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E02693: A chapel reportedly dedicated to *Mary of Egypt (a repentant prostitute of Alexandria; S00903) at Sapsaphas/Wadi-Kharrar (= Ainon/Betharaba in Bethany, Palaestina I). Possibly 7th c.

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posted on 2017-04-12, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A small ruined chapel was recorded by Félix-Marie Abel at Sapsaphas/Wadi-Kharrar, which he says was dedicated to Mary of Egypt. In 1932 Abel published a short description of the ruins and a photograph. He says that he saw there 'Byzantine capitals' and that the ruins were seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1927. In the vicinity of the ruins he saw a floor mosaic. The site was thought to have been the convent of Kopratha, mentioned by John Moschus ($EXXXXX).

The 'chapel of Mary of Egypt' was included in their lists of ancient churches of Jordan and Palestine by Sylvester Saller and Bellarmino Bagatti (1949), and by Anne Michel (2001). We must note that although a Life of Saint Mary of Egypt (BHG 1042), a repentant prostitute of Alexandria, was composed by Sophronios, the patriarch of Jerusalem (634-638), we cannot be sure that the dedication of the chapel is an ancient one even if the building itself comes from the late antique period. Abel did not specify the source of his knowledge. Possibly he was told by the contemporary locals that the saint was venerated there. The idea that Mary of Egypt was venerated at Sapsaphas/Wadi-Kharrar already in the 7th c. is, however, tempting, as, according to Sophronios, after her conversion in Jerusalem she was absolved at a monastery of *John the Baptist at the River Jordan. At the same time, Sapsaphas/Wadi-Kharrar is usually identified with Ainon/Betharaba in Bethany beyond the Jordan, the place where John the Baptist preached to the Jews, recorded on the Mosaic Map of Madaba (see $E02524, no. 1). Therefore, our site could be that mentioned in the Life of Mary; but there is no clear published evidence to this effect.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary of Egypt : S00903

Image Caption 1

Photograph of the ruins. From: Abel 1932, Pl. VI 1.

Type of Evidence

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bethabara Sapsaphas/Wadi-Kharrar

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

Bethabara Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Sapsaphas/Wadi-Kharrar Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)


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), 418. Saller, S.J., Bagatti, B., The Town of Nebo (Khirbet El-Mekhayyat): with a brief survey of other Christian monuments in Transjordan (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press, 1949), 226, no. 58. Abel, F.-M., "Exploration du sud-est de la Valeée du Jourdain (Suite et fin)", La Revue biblique 41 (1932), 240 and Pl. VI/1.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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