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E02367: The so-called 'complex of *John the Baptist (S00020)' in Gerasa/Jerash (Roman province of Arabia) comprises three churches (two oratories/eukteria and one naos), dedicated respectively to John the Baptist, *George (soldier and martyr, S00259), and *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physicians martyrs of Syria, S00385). Floor-mosaic inscriptions with dedicatory poems date the completion and paving of the church of George to 529/530, of John to 531, and of Kosmas and Damianos to 533. Two reliquaries were found in the church of George.

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posted on 2017-02-12, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1 (church of John the Baptist):

Wide rectangular mosaic panel, framed by a tabula ansata (and by a band with waves on bottom). H. 0.47 m; W. 1.92 m. Letter height 0.085 m. Set in the floor in front of the chancel screen, in the lower register of the enclosure of the central mosaic carpet with amphorae, vine sprouts, and grapes. Five lines contain 12 verses of iambic trimeters (of various quality) and a dating formula in prose, beginning in line 5. Double dots mark the ends of verses and full stops in prose. Here set out in verse form.

First recorded by the expedition of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in 1929 and published by Charles Welles in 1938 (the text was established by A.H.M. Jones). Republished by Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber in the Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten and by Yiannis Meimaris and Nikoleta Makrigianni in Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης.

[+ ὅσ]οι βλέπουσι τοῦ τόπου τὸ κόσμιον
καὶ τῆς στέγης τὸ σεμνὸν ἢ τῆς ψηφίδος,
Παύλου δικαίως τοῦ σοφοῦ τοῦ ποιμένος ❦ |
̣α̣ἰνοῦσι ἀτεχνῶς τὴν ἄγαν προθυμίαν
καὶ τοῦ κτίσαντος τὴν χορηγίαν θ' ἅμα.
Θεόδωρος οὗτος οἴκοθεν χρυσὸ̣ν | διδούς,
ὃν Θωμᾶς ἐξέθρεψεν οἷα πατὴρ γεγώς,
ψυχῇ προθύμῳ προσφορὰν τῷ Προδρόμῳ
(οὗ τὴν ὁμώνυμον προσηγορίαν | ἐπέλαχεν),
ὁ πᾶσαν ἐνθεὶς τῷ τόπῳ τὴν καλλονήν.
ὁ Κύριος οὖν, τῶν ὅλων ὁ δεσπότης,
προσδέξεται πάντων τὴν καλὴν | προαίρεσιν.

ἐψηφώθη κ(αὶ) ἐστεγάσθη σὺν θεῷ τὸ πᾶν ἔργον τοῦ ἁγίου εὐκτηρίου τῷ δϙφ΄ ἔτει, μηνὸς Ἀπελλαίου, χρ(όνων) δεκάτης ἰνδικτ(ιῶνος).

5. θ' ἅμα Merkelbach & Stauber, θαμά Welles (after Jones)

'[+] Whoever behold the artistry of this place and the grandeur of the roof and the mosaic, they truly and fairly applaud the great zeal of Paulos, the wise shepherd, as well as the generosity of the founder. It was Theodoros, who offered gold from his household, whom Thomas raised, when he became his father (?), with a devoted soul as an offering (prosphora) to the Forerunner (Prodromos), after whom he received a homonymous name, who set all the beauty in this place. So may the Lord, the ruler of all, accept this decent undertaking of all (contributors?).

The whole building of the holy oratory (eukterion) was paved and roofed with God in the year 594, in the month of Apellaios, in the time of the tenth indiction.'

Text: I. Gerasa, no. 306 with alternate interpretation of verse 5 after Merkelbach & Stauber. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

Inscription 2 (church of George):

Framed mosaic panel. H. 0.40 m; W. 2.73 m. Letter height 0.08-0.10 m. Set in the floor of the nave, at its east end, in front of the chancel screen.

First recorded by the expedition of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in 1929 and published by Charles Welles in 1938 (the text was established by A.H.M. Jones).

+ ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοφιλεσ̣τ[άτου καὶ ὁσιω(τάτου) ἐπισ]κόπου Πα[ύλου]
[ἐσ]τεγάσθη καὶ ἐψηφώθ̣η ̣κ[αὶ ἀ]̣ν̣εκοσμήθη ὁ ναὸς τ̣ο[ῦ ἁγίου]
[Γε]ωργίου ἐκ προσφορᾶς οὗ ὁ Κύριος οἶδεν τὸ ὄνομα ὑπ[ὲρ συν]-
χωρήσεως ἁμαρτιῶν ἐν χρόνοις η΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) τοῦ βϙφ΄ ἔτους. [+]

'+ Under the most dear-to-God [and most pious] bishop Paulos was roofed, and paved, and embellished the church (naos) of [Saint] George, from the offering of the one whose name the Lord knows, as a vow for the remission of (his) sins. In the time of the 8th indiction, the year 592.'

Text: I. Gerasa, no. 309. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

Inscription 3 (church of Kosmas and Damianos):

Rectangular mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.90 m; W. 2.79 m (excluding ansae). Letter height: 0.06 m (line 1), 0.08 m (other lines). Set in the floor of the nave, in front of the chancel screen, immediately above the east border of the enclosure of the richly decorated central mosaic carpet. The panel is flanked by two frames containing perfectly preserved figures of the donors standing between trees. The left-hand panel shows a man holding a censer, labelled 'Theodoros, paramonar(ios)'. The right-hand frame shows a woman in the posture of an orant, labelled 'Georgia, (wife) of Theodoros, param(onarios)'.

The inscription begins with a dating formula in prose, written above the upper frame of the tabula ansata. The tabula contains 10 lines, each with one verse of the poem (iambic trimeters). At the beginning and at the end of each line there is an ornamentation and there are small Χ-shaped crosses in the corners of the tabula.

First recorded by the expedition of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in 1929 and published by Charles Welles in 1938 (the text was established by A.H.M. Jones). Republished by in Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber in the Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten and by Yiannis Meimaris and Nikoleta Makrigianni in Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης.

+ ̣ἐ̣ψ[ηφώθη τὸ εὐ]κτήριον τοῦ ἁγίου Κοσμᾶ καὶ Δαμιανοῦ τῷ εϙφ΄ ἔτει, Περιτίου, χρόνων ἑνδεκάτης ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος).

[τ]ῶν ἀθλοφόρων νῦν τὴν καλὴν ξυνωρίδα
̣σέβων προσεύχου. καὶ γάρ εἰσιν ἅγιοι,
τέχνην ἔχοντες τῶν παθῶν θελκτήριον.
ἐντεῦθεν ἕκαστος π̣ρ[ο]σφέρων ἀγάλλεται
ταύτῃ καλύπτων τοῦ βίου τὰ πταίσματα.
τούτοις δὲ πᾶσι τὴν προθυμίαν νέμει
Παῦλος ὁ ποιμὴν ὡς σοφὸς κυβερνέτης,
ἴκοντος αὐτοῦ τοῖς σοφοῖς ἐπιτάγμασιν
ἀνδρὸς ἀρίστου, οὗ μαθήσει τοὔνομα
τοῦ Προδρόμου σώζοντα τὸ ἐπώνυμον.

'+ The oratory (eukterion) of Saint Kosmas and Damianos was paved in the year 595, in the month of Peritios, in the time of the eleventh indiction.

Pray now, venerating the beauty couple of prize-bearers (athlophoroi). Because they are saints having the skill of alleviating afflictions. Thence every donor is gladdened, covering so the failures of his life. The shepherd Paulos, as a prudent steersman (kybernetes), passes (his) zeal to them all, while an excellent man follows his wise commands. You will learn that his name conceals that of the Forerunner.'

Text: I. Gerasa, no. 314. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

Inscription 4 (church of Kosmas and Damianos):

Chevron-shaped mosaic panel, completely filled with the inscription. Asymetrically placed (second from the north) in the upper left quadrant of the central mosaic carpet of the nave. Letter height 0.08 m.

