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E02464: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions from a church with a crypt, mentioning *Elijah (Old Testament prophet, S00217), declaring his aid for the construction of the sanctuary, invoking his intercession for rain, and mentioning a 'presbyter of Saint Ailianos' (probably *Elianos, martyr of Philadelphia/Amman, S00889). Found at Madaba (Roman province of Arabia/Jordan). Dated 595/596 (crypt) and 607/608 (upper church).

online resource
posted on 2017-03-06, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Rectangular mosaic panel from the nave of the church. H. 0.60 m; W. 3.20 m; letter height 0.10 m. Black letters on white background. Set in front of the chancel screen. Now lost. The panel was first included in his journal by Henri Lammens, under the date 12 July 1897 (from a copy by Giuseppe Manfredi) and in the same year published by Paul Séjourné in La Revue biblique. A list of later re-editions and alternative readings is offered by Pierre-Louis Gatier in I. Jordanie 2.

+ ὁ πάσης ἀνθρωπείνης φύσεως ἐπέκεινα φθορᾶς (καὶ) τὸν ἰσραηλίτην λαὸν χαλιναγωγήσας πρὸς
ἀλήθειαν μία[ν......ζ]ήλῳ Ἠλίας ὁ προφήτης εὐχῇ συνεργήσας (καὶ) τόνδε τὸν περικαλλῆ
νεὸν ἐδήματο· ἐ[ν χρ]ό(νοις) Λεοντίου τοῦ πραϋτά(του) ἱερέως, (καὶ) εἰρήνης γνησίου ἐραστοῦ, κόπους τε ἀμει-
[β]ομένου Σεργίου τοῦ θεο̣φ̣ι[λεσ(τάτου) (καὶ)] ̣τοῦ φροντιστοῦ δῶρα προσδεχνυμέ(νου). Μηνᾶ Παμφίλου (καὶ) Θεοδοσίου ἀδελφ(ῶν)
Αἰγιάρων βοηθεία γίνο[υ τ]ούτοις τε (καὶ) τῷ ταπεινῷ ἀστέει τούτῳ. γέγονεν ἐν ἔτει φβ΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ια΄.

5. βοήθεια γίνο[υ τ]ούτοις τε Feissel, βοηθείᾳ γινο[μέ(νων) τ]ούτοις τε Gatier

'The one who was beyond all the corruption of human nature and who led by the bridle the people of Israel towards the only truth [- - -] by his zeal, the Prophet Elijah, through his intercessions he assisted (us) and built this beautiful church (naos). In the times of Leontios, the most benign cleric and devoted lover of peace, who stepped in place of Sergios, the most God-fearing, the supervisor for gathering gifts. The help to them, to the kin (?), and to this miserable city were Menas, son of Pamphilos, and Theodosios, brothers from (the city of) Aigeai. It was completed in the year 502, the 11th indiction.'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 145 with altered completion of line 5 from CEByz, 884. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

Inscription 2:

The inscription runs in one line on a circular band, in the frame of a panel consisting of several concentric circles, set in the middle of the carpet mosaic of the nave. Diameter of the inner circle: 1.40 m; diameter of the outer circle: 1.80 m. Letter height 0.13-0.16 m. Black letters on white background. Now lost. First published by Paul Séjourné in La Revue biblique in 1897 and then re-edited by a number of scholars. For a list of editions and altered readings, see I. Jordanie 2.

(palm) ὁ τὰς ὀμβροτόκους νεφέλας προσφόρως τῇ εὐχῇ κινήσας κ(αὶ) λαοὺς οἰκτείρας, προφήτα, ̣μ[ν]ήσθητι κ(αὶ) τῶν προσενεγκάντων (καὶ) τῆς τα[πεινῆς πόλ]εως ταύτ(ης).

'(palm) O Prophet, the one who graciously brought through your prayer the rain-producing clouds and mercy upon peoples, remember both the donors and this miserable city!'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 146.

Inscription 3:

Mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.37 m; W. 1.75 m. Letter height 0.13 m. Set in the floor of the nave, in front of the central west doorway. First recorded during the excavations in 1994 and published by Michele Piccirillo.

