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E02062: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions commemorating the foundation, the completion, and paving of a church (naos) dedicated to Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia, S00705). Found at Riḥāb, between Bostra and Gerasa/Jerash (Jordan/the Roman province of Arabia). Dated 604.

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posted on 2016-12-02, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1: Large rectangular mosaic panel, framed by a tabula ansata with a border of geometric patterns and images of small plants with three leaves in semi-circular ansae. White letters on black background. Dimensions not specified. Situated in the nave, in front of the chancel screen.

+ Κ(ύρι)ε, πρόσδεξ(αι) τὴν προσφορὰν τῶν καρποφορησάντων καὶ τῶν καρπο-
φορούντων καὶ ἐλέησον Κυριακὸν (καὶ) Ἰωάννην (καὶ) Κοσμᾶν εὐλαβ(εστάτους)
μοναχ(οὺ)ς καὶ παραμο(ναρίους) τ(οῦ)δε τ(οῦ) ἁγί(ου) τόπ(ου). ἀμήν. Κύριε, [Χ]ΜΓ

'Lord, accept the offering of present and past donors, and have mercy on Kyriakos, and Ioannes, and Kosmas, the most reverent monks and guardians (paramonarioi) of this holy place. Amen. Lord, ΧΜΓ.'

Text: Piccirillo 1981, 68-69. Trans. M. Avi-Yonah, lightly modified.

Inscription 2: Large rectangular mosaic panel with triangular ansae containing tripartite triangles (probably symbols of the Trinity). Black letters on white background. Dimensions not specified. Situated in the nave, to the west of Inscription 1.

+ ἐν ονόματι τῆς ἁγίας (καὶ) ὁμοουσ(ίου) Τριάδος ἐπὶ τοῦ ἁγιωτ(άτου) Πολυεύκτου
ἡμῶν ἀρχιεπισκό(που) (καὶ) μητροπο(λίτου) ἐθεμελιώθ(η) ὁ ναὸς οὗ(τος) τῆς ἁγίας Σοφίας (καὶ) ἐτε-
λιώθη (καὶ) ἐψηφώθη ἐκ προσφορ(ᾶς) Ἰωάννου θεοφ(ιλεστάτου) διακό(νου), Σεργί(ου) (καὶ) Πρόκλου
υἱῶν Ῥισῶνος ἐν ἔτει υοθ΄ μην(ὸς) Φεβρου(αρίου) χρ(όνοις) ὀγδόης ἰνδικτι(ῶ)νος +

'In the name of the holy and consubstantial Trinity, in the time of the most holy Polyeuktos, our archbishop and metropolitan, was laid the foundation of this church of the Holy Wisdom, and it was completed, and paved with mosaics by the offering of Ioannes, the most God-fearing deacon, Sergios and Proklos, the sons of Rison. In the year 499, in the month of February, in the time of the eighth indiction.'

Text: Piccirillo 1981, 69. Trans. M. Avi-Yonah, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sophia, personified Holy Wisdom : S00705

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

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Riḥāb Gerasa/Jerash Bosra

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

Riḥāb Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Gerasa/Jerash Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Other lay individuals/ people


Remnants of the church and its floor-mosaics were discovered by a mission of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 1942 in a private house, in the northwest sector of the town, between the church of *Paul the Apostle (E02053) and the church of *Peter the Apostle (E02054). The site was reportedly lost by 1981. In 1981 Michele Piccirillo analysed the structure of the church based on photographs from the Registration and Research Centre. He supposes that the church was a three-aisled basilica (dimensions are not specified) with an elevated choir, separated from the nave by a chancel screen. The inscribed mosaic panels were situated in the floor of the nave, in front of the choir, one above the other. The mosaics floors in the north aisle showed geometric and floral motifs, and a fruit with a knife. The dedicatory mosaic inscriptions of this church were first published by Michael Avi-Yonah in 1947. In 1981 Michele Piccirillo republished the inscriptions in his corpus, Chiese e mosaici della Giordania settentrionale, based on the photographs from the Registration and Research Centre. In 2000, Inscription 2 was reprinted by Annie Sartre-Fauriat, based on the first edition.


Inscription 2 commemorates three phases of the construction of the church: its foundation, completion, and paving with floor-mosaics (in other dedicatory inscriptions from the site paving is usually mentioned before the completion). The work was done under archbishop Polyeuktos, metropolitan of nearby Bostra, who also appears in other dedicatory mosaics in Riḥāb (E02045, the church of a martyr *Basil, AD 594; E02053, the church of Paul the Apostle, AD 595; E02049, the church of *Stephen the First Martyr, AD 620; E02054, the church of *Peter the Apostle, AD 623; E02637, the church *John the Baptist, AD 604 or 619). The date of the completion of our church is computed according to the era of the province of Arabia. Its year 499 and the month of February correspond to AD 604. Inscription 1 commemorates the offerings 'of the past and present donors'. The dedicatory formula is followed by a request for God's help for three men: Kyriakos, Ioannes, and Kosmas, whom Avi-Yonah considered as monks and sacristans, concluding that a monastery existed in Riḥāb. But Michele Piccirillo rightly points out that as the expression 'monks and sacristans' is abbreviated, we cannot say if it is really in the plural form. Thus, it could refer only to the last mentioned man, Kosmas, while Kyriakos and Ioannes might be laymen of unspecified status. The church was apparently dedicated to Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia). We have no reason to suggest that this abstract entity was venerated as a personification of God's Wisdom, that is as a female saint. The dedication of this church is, however, interesting in the context of the other churches built at the site in the 6th and 7th c., which are dedicated to saints (for references see the other records from Riḥāb). In 2000 Annie Sartre-Fauriat noted that the only other church dedicated to Holy Wisdom in our region was constructed in Ezra/Izra in north Arabia, mid-way between the Sea of Galilee and Philippopolis in 604, so soon after the construction of our church (see: E02108), but in 2003 another church dedicated to Holy Wisdom was found in Zaghrit the vicinity of Jerash by Abd al-Rahim Hazim (E02663; AD 542/543). Although 'Holy Wisdom' is not a saint, we have had no hesitation including these three inscriptions in our database.


Edition: Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici della Giordania settentrionale (Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1981), 68-70. Avi-Yonah, M., "Greek Christian inscriptions from Riḥāb", The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 13 (1947), 68-69, 71-72. Further reading: Michel, A., Les églises d'époque byzantine et umayyade de Jordanie (provinces d'Arabie et de Palestine), Ve-VIIIe siècle: typologie architecturale et aménagements liturgiques (avec catalogue des monuments; préface de Noël Duval; premessa di Michele Piccirillo) (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 214-216, no. 74. Piccirillo, M., "Les antiquités de Riḥāb des Benê Ḥasan", Revue Biblique 88 (1981), 65. Piccirillo, M., "Aggiornamento delle liste episcopali delle diocesi in territoria transgiordanico", Liber Annuus 55 (2005), 386. 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), 306. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1982), 465. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 30, 1711-1716; 50, 1518.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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