The central mosaic consists of chevron-shaped and squarish panels. In addition to our inscribed panel, the first row of chevrons contains two panels with standing figures of donors (their faces seem to be erased), labelled respectively: 'Christ, help Ioannes, son of Astrikios!', and 'Christ, help Kalloionistos!' The third chevron in this row shows vines shoots growing from a vase. Other chevrons contain floral and geometric motifs. The squarish panels contain depictions of animals: birds, including a peacock, a hen and ducks, a hare, a deer, a lamb, a donkey (?), a jumping dog (?), oxen or bulls and cows, and others. The space between panels and the wide outer frame of the carpet are decorated with geometric motifs.

ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου
Κοσμᾶ κ(αὶ) Δαμιανοῦ
ἐλέησον τὸν τριβοῦνον
Δαγισθε͂ον καὶ πρόσ-
δεξε τὴν αὐτοῦ

'+ O Lord, God of Saint Kosmas and Damianos, have mercy upon the tribune Dagistheos, and accept his offering!'

Text: I. Gerasa, no. 311. Translation: P. Nowakowski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs in Syria, ob. 285/287 : S00385 George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259

Saint Name in Source

Πρόδρομος Κοσμᾶς καὶ Δαμιανός Γεώργιος

Type of Evidence

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Literary - Poems Images and objects - Images described in texts


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Gerasa/Jerash 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 - Use of Images

  • Descriptions of images of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Soldiers Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Aristocrats Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned


The so-called 'complex of John the Baptist' is a group of three churches (which is very uncommon in Arabia) situated to the southwest of the temple of Artemis and to the west of the 'episcopal complex' (E02341; E02342). The churches were first recorded by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812, but the scholar did not properly establish the character of the complex. The site was then surveyed in 1902 by Gottlieb Schumacher and excavated in the spring of 1929 by A.H.M. Jones, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. In 1979 the west part and the porch of the complex were restored by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. Dimensions of the whole complex are: 55 m (N-S) x 34 m (E-W). The churches share a common porch adjacent to their west walls. They were built of spolia, almost certainly acquired from the temple of Zeus. The central church, dedicated to John the Baptist (as evidenced by Inscription 1) is on the plan of a circle (diameter: 21.60 m; called 'nave') inscribed in a near-square (23.80 m x 29.50 m). In its four corners there are rounded chapels/exedrae. The centre of the circle is occupied by a squarish mosaic with four columns in its corners. The mosaic showed vine shoots springing from vases in four corner of the mosaic carpet. The frame has geometrical motifs. Inscription 1 conjoins the east border. To the east of the mosaic there is a chancel screen and apse, that probably had a synthronon. The apse is flanked by two chambers connected to the adjacent churches. A baptismal font was located in the north chamber, shared with the church of Kosmas and Damianos (but the room was probably fitted to house it at a later phase than the construction of the building itself, so it is unlikely that the whole complex was primarily a baptismal one). Fragments of the base of the pulpit were found in the 'nave'. The central mosaic is surrounded by a crescent-shaped mosaic band, also spreading to the four exedrae, with acanthus ornaments dividing the band into two registers. The lower one shows Nilotic scenes and the upper one cities and sanctuaries in Egypt (Alexandria, Kanopos, the shrine of *Kyros and John in Menouthis, Memphis, cf. the mosaic of the church of Peter and Paul: E02366). For a detailed description, see: Michel 2001, 245-246. The south church, dedicated to Saint Georges, is a three-aisled basilica (29.20 m x 13.00 m) with an apse with synthronon. The nave is decorated with marble opus sectile with geometric patterns, especially octagons. The north aisle has a mosaic carpet with chevrons and rosettes, and the mosaic in the south aisle shows floral motifs. The apse is flanked by two chambers, and is separated from the nave by a chancel screen in front of which is embedded our Inscription 2. Two reliquaries were found in the church (see Comte 2012, 212): a stone chest (c. 0.50 m long; it is not clear whether the lid was preserved) with a single cavity lay in front of the synthronon (cf. the reliquary of the church of Peter and Paul: E02366). It was probably originally set there in the 7th c., behind the altar and not beneath it. The second reliquary (a stone chest with no lid; of similar shape and dimensions as reliquary no. 1) was found in the same compartment of the church. It was probably brought there from one of the two other churches and its original location is unknown. There is no photograph. Both reliquaries are now lost. A pulpit was probably set in the nave, near the chancel screen. The north church, dedicated to Saints Kosmas and Damianos, is a three-aisled basilica (29.40 m x 18.00-19.00 m) with an apse flanked by two chambers. It is not clear whether the apse had a synthronon, as the two other churches, but traces of a pulpit were found. The choir had a pavement of marble plaques. The nave was decorated with a high quality mosaic carpet with chevrons containing figural depictions, animals and geometric motifs. Inscription 3 was set at its east end, in front of the chancel screen, and Inscription 4 in one of the chevrons, in their first row from the apse (see: the description of Inscription 3 and 4). It seems that the life of the complex was not long. At the end of the 6th c. the church of George was fitted with spolia from the other two churches which were apparently abandoned. The church of George was still in use in the 7th c. It has been suggested that the church of Kosmas and Damianos was abandoned or secularised (converted to a dwelling?) before the emergence of iconoclastic movements, as its figural depictions are intact, while the church of John and George bear signs of the destruction of images. It has been suggested that, with the installation of the baptismal font, the episcopal see was transferred here from the 'episcopal complex' at a late date, but this is actually not clear. We also do not know what was the precise liturgical use of each of the churches and their hierarchy, but they were certainly a single architectural project (see Michel 2001, 250-251). For a painted inscription (dipinto) from the church of John, see E02376, and for other dipinti from the church of Kosmas and Damianos, see E02377.


