου) τοῦ συνγενοῦς Μαρωνίου τοῦ χωρεπισκ(όπου), ἀρξαμένου μὲν τοῦ ἔργου
μη(νὶ) Δύστρῳ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ια΄ τοῦ θκω΄ ἔτους, πληρώσαντος δὲ μη(νὶ)

2. μεχρ' ο[ὗ] Gatier & Ulbert || μέχρ[ι] Key Fowden, based on the examination of the photograph

'+ This holy church (ekklesia) once [- - -] and made of (mud) brick, held the holy relics (leipsana) of Sergios, the martyr of many labours, until the construction of the other venerable shrine (allos sebasmios naos), which at present holds the holy chest (larnaks). It was transformed and rebuilt from its foundations with great generosity by the most God-loving bishop Sergios II, the kinsman of Maronios the country bishop (chorepiskopos). He began the project in the month of Dystros, the 11th year of the indiction, in the year 829, and completed it in the month of...'

Text: Gatier & Ulbert 1991. Translation: Key Fowden 1999, 84, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Image Caption 1

The commemorative lintel inscription, thought to be from Basilica B. Reconstruction of the whole lintel. After: Gatier & Ulbert 1991, 170.

Image Caption 2

The commemorative lintel inscription. Drawing after: Gatier & Ulbert 1991, 178.

Image Caption 3

Basilica B: the commemorative lintel inscription. Photographs after: Gatier & Ulbert 1991, plate 55.

Image Caption 4

Basilica A: Inscription of bishop Sergios. Drawing after: Resafa 2, 162.

Image Caption 5

Basilica A: Capital inscription of bishop Sergios. Drawing after: Resafa 2, 164.

Image Caption 6

Basilica A: Capital inscription of bishop Sergios. Photograph after: Resafa 2, plate 10.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

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


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

Resapha-Sergiopolis Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Construction of cult building to contain relics Noted absence of relics Reliquary – institutionally owned


Two fragments of a lintel made of gypsum with an inscription framed by a tabula ansata. Dimensions of the inscribed field: H. 0,38 m; W. 2,05 m. The left-hand fragment was found in 1986 during a survey near the northern part of the Great Mosque in Rusafa, close to Basilica A. The right-hand fragment was found in the same area in 1989. Both fragments were published by Pierre Louis Gatier and Thilo Ulbert in 1991. Based on the shape of the lintel the editors argue that it was originally displayed in Basilica B, and only later moved to the site of the mosque and Basilica A.


The inscription commemorates the translation of a chest (larnaks) with relics (leipsana) of Sergios from a 'brick church' (ekklesia) in Rusafa to another, new sanctuary (sebasmios naos). It also says that the rebuilding of the church by bishop Sergios was begun in the spring of the year 829 of the Seleucid era (= AD 518). Unfortunately, the date of the completion of the restoration is lacking. Rusafa was the greatest centre of the cult of Sergios in the East. It housed the original tomb of the martyr and was frequently visited by pilgrims: Romans, Greeks, nomadic and settled Arabs, Persians, etc. The cult of Sergios is first attested in Rusafa shortly before 431: in a letter of protest (ACO 1.4, pp. 184-185), Alexander, bishop of Hierapolis-Bambyke in Syria complains that he had invested three hundred pounds of gold in the construction of a sanctuary in Rusafa, dedicated to Sergios, but was deprived of the authority over this shrine, after he had rebelled against the reconciliation of John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria over the Nestorian controversy in 433. It is also supposed that Alexander's foundation is alluded to in the oldest extant, mid-5th c. Passio of Sergios and Bakchos (BHG 1624, see E02791), which says that the first martyr shrine of Sergios, within the citywalls of Rusafa, was consecrated by fifteen bishops, and that the relics of Sergios were moved there from his tomb, sited outside the city (see: Key Fowden 1999, 26-27). Archaeological research in Rusafa revealed the existence of several ecclesiastical structures. Their possible connections to Sergios' cult and to our inscription have been disputed. Among these churches we have: Basilica A in the southeast quarter of the city: a three-aisled building, sharing its courtyard with the Umayyad mosque (see: E01460; E01461). Basilica B, made of stone, with an earlier brick structure beneath it, sited in the central part of the city (see: E01462). Basilica C, a small structure, to the northeast of Basilica A. The tetraconch basilica, on the main street, near the north gate. Based on an inscription found at the site of Basilica A, dated 599, which mentions a construction 'in honour of a Church of the Holy Cross' by bishop Abraamios (SEG 27, 993), Thilo Ulbert suggested that Basilica A bore this name in the late antique period (Ulbert 1986, 147) and that it was built that year. This chronology was later questioned by Ulbert himself (Ulbert & Gatier 1991, 176-177) and by Gunnar Brands. In a new study of the site, published in 2002, Brands argued that the identification of Basilica A as the Church of the Holy Cross was implausible. The Holy Cross was rather just a side-chapel, within Basilica A, with a large cross depicted on its apse (Brands 2002, 114-117; SEG 52, 1588bis). Brands justified his conclusions also by referring to the contents of our inscription. According to his interpretation: the 'old church' mentioned in our inscription was the brick structure under Basilica B (and was the church founded by Alexander); the church, referred to in our inscription as that to which the relics were taken, was Basilica A, in the southeast quarter of the town; and the present-day stone Basilica B was the new building, begun by bishop Sergios II in 518 (as recorded in our inscription). This reasoning presupposes that Basilica A existed already in 518, when the movement of the saint's relics there is mentioned. According to Brands, the archaeological context suggests that Basilica A could have been constructed in the last third of the 5th c, and that the relics were transported there long before the beginning of the restoration of the brick structure (for a description of a room in Basilica A, claimed to have contained the reliquary, see: E01461). Thus, the two events were not related to each other. It has also been suggested that Saint *Leontios was venerated in Basilica B after the removal of Sergios' relics and the refurbishment (see: E01462). The tetraconch basilica was built probably in the 6th c. It was believed to have been the main martyr shrine of Sergios in Rusafa by the early 20th c. archaeologists (on the basis of its architectural form), but this view is no longer valid. The sanctuary might have been the city's cathedral, and housed the tombs of the bishops (see: Key Fowden 1999, 93-94). Bishop Sergios, responsible for the refurbishment, mentioned in our inscription, might be the bishop of the same name who was sent in 524 in an embassy to al-Mundhir of Hira, to negotiate peace, and the author of an account of the martyrdoms in Southern Arabia, see: Ulbert 1986, 162, note 5 (ed. Gatier); Gatier & Ulbert 1991, 180. It is also probable that he appears in seven other inscriptions from Resapha, commemorating restorations of Basilica A, see: Ulbert 1986, 161-165, nos. 2, 3 a-f (ed. Gatier); revised in Gatier & Ulbert 1991, 181. In these texts, just as in our inscription, he styles himself as ὁ β΄ ἐπίσκοπος /'the 2nd bishop' or Σέργιος ὁ β΄/'Sergios the 2nd', and as a cousin of a certain country bishop Maronios. Gatier and Ulbert suppose that Sergios could be the second bishop of Rusafa bearing this name, or that he was a son of another Sergios (i.e. the second Sergios in his family), or, less plausibly, that he was briefly deposed and then reinstated at his see, or that he held two sees simultaneously (Gatier in comments to: Ulbert 1986, 161-164, no. 2 and Gatier & Ulbert 1991, 180-181). The fact that Sergios identified himself as a cousin of a chorepiskopos, a lesser ecclesiastic, is more puzzling. Perhaps he did so to distinguish himself from a predecessor, or Maronios was a local man of considerable importance, with whom he wished to associate himself.


