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E01832: Inscribed red marble reliquary from the East church (the cathedral church) in Apamea on the Orontes (central Syria), recording relics of the following saints: *Ioudas, a saint whose name is lost (D[---]),*Kallinikos (possibly the martyr of Gangra, S00923), *Ioannes/John 'Stratiotes', and the *Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia (S00103). Probably 6th c.

online resource
posted on 2016-09-03, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A red marble reliquary, in the form of a sarcophagus. H. 0.47 m; W. 0.60 m. The lid is lost. Fitted with channels to allow liquids (almost certainly oil) to flow through the relics, and with a basin for collecting this fluid on one of the narrow sides (see E01831, for similar reliquaries, also in Apameia). The inscription is on one of the long sides. The inscribed face is weathered and not easy to read. No other decorations.

The reliquary was found in the northeast triconch chapel, that certainly served as a baptistery, in its south apse, near a stone pedestal. Now in the Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire in Brussels. First published by Fernand Mayence and Hippolyte Delehaye in 1935.


+ λίψανα τῶν ἁγ(ίων) Ἰούδα (καὶ) Δ[- - -]
(καὶ) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Καλλινίκου (καὶ) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Ἰω[άννου]
τοῦ στρατιώτου (καὶ) τῶν ἁγ(ίων) μʹ
μαρτύρων +

'+ Relics of the saints Ioudas and D[- - -], and of Saint Kallinikos, and of Saint Ioannes the Soldier (Stratiotes), and of the Holy 40 Martyrs. +'

Text: IGLS 4, no. 1343.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, ob. early 4th c. : S00103 Kyros and Iōannēs, physician martyrs in Egypt, ob. early 4th c. : S00406 Demetrius, martyred deacon of Sirmium : S00697 Kallinikos, martyr of Gangra, ob. 3rd/4th c. : S00923 Jude Thaddaeus, Apos

Saint Name in Source

οἱ ἅγιοι μ΄ μάρτυρες Ἰωάννης ὁ στρατιώτης Καλλίνικος Ἰούδας Ἰούδας Ἰούδας Ἰωάννης ὁ στρατιώτης

Type of Evidence

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

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Apamea on the Orontes

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

Apamea on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Relics

Making contact relics Contact relic - oil Reliquary – institutionally owned


The church is situated near the east gate of Apameia. It was first examined between 1932 and 1940 in the course of the excavations by the Belgian archaeological mission, supervised by Fernand Mayence. Research was resumed by Jean-Charles Balty in 1970, mostly in the south and east sections of the building. The sanctuary is considered to have been originally a memorial shrine (martyrion), built in the 5th c. to house relics of the Holy Cross, which after the earthquake of 526 or 528 was refurbished as the new cathedral of the city. The location of the building that had played the role of the cathedral before these disasters is still unknown. The mosaic pavements from our church record that bishop Paulos decided to move the seat of his see and that he supervised the refurbishment. The original plan of the church was a square. After the refurbishment, the church acquired a much more complicated structure with a tetraconch core, extended to the east with an apse containing a synthronon. This apse was flanked by chambers and surrounded by an ambulatory, where there was an unusual niche in one of the walls, with a channel reaching the floor. This device is believed to have been used in the production of holy oil, and was probably covered by a lid, as implied by four holes drilled in the wall. It is, however, unconnected with our reliquary. At least two non-contemporary baptismal complexes are discernible among the chapels.


The inscription says that relics of four individual figures, named simply 'saints'/ἅγιοι (and not explicitly 'martyrs'), were kept inside the reliquary. In addition, the reliquary is said to have contained also relics of 'the Holy 40 Martyrs', almost certainly the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia in northeast Asia Minor, whose cult was widely spread all over the East. The identity of the four individual saints is problematic. It was first discussed by Hippolyte Delehaye in 1935 and later commented on by Anja Kalinowski (2013). Delehaye notes that the only Ioudas appearing in Christian calendars is Judas the Apostle (other than Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus), venerated in the Synaxary of the Church of Constantinople as the brother of Jacob/James the Just on 12th May and as Judas the Zealot on 22nd May. In Delehaye's opinion it is very unlikely that such a prominent figure would be mentioned here without his apostolic title. Furthermore, the first two saints, Ioudas and D[- - -] are probably a pair of martyrs, as they share the epithet 'holy' in the plural form. We agree with Delehaye, in excluding the Apostle Judas as a possibility, and agree with him that they are probably a pair of local martyrs, unattested elsewhere. Anja Kalinowski has argued for the identity of this Judas with Thomas the Apostle, very popular in the Near East (for being credited with the evangelisation of the region) and in some apocrypha identified with Judas, brother of Jesus and James the Just (for references, see Kalinowski 2013, 109, note 575). Despite the fact that this identification is based on a local Syriac tradition, the theory seems in itself implausible, and it does not take account of the plural 'of the saints Ioudas and D... '. Delehaye (p. 240) lists a number of saints venerated under the name Kallinikos, but most of them belong to groups or couples of martyrs. Among them is, however, Kallinikos, martyr of Gangra in central Asia Minor, venerated on 29th July, whose cult was known in Constantinople. Interestingly, according to the Synaxary of the Church of Constantinople, his feast was immediately followed by that of Ioannes the Soldier/στρατιώτης, arrested and tortured under the emperor Julian. Given the fact that our inscription mentions two homonymous saints in the identical order and with the same titles, it is tempting to identify them with Kallinikos and Ioannes from the Synaxary. Though still hypothetical, this idea is much more plausible than the identification suggested by Kalinowski (p. 109). She proposed that our Ioannes the Soldier could be Ioannes, venerated together with Kyros/Cyrus in Abu Qir in Egypt. Though Ioannes of Abu Qir is described in the hagiographic tradition as a military man, one would expect him to be venerated together with his companion. We cannot say, whether this collection of relics was acquired by the church as a complete packet, or whether relics of individual martyrs were added to the reliquary one after another. It is supposed that the reliquary dates to the 6th c. and was an integral part of the baptistery. Marie Christine Comte suggested that the oil sanctified by contact with the relics was produced for anointments conducted during baptisms.


Edition: Kalinowski, A., Frühchristliche Reliquiare im Kontext von Kultstrategien, Heilserwartung und sozialer Selbstdarstellu (Spätantike – Frühes Christentum Byzanz 32, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2011), 107-109. 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), 361-363 (with further bibliography). Buschhausen, H., Die spätrömischen Metallscrinia und frühchristlichen Reliquiare (Wiener byzantinistische Studien 9, Wien: , 1971), 305-307, no. C54, Plate C 22????. Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, Cl., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 4: Laodicée, Apamène (BAH 61, Paris: Librairie orientalise Paul Geuthner, 1955), no. 1343 (with further bibliography). Balty J.-Ch., Napoleone-Lemaire, J., L'église à atrium de la grande colonnade (Fouilles d'Apamée de Syrie vol 1, part 1; Bruselles: Centre belge de recherches archéologiques à Apamée de Syrie, 1969), 57-69 (especially 63, no. 1, Plates 53, 4-5). Delehaye, H., "Saints et reliquaires d'Apamée", Analecta Bollandiana 53 (1935), 225-244. Mayence, F., “La quatrième campagne de fouilles à Apamée de Syrie”, Bulletin des Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (1935), 4-7 [reprinted in: L'antiquité classique 4 (1935), 199-204]. Further reading: DACL, s.v. Syrie, col. 1878 (Lassus). De Bruyne, Rivista di archeologia cristiana, 13 (1936), 336. 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, vol. 69, 1988), 203-215 (with further bibliography).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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