University of Oxford
6 files

E01776: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions from a monastic church of *Sergios (soldier and martyr in Rusafa, S00023), at Khirbet esh-Shubeika near Tyre (north west Galilee/southwest Phoenicia), commemorating possibly the foundation, and the subsequent enlargement and restorations of the shrine. Probably the late 6th-7th to the early 9th c. (mentioned dates: 784/785, or 785/786, or 801/802).

online resource
posted on 2016-07-31, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

An unframed mosaic floor inscription, situated in front of the bema, between a mosaic cross and a rosette ('spinning wheel') with a cross in the middle. The editor says that it was uncovered 'after the removal of the phase IV bema wall.'

Ζαννέος διάκων

'Zeiroubeos, deacon, Zanneos, deacon.'

Text: Tzaferis 2003, no. 3.

The inscription probably commemorated some works on the bema: possibly its construction or extension and perhaps paving. It mentions two deacons bearing Semitic names. Tzaferis notes that the first name, Zeiroubeos, has been so far unattested (the reading is, nonetheless certain, as the letters are large and clear). On the other hand, the name Zanneos appears frequently in south Judaea and in the Negev.

Considering its archaeological context (covered by later structures), it is possible that the mosaic records the earliest phase of the construction of the sanctuary in the 6th or 7th c.

Inscription 2:

A fragmentary framed mosaic floor panel in the north aisle. H. 0.85 m; W. 1.37 m; letter height c. 0.09 m. Black letters on white background, black lining. The date is written in cursive Greek. After the first edition by Tzaferis, an improved one was offered by Leah Di Segni.

+ ἐ[πὶ τοῦ μητροπ]ο̣λήτου {η}
ἡμ[ῶν Ἀναστ]ασίου κὲ Π-
ροκοπί[ου ἡ]γουμ[έν]ου ἐ-
γένετο τὸ πᾶν [ἔργ]̣ον
τοῦ ἁγήου Σεργίου· ἰψιφό-
[σε]ος ἔτους ˏϛcϞγ΄

5-6. ἰψιφό|[σε]ος Feissel, ἰψιφό|[θη κτίσε]ος Di Segni Tzaferis

'Under our metropolitan bishop Anastasios and the abbot (higoumenos) Prokopios, all the work of Saint Sergios was completed. The paving (was done) in the year 6293.'

Text: Di Segni 2003, 257 with completions by Feissel in BE (2005), 524. Translation: Vassilios Tzaferis, lightly altered.

This is the most important inscription from the church. It probably commemorates the enlargement of the bema and paving of the floor in the north aisle.

Based on the reference to a metropolitan bishop in line 1, Khirbet esh-Shubeika was ascribed to the territory of the metropolitan see of Tyre, the closest metropolitan bishopric (the remote metropoleis of Caesarea Maritima in Palaestina I and of Bet-Shean/Scythopolis in Palaestina II are unlikely to be meant here), and thus we can conclude that it belonged to the cultural area of southwest Syria (though in geographical terms it is sited in northwest Galilee). The other ecclesiastic, mentioned in lines 2-3, bears the title of an abbot (higoumenos), which suggests that our church was probably a monastic sanctuary.

Line 6 contains a date, given in the era of creation (anno mundi): the year 6293. Tzaferis notes that we have evidence for the use of three different creation eras in Palestine, and therefore the date might correspond to AD 784/785 (if the author used the so-called proto-Byzantine era of creation), AD 785/786 (if the author used the Byzantine era of creation; preferred by Tzaferis and by Gatier 2011, 12, 15-16), or AD 801/802 (if we have here the Alexandrine era of creation). Anyway, the inscription dates to about a century after the Arab conquest of Palestine and is just above our chronological limit. Nonetheless, we decided to include it, as it informs us of the patron saint (Sergios) of this important church, probably constructed in the 6th/7th c. It also shows that the local Christian community was still prosperous under the Muslim rule.

Inscription 3:

A framed mosaic panel in the floor of the bema. There is no published description.

+ Ἡράκ-

'+ Heraklitos, deacon, Alexandra.'

Text: Tzaferis 2003, no. 1.

The inscription mentions two names, apparently of donors. Based on the location of the panel, Vassilios Tzaferis supposes that they funded the paving of the bema in one of the last phases of the existence of the church. The shape of letters and the archaeological context point to the 8th c.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. From: Tzaferis 2003, 85.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 1 (drawing). From: Tzaferis 2003, 86.