The four inscriptions are our only source which sheds light on the origins, holy patrons, and founders of the 'complex of John the Baptist'. They are dated according to the Gerasene Era (which is basically an era of Pompey), and their dates can be respectively converted to: AD 531 (Inscription 1); AD 529/530 (Inscription 2); and AD 533 (Inscription 3 and probably Inscription 4). Thus the earliest commemorated activity is the roofing, paving, and embellishment of the church of George (termed naos, the south building of the complex) by an anonymous donor, under bishop Paulos. Welles and Jones believed that although the donor is described by masculine pronouns, this could be Georgia, wife of the paramonarios who built the church of Kosmas and Damianos, and probably that of John the Baptist, but this supposition is based only on the fact that the church was dedicated to George (i.e. her namesake) and that her husband twice stressed his special bond with John the Baptist, based on the shared meaning of their names. Inscription 1 says that one year after the completion of the church of George (the central building), the oratory (eukterion) of John the Baptist, here named the Forerunner/Prodromos, was similarly paved and roofed. Its short dating formula is followed by a poem (in iambic trimeters: a metrical line which at the end of the late antique period evolved into the very popular Byzantine dodecasyllables) describing the circumstances of this foundation. We read that bishop Paulos assisted this undertaking, but the funds were provided by a certain Thedoros, (adopted?) son of Thomas. Theodoros claims that he was raised by his father in peculiar veneration of John the Baptist (again called the Forerunner), which is because he is the namesake of the saint. The argument is based on the literal meanings of the two names: Theodoros means in Greek 'the gift of God', and John (Greek: Ioannes) is a transcription of a Hebrew name 'Yahweh is Gracious'. Inscriptions 3 and 4 refer to the paving of the north church which, they say, was dedicated to Saints Kosmas and Damianos. The saints are then praised as splendid prize-bearers (athlophoroi, i.e. martyrs), and skillful healers. Merkelbach and Stauber, based on the parallel evidence from the church of Kosmas and Damianos in Constantinople, argued that healing incubation was practised in our shrine, but there is no evidence to confirm this idea. The second part of the poem refers to bishop Paulos as a wise steersman of the community. We also learn that the third church was built by a namesake of John the Baptist ('You will learn that his name conceals that of the Forerunner'), i.e. presumably the Theodoros whom we met in Inscription 2. This presumption is confirmed by labelled images positioned to the left and right of the inscription. The left-hand one shows the paramonarios (guardian) of the church, Theodoros, and the right-hand one his wife, Georgia. It is thus plausible that this whole richly decorated and large complex was founded by one married couple. Interestingly, Theodoros, was driven by devotion to John the Baptist, rather than to his actual namesake, Theodore of Euchaita, also popular in the region. He must have been a man of considerable learning, or must have been under the influence of a man with at least a basic knowledge of Hebrew or biblical exegesis, as he expressed a link between the etymological meaning of his and the saint's name. We can also see a certain predilection for hidden messages in his inscriptions which use riddles and periphrases instead of clearly indicating his and his wife's name. It appears that after the foundation of the complex Theodore continued to serve as its guardian and steward (paramonarios), though this function was often bestowed upon presbyters or deacons. From Inscription 4 and nearby panels, we learn that there were also other, minor contributors. A certain tribune Dagistheos invokes the mercy of the God of Saints Kosmas and Damianos. It has been suggested (see: I. Gerasa, 481; Fiebiger 1941) that this man was a Justinianic officer mentioned by Procopius in his description of warfare with Persians in Lasica in 529, and later present in Rome in 559. Jones and Welles suggested that he could have been in charge of the garrison of Jerash. Other contributors, mentioned in the same mosaic carpet, are: Ioannes, son of Astrikios and Kalloionistos.


