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E01687: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions commemorating the paving of the martyr shrine of unnamed 'Holy Martyrs' in the so-called 'Basilica of Ioulianos' at Barad/Brad in the Limestone Massif (north Syria, between Antioch on the Orontes and Beroia/Aleppo). Probably late 5th c.

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posted on 2016-07-02, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

εἰς μνήμην τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων. Κύρα
Ἠσυχίου, εὐξαμένη ὑπὲρ σωτηρίας
Εὐσεβίου ἀνδρὸς καὶ Μαρκιανοῦ γαμβρ<ο>ῦ,
καὶ ̣Ἡσυ[χίας] θυγατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἐ<κ>γό-
νων, ἐ[πλήρ]ωσεν τὴν ψιφίδα.

'For the memory of the holy martyrs. Kyra, daughter of Hesychios, completed the mosaic, having sworn a vow for the salvation of Eusebios, her husband, and Markianios, her son-in-law, and Hesychia, her daughter, and the descendants.'

Inscription 2:

ἐπεστασίᾳ Βαρλαα διακόνου

'Under the supervision of the deacon Barlaa.'

Text: Lassus 1947, 170-171.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060

Saint Name in Source

ἅγιοι μάρτυρες

Type of Evidence

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


  • 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 Barad/Brâd Antioch on the Orontes

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

Beroia Thabbora Thabbora Barad/Brâd Thabbora Thabbora Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

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

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - oil Making contact relics Reliquary – institutionally owned


The inscriptions are situated in the floor of the northeast chamber, identified as a martyr shrine, in the so-called Basilica of Ioulianos: the cathedral church at Barad/Brad. At the moment of its discovery, this was one of the biggest recorded ancient churches in Syria. The church is a three-aisled basilica with a portico with a colonnade at its west end, and a court with another colonnade, adjacent to the south aisle of the building. The apse was flanked by two small chambers. The north aisle, led to yet another, squarish extension, with a small apse in its eastern wall, identified as a martyr shrine (c. 8.30 m x 8.30 m). To the north and to the south of this apse there are two niches with large stone chests/sarcophagi (the southern one: W. 1.42 m; L. 1.02 m; H. 0.6 m; fitted with a hole for the production of holy oil; the northern one: W. 1.24 m; L. 0.50 m; H. 0.28 m). There are traces of other (at least two more) reliquaries in the room and of a burial (probably considerably later than the placement of the reliquaries, but still presumably a burial ad sanctos). The room was connected directly with the outside by a door in its west wall and with a small rectangular room through the north wall. The foundations of the church contain the reused stones from an earlier pagan temple. The construction of the core of the church was begun in around 395 and was completed in 402 ('through the intercessions of saints', see: E01688). Some of the extensions of the church are probably 5th or 6th c. structures. The actual date of the construction of the martyr shrine is unknown, but according to Lassus it might be in the late 5th c., based on the dates of similar mosaics from the territory of Antioch. The church was first surveyed by Howard Butler, during the Princeton Archaeological Expedition to Syria in 1905, but no mosaic pavements were recorded then, as they were covered by debris, soil and plants. In 1939 research on the church was resumed by Jean Lassus and Georges Tchalenko, who unearthed the mosaic floors.


The inscriptions commemorate the paving of the martyr shrine. The identity of the founder, Kyra, daughter of Hesychios is not known. She must have been a rich woman of local importance. Interestingly she is introduced here as the sole founder and the supplicant who made a vow on behalf of the whole family, though her husband and son-in-law were apparently still alive. This is implied by the votive formula ὑπὲρ σωτηρίας/'for the salvation', used with reference to the living, in contrast to the formulas ὑπὲρ ἀναπαύσεως/'for the repose' and ὑπὲρ μνήμης/'for the memory', usual for the dead. Moreover, the daughter of Kyra is named her, not her husband's, child, which might indicate that the social position of her family was much higher than that of her spouse. She may have been called after a martyr Kyros, if this saint was venerated in the city (see the discussion in E01689). The names of the martyrs, whose relics were kept in the chapel, are not specified. In our inscription they are called simply ἅγιοι μάρτυρες/'the holy martyrs'. Jean Lassus supposes that they were the figures mentioned in another inscription found in Barad, see: E01689. Martyr shrines, situated in extensions off north aisles, are quite rare in Syria, though common off the south aisle. Pauline Donceel-Voûte and Marie-Christine Comte suppose that the original martyrion of this church was located in the room at the east end of the south apse, and that the reliquaries were moved to the north room only later, when more space was needed for the growing collection of relics.


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), 300-303. Donceel-Voûte, P., Les pavements des églises byzantines de Syrie et du Liban. Décor, archéologie et liturgie (Publications d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université catholique de Louvain 69, Louvain-La-Neuve: Département d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art, 1988), 38-44. Lassus, J., Sanctuaires chrétiens de Syrie: essai sur la genèse, la forme et l'usage liturgique des édifices du culte chrétien, en Syrie, du IIIe siècle à la conquête musulmane (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 42, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1947), 170-171. Further reading: Butler, H.C. (ed.), Syria, Publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904-1905 and 1909, division II: Ancient Architecture in Syria, part B: North Syria (Leyden: E.J. Brill, 1920), 305. Loosley, E., The architecture and liturgy of the bema in fourth- to-sixth-century Syrian churches (Boston: Brill, 2012), 28-29; 129-131; 141-144. Scheck, F.R., Odenthal, J., Syrien - Hochkulturen zwischen Mittelmeer und Arabischer Wüste (Köln: DuMont Reiseverlag, 1998), 290-291. For photographs of the church, see: Emma Loosley, 'Brad Church of Julianos', Architecture and Asceticism, accessed August 12, 2016, Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1950), 207. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 40, 1779-1780.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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