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E01953: A labelled depiction of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), on a marble plaque, in a relief Nativity scene. Found at Iabrouda/Yabrūd to the south of Ḥimṣ/Emesa (south Phoenicia). Probably the 6th-7th c. or later.

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posted on 2016-10-21, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A marble plaque showing a relief with the Nativity scene. First recorded by Denis Fossey in the then Greek-catholic church in Yabrūd, where it was displayed in an altar. Fossey published the transcriptions of lables and a short description of the image, but was unable to identify the place of origin of the object.

The site was revisited by René Mouterde who figured out that our plaque was probably brought to its present place from another church, he said, dedicated to 'Our Lady'. When examined, the relief appeared to be weathered. As reported by Mouterde, the Nativity scene shows the seated Virgin Mary flanked by two animals (certainly an ox and an ass) that were, however, effaced.

The relief is labelled with the following inscriptions:

A: A quotation from the Book of Isaiah 1:3:

+ ἔγνο βοῦς τὸν κτησάμενον
καὶ ὄνος τὴν φάτνην τοῦ Κ(υρίο)υ αὐτοῦ

1. ἔγνο Mouterde, εγνοο Uspensky, εγνω Fossey

'The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.'

B: Label of Mary:

+ ἡ ἁγία Μαρία

'+ The Holy Mary.'

Text: IGLS 5, no. 2710.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Narrative scenes Images and objects - Sculpture/reliefs 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 Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ḥimṣ/Emesa Iabrouda/Yabrūd

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

Ḥimṣ/Emesa Thabbora Thabbora Iabrouda/Yabrūd Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image


The quoted passage from the Book of Isaiah is the basis for the apocryphal tradition that an ox and and ass were present at the crib in Bethleem when Jesus was born. Mouterde notes that the use of the expression ἡ ἁγία Μαρία/'the Holy Mary' instead of the common epithet Θεοτόκος/'the God-Bearer' is characteristic of 6th c. miaphysites. Cf. E01937; E01949.


Edition: Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, C., Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 5: Émésène (BAH 66, Paris: P. Guethner, 1959), no. 2710. Uspensky, F., “”, Izvestiya russkago arkheologicheskago institutα v Konstantinopole 7 (1902), 110. Fossey, D., "Inscriptions de Syrie", Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 21 (1897), 59. Further reading: Jalabert, L., "Citations bibliques", DACL, col. 1738, no. 120.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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