Edition: Inscription 1: Meimaris, Y., Makrigianni, N.S., Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης ᾿Ανθολογία ἐπιγραφῶν Παλαιστινῆς καὶ ᾿Αραβίας (Athens: , 2008), no. 8. Merkelbach, R., Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, vol. 4 (Stuttgart: Teubner, 2002), no. 21/23/07. Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), 479, no. 306 and Pl. LXVIb; LXVIIa. Inscription 2: Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), 481, no. 309 and Pl. LXXI. Inscription 3: Meimaris, Y., Makrigianni, N.S., Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης ᾿Ανθολογία ἐπιγραφῶν Παλαιστινῆς καὶ ᾿Αραβίας (Athens: , 2008), no. 12. Merkelbach, R., Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, vol. 4 (Stuttgart: Teubner, 2002), no. 21/23/08. Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), 482, no. 314 and Pl. LXXIII. Inscription 4: Di Segni, L., "The involvement of local, municipal and provincial authorities in urban building in late antique Palestine and Arabia", in: The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research (Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series 14, Ann Arbor, MI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1995), 314. Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), 482, no. 311 and Pl. LXXIII. Further reading: Agosti, G., 'Epigrammi lunghi nella produzione epigrafica tardoantica', in A.M. Morelli (ed.), Epigramma longum. Da Marziale alla Tarda Antichità / From Martial to Late Antiquity. Atti del Convegno internazionale, Cassino, 29-31 maggio 2006 (Cassino: Università degli studi di Cassino, 2008) vol. 2, 685. Agosti, G., "Per uno studio dei rapporti fra epigrafi e letteratura nella tarda antichità", in: L. Cristante, T. Mazzoli (eds.), Il calamo della memoria: riuso di testi e mestiere letterario nella tarda antichità. VI: Incontro internazionale di Trieste (6th: 2014: Trieste, Italy) (Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2015), 26. 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), 210-212. Crowfoot, J.W., Churches at Jerash. A Preliminary Report of the Joint Yale-British Expeditions to Jerash, 1928-1930 (Supplementary papers (British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem) 3, London: Council of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1931), 23, 25. Fiebiger, O., 'Dagitheus', Zeitschrift des deutschen Palästina-Vereins 64 (1941), 98-101. 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), 245-251, nos. 88-88c. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1942), 165. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, 58, 1743.

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