Image Caption 3

Inscription 2. From: Tzaferis 2003, 84.

Image Caption 4

Inscription 2 (drawing). From: Tzaferis 2003, 84.

Image Caption 5

Inscription 3. From: Tzaferis 2003, 83.

Image Caption 6

Inscription 3 (drawing). From: Tzaferis 2003, 83.

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 Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tyre Khirbet esh-Shubeika

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

Tyre Thabbora Thabbora Khirbet esh-Shubeika Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - abbots Women


Khirbet esh-Shubeika is a site in northwest Galilee, situated between modern Nahariya and Ma'alot. It was surveyed several times in the 20th c. and salvage excavations were conducted there in 1991/1993 by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The surveys revealed the existence of a settlement dating to the Iron Age, which was inhabited until the Mamluk period (c. 13th-16th c.; with a possible short period of abandonment in the second half of the 7th c., see: Avshalom-Gorni, Tatcher & Tzaferis 2001, 347). During the excavations, sections of the village, a part of a church, and a nearby monastery were unearthed. Pottery, glass, and coins were dated to the 6th/10th c., and some high quality imported pottery to the 4th/8th c. For a bronze lamp, dedicated to a certain Saint *Sabbas, found in the village, see: E01773. The church, where our inscriptions were found, was a three-aisled basilica, measuring probably c. 10x15 m. Only a section of the nave and the north aisle were uncovered and examined. The history of the church was divided into five phases, including the construction of the shrine, the construction and extensions of the bema, and restorations of the mosaic floors (for details, see: Syon 2003, 76-78). It is supposed that the church was built in the 7th c. (but 7th c. churches are rare in the Near East; if so, Phase I corresponds to the construction) or in the 6th c. (if so, Phase I is the first restoration). The evidence of the lamp and of our inscriptions suggest that the monastery could have been dedicated to Saint Sabbas, and its church to the martyr Sergios. The inscriptions were first edited, based on the examination of the objects, drawings and photographs, by Vasillios Tzaferis in 2002 in Eretz – Zafon. Studies in Galilean Archaeology with comments in Hebrew, and in 2003 in One Land – Many Cultures. Archaeological Studies in Honour of Stanislao Loffreda OFM with comments in English. An improved edition of Inscription 2 was offered by Leah Di Segni in 2003 in the ARAM journal. Further remarks by Denis Feissel in BE (2005), 524 and by the editors of Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum.


Edition: Tzaferis, V., “The Greek inscriptions from the church at Khirbet el-Shubeika”, [in:] G.C. Bottini, L. Di Segni, L.D. Chrupcala, One Land – Many Cultures. Archaeological Studies in Honour of Stanisalo Loffreda OFM (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 2003), 83-86. Tzaferis, V., “Excavations at Khirbet el-Shubeika 1991, 1993. The Inscriptions”, [in:] Z. Gal (ed.), Eretz – Zafon. Studies in Galilean Archaeology (Jerusalem: Rashut ha-ʿatiḳot, 2002), 340-345. Further reading: Ashkenazi, J., Aviam, M., "Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung und materielle Kultur im christlich geprägten Galiläa der Spätantike. Ein Forschungsbericht", Antike Welt 2 (2018), 49. Di Segni, L., “Christian Epigraphy in the Holy Land: New Discoveries”, ARAM 15 (2003), 256-257. Gatier, P.-L., "Inscriptions grecques, mosaïques et églises des débuts de l'époque islamique au Proche-Orient (VIIe-VIIIe) siècles", in: A. Borrut, M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abassides : 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 l'Antiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 12, 15-16 (for comments on the use of creation eras in late antique inscriptions). Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 186-187, no. 273 (with further bibliography). Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2005), 524. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 52, 1666-1668; 53, 1828. For a description of the site, see: Syon, D., "A church from the early Islamic period at Khirbet el-Shubeika", [in:] G.C. Bottini, L. Di Segni, L.D. Chrupcala, One Land – Many Cultures. Archaeological Studies in Honour of Stanisalo Loffreda OFM (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 2003), 75-82. Avshalom-Gorni, D., Tatcher, A., Tzaferis, V., "The veneration of St. Sabas in southern Phoenicia: the evidence of a bronze oil lamp from Khirbet esh-Shubeika", in: J. Patrich (ed.), The Sabaite Heritage in the Orthodox Church from the Fifth Century to the Present (Leuven: Peters, 2001), 347-352.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager