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E01977: Floor-mosaics with two Greek inscriptions: an invocation of the God of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259); and the record of the paving of a shrine (hierateion?) dedicated to the saint. Found in a church at Deir al-'Adas to the southwest of Damascus (south Phoenicia/north Arabia). One of them is dated 722.

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posted on 2016-10-31, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Floor-mosaics and remains of the foundations of the church at Deir al-'Adas were found in 1959 during restoration works at the village. The discovery was followed by a survey supervised by the Syrian Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums in 1960, when some of the mosaics were lifted and moved to the Museum in Damascus. Three panels were taken to the citadel of Bosra, where they were put on display. The inscribed panels were reportedly stored in the storage of the Museum in Damascus.

The church was a three-aisled structure with two rectangular 'sacristies' situated to the right and to the left of the apse of the nave. The building was constructed mostly of basalt blocks.

Among the richly decorated mosaic floors we have scenes showing: a caravan with a camel driver (καμηλάριος), a man hunting for hares with two dogs, a man harvesting grapes, and a man with a cage, catching birds.

Several mosaic panels bear Greek and Syriac inscriptions. Two of them mention Saint George as the patron of the church:

Inscription 1: Framed rectangular mosaic panel in the floor of the north aisle, at its west end. Positioned in front of a pilaster, near panels with geometric patterns. Lines 1 and 2 are partially lost. First published by Pauline Donceel-Voûte.

Κ(ύρι)ε [Ἰ(ησο)ῦ τοῦ ἁγίου Γεω]ργί[ου],
βωη[θέσον τοὺ]ς ψηφω-
θήτας τοὺς κάμνα-
ντας ὧδε καὶ Προκοπίου
Ραεου ἐς τὶν χιραθησία(ν)

'O Lord, [Jesus of Saint] George (?), help [the] mosaicists who toiled here, and Prokopios, son of Raeos (?), regarding the laying of the mosaic.'

Text: IGLS XIV 594 = Donceel-Voûte 1988, 52. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

Donceel-Voûte stresses that the phrasing of our mosaic is unusual. It invokes the help, probably of Jesus (or of God) 'of Saint George', not for the founder but first of all for the unnamed artisans who constructed the mosaic floor in this aisle. The identity of Prokopios mentioned in line 4 is not clear. He could be one of the artisans or the person who commissioned the mosaic and paid for it. This Prokopios asks for χιραθησία which is probably a misspelling of χειροθησία. According to Donceel-Voûte this term might here mean 'the imposition of hands': either a simple benediction or an integral element of the ordination of deacons, presbyters, and bishops. It is, therefore, possible that Prokopios offered the mosaic as a vow for his forthcoming ordination. In contrast, Jean Bingen (in SEG 40, 1521ter) plausibly suggests that χειροθησία means the 'laying by hand of the mosaic' by a mosaicist; an interpretation that we prefer.

Inscription 2: Framed rectangular mosaic panel in the north aisle, situated further to the east of Inscription 1. It is surrounded by geometric patterns.

+ ὑπὲρ σοτηρίας κ(αὶ) ἀφέσε-
ω(ς) ἁμαρτήων Πέτρου πρεσβ-
υτέρου κ(αὶ) ἡγουμένου τὸ παρὸν ἱ<ερ>α-
τῖον ἐψιφόθι κ(αὶ) τὸ λυπὸν τοῦ
ναοῦ τοῦ ἁγίου Γεοργίου μη(νὸς) Ἰαν-
ουαρίου κ΄, ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ε΄, ἔτους ͵αλγ΄

3-4. ἱ<ερ>ατῖον Feissel, IGLS XIV, ἰατ<ρ>ῖον Donceel-Voûte Sartre-Fauriat

'+ As a vow for the salvation and the remission of sins of Petros, presbyter and abbot (higoumenos) the present shrine (hierateion?) was paved with a mosaic and the rest of the church (naos) of Saint George. On the 20th (day) of the month of January, 5th indiction, the year 1033.'

Text: IGLS XIV 593 = Donceel-Voûte 1988, 53 with corrections by D. Feissel in BE (1992), 637; (2001), 515 and Feissel 1994, 291. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

The most important feature of this inscription is its date, read by Donceel-Voûte (following an earlier remark by Jean-Paul Rey Coquais) as the 1033rd year of the Seleucid era (and not the 933rd year, as suggested by former scholars who mentioned this text). If this reading is correct (and the published photographs show that it probably is), the date must correspond to AD 722, well into the Umayyad period.

Donceel-Voûte believed that the inscription refers to the paving of an 'infirmary' (termed ἰατρεῖον, which is an otherwise unattested word, corrected by her from ἰατῖον) belonging to the church. This institution must have been located either directly in the east part of the north aisle where the mosaic was found (Donceel-Voûte points out that a part of the aisle was probably divided from the rest of the shrine by an enclosure), or in an adjacent chapel. As relics and reliquaries were often displayed in Syrian churches in chapels at the east end of north aisles, it is possible that the author of the inscription meant precisely such a chapel, where holy oil was distributed to ailing pilgrims, and not a proper 'infirmary', i.e. an institution offering beds and care to the sick. However, Denis Feissel prefers to read the disputed word as ἱ<ερ>ατῖον/'a shrine', probably a chapel dedicated to the cult of George, which is a much more probable option.

The dedicatory formula mentions a certain Peter, presbyter and abbot, which implies that our church might have belonged to a monastery.

Dating: the date of the construction of the whole church is unknown, but Inscription 2 give us the year AD 722 as the moment of the laying of the pavement. This undertaking could be contemporary to the construction or could be the result of a later refurbishment.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259

Saint Name in Source


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

Damascus Deir al-'Adas

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

Damascus Thabbora Thabbora Deir al-'Adas Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Hospital and other charitable institutions

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - abbots Merchants and artisans Aristocrats


Edition: IGLS XIV = Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., Inscriptions grecques et latines de Syrie, vol. 14: La Batanée et le Jawlā Oriental (Beyrouth: Institut français du Proche-Orient: 2016), nos. 593 and 594 with further references. Sartre-Fauriat, A., "Georges, Serge, Élie et quelques autres saints connus et inédits de la province d'Arabie", in: Fr. Prévot (ed.), Romanité et cité chrétienne. Permances et mutations. Intégration et exclusion du Ier au VIe siècle. Mélanges en l'honneur d'Yvette Duval (Paris: De Boccard, 2000), 301-302. Farioli Campanati, R., 'II mosaico pavimentale d'epoca umayyade della chiesa di S. Giorgio nel Deir al-Adas (Siria)', in: A. Iacobini, E. Zanini (eds.), Arte profana e arte sacra a Bisanzio (Rome: Argos, 1995), 257-259; 263 fig. 5. Balty, J., 'La mosaïque en Syrie', in: J.-M. Dentzer, W. Orthmann (eds.), Archéologie et histoire de la Syrie, vol. 2: La Syrie de l'époque achéménide à l'avènement de l'Islam (Saarbrucken: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, 1989), 516. 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), 45-54. Further reading: Abdul-Hak, S., "Considérations sur l'art syrien avant l'Islam. Art de la mosaïque syrienne à l'époque chrétienne", Les annales archéologiques de Syrie 11-12 (1961-1962), 61-67 and plates 2-5 [in Arabic; first mentioned]. Balty, J., Mosaïques antiques de Syrie (Bruxelles: Centre belge de recherches archéologiques à Apamée de Syrie, 1977), 148-152. Bowersock, G.W., Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam (Cambridge, Mass., London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006), 103. Dulière, C., Mosaïques des portiques de la grande colonnade (Fouilles d'Apamée de Syrie. Miscellanea 3, Bruxelles: Centre Belge de Recherches Archéologiques à Apamée de Syrie, 1974), 55. Dunbabin, K.M.D., Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 184-185. Feissel, D., "L'épigraphie des mosaïques d'églises en Syrie et au Liban", Antiquité tardive 2 (1994), 291. 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), 11, 19, 21. Hachlili, R., Ancient Mosaic Pavements: Themes, Issues, and Trends: Selected Studies (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2009), 173. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1992), 637; (2001), 515. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine 660. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 37, 1440; 40, 1521ter; 44, 1397; 50, 1518.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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