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E01761: Painted roundel with a bust of a female saint, probably *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), painted on a tomb above an epitaph dated 12 August 440. Found at the necropolis of Tyre (west Phoenicia).

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posted on 2016-07-23, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A limestone tomb, found in complex XXXI/L35 at the necropolis of Tyre, has three burial chambers (loculi), with openings in its west side. Dimensions of the tomb: W. 3.42 m; L. 3.52 m; H. 1.79 m. Internal dimensions of the loculi: W. 2.12 m; L. 0.93 m; H. 1.33 m. Loculus 1 is separated from the other two, and situated in the south side of the tomb.

Above the plaque, closing loculus 1, there is a painting of the bust of a female holy figure, with nimbus, within a medallion. The woman is depicted facing the viewer. She has short light hair. She is wearing a dark cloak with a hood and a small cross around her neck. The roundel is flanked by two painted Latin crosses, made up of circles (probably cruces gemmatae), with the letters Α and Ω below their horizontal arms.

The editor, Maurice Chéhab, without describing the picture, identifies the figure as 'certainly' the Virgin Mary and compares this depiction with the image of Mary from the church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais considers Chéhab's identification as 'probable'.

Though it is justified to suppose that the painted figure is Mary, based on the fact that at least two churches were dedicated to this saint in Tyre (see: E01697), and she was considered a protectress of the city (see: $E01765), the painting certainly needs the attention of art historians and further comments.

Below the painting, on the greyish-blue marble plaque closing loculus 1, is an epitaph, providing us with the date of the construction of this tomb (H. 0.5 m; W. 0.6 m; letter height 0.035 m):

[ἐ]νθάδε κῖτε ὁ μ(ακάριος)
κύριος Πραῦλλιος
ἀναπαυσάμενος μη(νὸς)
Πανέμου κδ΄ τοῦ εξφ΄
ἔτους ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) η΄

'Here lies the blessed master Prayllios, who was put to rest (i.e. died) on the 24th (day) of the month of Panemos, the year 565, the 8th indiction.'

Text: Chéhab 1985, 620 = I. Tyr 1, 100, no. 181.

The date (the number is inverted, as was the usual Syriac practice), given here according to the era of Tyre, commencing in 126 BC, corresponds to 12th August AD 440. It is not demonstrable, whether both the painting and the plaque were contemporary, and for which reason this unique image was placed on this tomb, as other graves lack such decorations.

The painting and the plaque are now in the Museum of Beirut. For a probably similar, but destroyed, depiction of Mary (in relief), see: $E01801.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements Images and objects - Representative images Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)


  • 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)

Tyre Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Edition: Chéhab, M., "Fouilles de Tyr, La Nécropole, vol. 2: Description des fouilles", Bulletin du Musée de Beyrouth 35 (1985), 620 and Plate cxxix. Further reading: I. Tyr 1 – Rey-Coquais, J.-P. (ed.), Inscriptions grecques et latines découvertes dans les fouilles de Tyr (1963-1974), vol. 1: Inscriptions de la Nécropole (Bulletin du Musée de Beyrouth 29, Paris: Librairie d'Amérique et d'Orient A. Maisonnueve, 1977), 100, no. 181. Rey-Coquais, J.-P., "Tyr aux derniers siècles paléochrétiens: autour du synode de 518", Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beyrouth, Lebanon) 58 (2005), 523, note 48.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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