Edition: Gatier, P.-L., Ulbert, T., "Eine Türsturzinschrift aus Resafa Sergiupolis", Damaszener Mitteilungen 5 (1991), 169-182. Further reading: Brands, G., Resafa VI: Die Bauornamentik von Resafa-Sergiupolis. Studien zur spätantiken Architektur und Bauausstattung in Syrien und Nordmesopotamien (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 2002), 48-52, 114-117. Brands, G., "Old and new order. City and territorium of Ruṣāfa in Late Antiquity and early Islamʼ, [in:] Borrut, A., Debié, M., Papaconstantinou, A., Pieri, D., Sodini, J.-P. (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abbassides: Peuplement et dynamiques spatiales. Actes du colloque «Continuités de l’occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles», Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de lʼAntiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 59-76. Gussone, M., Sack, D., "Resafa/Syrien. Städtebauliche Entwicklung zwischen Kultort und Herrschaftssitz", in: E. Rizos (ed.), New Cities in Late Antiquity. Documents and Archaeology (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité Tardive 35, Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), 117-136. Key Fowden, E., The Barbarian Plain: St. Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley, Calif.; London: University of California Press, 1999), 60-100. Key Fowden, E., "Christian monasteries and Umayyad residences in late antique Syria", [in:] J. Ma Blázquez Martínez, A. González Blanco (eds.), Sacralidad y arqueología: homenaje al Prof. Thilo Ulbert al cumplir 65 años (Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 2004), 565-581. Kollwitz, J., "Die Grabungen in Resafa", [in:] E. Boehringer (ed.), Neue Deutsche Augrabungen in Mittelmeergebiet und im Vorderen Orient (Berlin: Mann, 1959), 45-70. Konrad, M., "Flavische und spätantike Bebauung unter der Basilika B von Resafa-Sergiupolis", Damaszener Mitteilungen 6 (1992), 313-402. Loosley, E., The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema in Fourth-to-Sxth-century Syrian Churches (Boston: Brill, 2012), 28-29; 129-131; 267-272. Sack, D., Sarhan, M., Gussone, M., "Resafa-Sergiupolis/Ruṣāfat Hišām, Syrien. Pilgerstadt und Kalifenresidenz. Neue Ansätze, Ergebnisse und Perspektiven", Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie 3 (2010), 102-129. Sack, D., Gussone, M., "Resafa – Pilgerstadt und Kalifenresidenz am Rand der Wüste", Spektrum der Wissenschaften, Spezial 2 (2011), 58-65. Sack, D., "St Sergios in Resafa: Worshipped by Christians and Muslims alike", in: Blömer, M., Lichtenberger, A., Raja, R. (eds.), Religious Identities in the Levant from Alexander to Muhammed: Continuity and Change (Contextualizing the Sacred 4, Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), 271-282. Shahîd, I., Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 2, part 1: Toponymy, Monuments, Historical Geography, and Frontier Studies (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002), 115-132, 136-142. Ulbert, T., Resafa II: Die Basilika des Heiligen Kreuzes in Resafa-Sergiupolis (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1986). Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1978), 521. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 575. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 41, 1537, 1538; 52, 1588bis.

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