ἅγιος ὁ ναός σου θαυμα-
στὸς ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ

'Holy is your temple, admirable for righteousness!'

Text: Piccirillo 1994, 390.

Inscription 4:

Four mosaic panels, shaped as octagons, set in the carpet mosaic of the crypt beneath the choir of the church. The first three panels are positioned in one line, at the east end of the room, in front of the apse of the crypt. The last one is in the middle of the mosaic carpet. Dimensions: c. 0.50-0.52 m x 0.52 m. Letter height 0.07-0.08 m. Blue letters. First published by Kleopas Koikylides, librarian of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Jerusalem, who saw them in 1896, and then republished in many works. For a list of editions and alternative readings, see I. Jordanie 2.

Panel 1:
(palm) Χ(ριστὸ)ς
ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τὸν οἶ-
κον τοῦτον

Panel 2:
(palm) ἐπὶ
τοῦ ὁσιω(τάτου)

Panel 3:
(palm) σπου-
δῇ Σεργίου
πρ(εσβυτέρου) τοῦ ἁγίου Αἰλι-
ανοῦ ἐν τῷ υϙ΄

Panel 4:
[(palm) ἐ]ψη-
[φώθ]η ἐκ
[- - -]
[- - -].

'(palm) Christ, the God, erected this house (i.e. church or crypt). (palm) Under Ser+gios, the most venerable bishop, (palm) by the zeal of Sergios, presbyter of Saint Ailianos, in the year 490. [(palm)] It was paved with mosaics from the offering of [- - -]. '

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 147. Translations: P. Nowakowski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217 Elianos, martyr of Aman : S00889

Saint Name in Source

Ἠλίας Αἰλιανός

Image Caption 1

Photograph of Inscription 4. From: I. Jordanie 2, Pl. XXVIII.

Image Caption 2

Photograph of Inscription 1 (as seen by P. Savignac in 1907). From: Piccirillo 1994, Pl. 9.

Image Caption 3

Photograph of the medallion with Inscription 2. From: Piccirillo 1994, Pl. 5.

Image Caption 4

Photograph of Inscription 3. From: Piccirillo 1994, Pl. 9.

Image Caption 5

Drawing of Inscription 3. From: Piccirillo 1994, 390.

Image Caption 6

Plan of the church. From: Michel 2001, 321.

Image Caption 7

Plan of the crypt. From: Michel 2001, 321.

Image Caption 8

Reconstruction of the church of Mary (to the left) and of Elijah (to the right) with visible entrances to the crypt. From: Michel 2001, 321.

Image Caption 9

Plan of the city. From: Michel 2001, 303.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)


  • 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)

Madaba 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 - Miracles

Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Specialised miracle-working

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - bishops


The church of Elijah lies next to the church of *Mary (E02477), in the central/northeast sector of the city, to the northwest of the 'church of Sunna' and to the southeast of the 'church of the Holy Martyrs' (Khader, see: E02425). The church was a three-aisled basilica (30 m x 18 m) with an apse, an atrium or porch, and a chapel accessible through a doorway in the southwest corner of the south aisle. The space below the choir was occupied by a crypt (4.50 m x 3.30 m) where Inscription 4 was found. The crypt was accessible through two stairways: one in the north and the other in the south aisle (or possibly the south stairway ended outside of the building). The crypt had an apse with a raised floor and with three niches, to the east. The floors of the church and the crypt were decorated with mosaics. In the church the central carpet mosaic of the nave consisted of chevrons with floral motifs. It was framed by a band with circular panels showing animals and baskets. Fragments of a geometric mosaic in the south aisle were also preserved. The central rectangle of the crypt was paved with a richly decorated geometric mosaics with panels containing depictions of birds and inscriptions. At the bottom of both staircases there are mosaic rosettes. The apse of the crypt has a mosaic showing two lambs flanking a tree and grapes. Both the church and crypt were first recorded and identified as a Christian sanctuary by Giuseppe Manfredi in the late 19th c. and their descriptions were published in 1897 by Paul-M. Séjourné, a dominican from the the École biblique et archéologique in Jerusalem. The church was severely damaged, partly by the spread of modern settlement. Proper excavations were begun by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 1972. The mission focused on work in the crypt. Only in 1992 was the whole site (previously used as a car park) properly secured with the aid of the American Center of Oriental Research and under the supervision of Cherie Lenzen. In 1994 followed the excavations of the immediate area of the church by Pierre Bikai. The mosaic floors were restored by members of the Madaba Mosaic School. For a description of the site, see: Michel 2001, 319-323.


