University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E01658: Greek inscriptions (on a lintel and on a reliquary) from the church in Kfeir Dart'Azze in the Limestone Massif (north Syria, between Antioch on the Orontes and ancient Beroia/Aleppo), mentioning an unspecified *Arbelos (S00870), probably a local martyr. After mid-5th c., or later.

online resource
posted on 2016-06-24, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

According to the editor, Jacques Jarry, the inscription was carved on a plaque which lay on the ground in the north-west corner of the church, but in in Georges Tchalenko's plan of the church it is shown in the south-west corner of the building:

[- - -] ἁγίου Ἰαρβηλου [- - -]

'[- - -] of Saint Iarbelos [- - -]'

Text: Jarry 1970, 203, no. 35.

Inscription 2:

Engraved above two niches on the front face of the reliquary found in the southeast chamber flanking the apse.

ἅγιος Ἀρβελ[ος]

Ἀρβελ[ος] Comte Chehid, Ἰαρβελ[ος] Jarry: based on an unpublished photograph we have, we cannot judge which option is correct

'Saint Arbelos'

Text: Comte 2012, 100-101.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Arbelos (unspecified) : S00870 Sarbelios, martyr of Edessa, ob. 98-117 : S00908 Sharbel and Babai, martyrs in Edessa, ob. 104 : S01126

Saint Name in Source

Ἰαρβηλος, Ἀρβελος Ἰαρβηλος, Ἀρβελος Ἰαρβηλος, Ἀρβελος

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures 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 Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Beroia Kfeir Dart'Azze Antioch on the Orontes

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

Beroia Thabbora Thabbora Kfeir Dart'Azze Thabbora Thabbora Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned Contact relic - oil Making contact relics


The inscriptions were found in the east church at Kfeir Dart'Azze, surveyed by Georges Tchalenko in 1964. First published by Mahmoud Chehid in 1965 in Les Annales archéologiques de Syrie in Arabic. Republished by Jacques Jarry in 1970 in the Annales islamologiques, and in 2012 by Marie-Christine Comte in Les reliquaires du Proche-Orient et de Chypre à la période protobyzantine, IVe-VIIIe siècles: formes, emplacements, fonctions et cultes. Photographs and drawings of Inscription 2 were provided by Tchalenko in 1979 and 1980. There is no published image of Inscription 1, but legible photographs are kept in the Tchalenko Archive in the British Library. The east church was a three-aisled basilica with a semi-circular apse. The building inscription of the church (Jarry 1970, no. 34), displayed at the northwest entrance, says that it was dedicated in the 448 year of a local era, according to Jacques Jarry: the era of Antioch (= the era of Caesar, with the first year reckoned as 49 BC, the year of Caesar's death). This corresponds to AD 399/400. In the 5th c. the church was extended with a chamber in the southeast corner, connected with the aisle by an arched passage with a wooden balustrade. The village was abandoned in the 7th c. At the site two reliquaries were found. The inscribed reliquary, the one we discuss here, was found in the southeast chamber, possibly added to the church in the 5th c. It has the form of a large cippus, on a base, without a lid. It is made of limestone and measures: H. 1.06 m; W. 0.6 m; Th. 0.46 m. The inscription is carved above two front niches. The design resembles that of reliquaries used for the production of holy oil.


Saint Arbelos (or Iarbelos, as his name may be spelt on the plaque) is otherwise unattested. He was probably a local martyr, whose relics were kept in the reliquary. The other possibility is that he was Sarbelios of Edessa, a pagan priest converted to Christianity under the emperor Trajan and martyred in that city (almost certainly a fictional figure). Marie-Christine Comte notes that, though the reliquary had two niches, probably the relics of only one saint were kept inside. But it is still possible that two different pieces of relics were stored there.


Edition: Comte, M.-Ch., Les reliquaires du Proche-Orient et de Chypre à la période protobyzantine, IVe-VIIIe siècles: formes, emplacements, fonctions et cultes (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 20, Turnhout : Brepols Publishers, 2012), 327-329. Jarry, J., “Inscriptions arabes, syriaques et grecques du massif du Bélus en Syrie du nord (suite)”, Annales islamologiques 9 (1970), 203, nos. 35-36. Chehid, M., Les Annales archéologiques de Syrie 15/2 (1965), 217. Tchalenko, G., Eglises de village de la Syrie du nord, vol. 1 (Paris: Librairie orientaliste P. Geuthner, 1979), 72, fig. 134 (drawing). Tchalenko, G., Eglises de village de la Syrie du nord, vol. 2 (Paris: Librairie orientaliste P. Geuthner, 1980), 24, fig. 66 (photograph: reliquary); fig. 68 (photograph: lintel). Reference works: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 62, 1595.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager