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E02570: Fragmentary Greek graffito on a roof tile, with an invocation of the God of a saint whose name is lost; and a damaged reliquary. Found in the so-called 'Church of the Lions' at Umm er-Rasas/Kastron Mefaa, to the southeast of Madaba (Roman province of Arabia/Jordan). Probably late 6th or 7th c.

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posted on 2017-03-14, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Fragment of a roof tile. Dimensions not specified. Found among other broken tiles on the floor of the church. The inscription was written before the tile was hardened in a kiln. Published by Michele Piccirillo in 1992.

+ ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁ[(γίου) - - -]

"+ O God of Saint [- - -]!'

Text: Piccirillo 1992, 223, no. 74.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Saints, name wholly or largely lost : S01744

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Umm er-Rasas/Kastron Mefaa Madaba

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

Umm er-Rasas/Kastron Mefaa Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka 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 - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned


The 'Church of the Lions', so named after images of lions shown in the floor-mosaic of the choir, lies in the south sector of the 'ecclesiastical complex'. It was a three-aisled basilica (26.00 m x 15.00 m) with three apses at its east end (attached respectively to the nave and both aisles). The floors of the church are decorated with high quality mosaics showing birds, animals, cities, plants, and floral and geometric motifs. In a period of iconoclasm, many of the figures in the mosaics were carefully removed. The core structure was surrounded by a number of chambers, at least some of them seem to contain burial places. A large paved courtyard is adjacent to the north wall of the church. Fragments of the casket of a marble reliquary with three cavities were found in the debris in the west sector of the nave. The reliquary was shaped as a small sarcophagus. Fragments of a lid with acroteria were also recorded. The apses at the end of both aisles were fitted with arched niches, presumably for the storage of relics. The church was excavated by Michele Piccirillo on behalf of the Franciscan Archaeological Institute in Jerusalem between 1989 and 1992. There followed another campaign in 1998.


The inscription invokes the name of a saint, probably the patron of the church. For a similar inscription on a roof tile from Umm er-Rasas, see: E02566. Dating: the date of the building inscription for the church can be computed as either 573 or 588, and our roof tile probably comes from the same period. The building was still used as a church in the late 8th c.


Edition: Piccirillo, M., "La chiesa dei Leoni a Umm al-Rasas - Kastron Mefaa", Liber Annuus 42 (1992), 223, no. 74. 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), 403-407, no. 147 (for a description of the church). Piccirillo, M., "La chiesa di San Paolo a Umm al-Rasas - Kastron Mefaa", Liber Annuus 47 (1997), 390 (mentioned). Reference works: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 42, 1492.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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