The inscriptions refer to the construction of our church, and, based on their contents, it seems clear that the church was dedicated to Elijah, the Old Testament Prophet. Inscription 1 is the proper building inscription: it begins with a short reference to the biblical story of the competition of Elijah with the so-called prophets of Baal and his victory which led the people of Israel to recognise Yahweh as the true God. It also alludes to the fact that Elijah was taken up to Heaven in his body (and thus was spared bodily corruption). This fact was used by Gatier to argue that the text had lightly miaphysite traces, but the possibility was refuted by Piccirillo. The construction of the church itself is said to be the result of intercession by Elijah. We learn that the collection of funds for the building was started by a certain Sergios and then completed by the priest Leontios, probably with the help of two brothers. The date, the year 502, is computed according to the era of the province of Arabia and corresponds to AD 607/608. Inscription 2 is an invocation of an unnamed prophet, certainly Elijah mentioned in the preceding text. The emphasis is put on his ability to conjure rain, as he did after his victorious contest, according to the biblical story. This made the editors suppose that the inscription conveys an actual invocation of Elijah's permanent intercessions for rain in the dry region of Madaba. Gatier notes that a similar miracle is reported in the Life of Peter the Iberian who visited Madaba in the mid-5th c. and successfully conjured rain, being acclaimed as the 'second Elijah' and 'second Moses' by the locals. In our inscription Elijah is also asked to remember the whole city and help it. Inscription 3 is a plain quotation of verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 64(65). Inscription 4 is divided into four panels. It certainly refers to the construction of the crypt, but its date, AD 596, is earlier than that of the upper church. It is said that, not Elijah, but Christ himself built this shrine (named oikos: the term can stand for a whole church and not only a crypt or chapel). Then a certain Sergios is named as the main supervisor (probably identical with the deceased Sergios from Inscription 1). He is said to be a presbyter of Saint Ailianos/Elianos: almost certainly of a church dedicated to the saint. Gatier argued that this Ailianos was the martyr of nearby Amman/Philadelphia, killed under Diocletian, whose passion is preserved in several Georgian manuscripts (see: E01719; Milik 1959-1960, 166-170 and Michel 2001, 281-283, no. 103 for his possible shrine in Amman), and that he was venerated in the crypt while Elijah was venerated in the upper church. This is unlikely as Ailianos is not mentioned as the patron of the shrine, but only as the saint of the church of the supervisor of works, which could be located elsewhere in the city.


Edition: Inscription 1: Gatier, P.-L., Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 2: Région centrale (Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Main, Dhiban) (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1986), no. 145. Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici di Madaba (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1989), 69. Séjourné, P.-M., "L'élianée de Mâdaba", La Revue biblique 6 (1897), 653. Inscription 2: Gatier, P.-L., Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 2: Région centrale (Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Main, Dhiban) (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1986), no. 146. Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici di Madaba (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1989), 70. Metaxakis, M., "Madeba", Nea Sion 2 (1905), 450. Inscription 3: Piccirillo, M., "La chiesa del profeta Elia a Madaba. Nuove scoperte", Liber Annuus 44 (1994), 390 and Pl. 9, photograph 22. Inscription 4: Gatier, P.-L., Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 2: Région centrale (Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Main, Dhiban) (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1986), no. 147. Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici di Madaba (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1989), 74. Séjourné, P.-M., "L'élianée de Mâdaba", La Revue biblique 6 (1897), 649. 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), 319-323, no. 121. Milik, J.T., 'Notes d'épigraphie et de topographie jordaniennes', Liber Annuus 10 (1959-1960), 166-170. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1962), 320. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 884.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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