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E02707: Fragmentary Greek inscription with the heading of an imperial letter from Justinian, probably concerning the boundaries of asylum of a sanctuary of *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030) in Jerusalem, presumably the Eudocian church and monastery to the north of the north city gate. Found in Jerusalem (Roman Palaestina I). Probably c. 533.

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posted on 2017-04-14, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
[+ ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ δεσπότου ἡμῶν ᾿Ι(ησο)ῦ] ̣Χ(ριστο)ῦ τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ ἡμ̣ῶ[ν]
[αὐτοκράτωρ Καῖσαρ Φλ(αούιος) ᾿Ιουστινιαν]ὸς ᾿Αλαμανι̣κ[(ὸς)]
[Γ]οθικ(ὸς) ̣Φ[ραγκικ(ὸς) Γερμανικ(ὸς) Ἀντικ(ὸς) Οὐ]̣ανδαλικ(ὸς) εὐσε[βὴς]
[νικ]ητὴς ἔ̣ν[δοξος τροπαιοῦχος ἀ]̣ε̣ι̣σ̣ε̣β̣α̣σ̣τ̣ὸ̣ς [Αὔγ(ουστος).]
[ταῖς] ἁγιωτ(άταις) ἐκλ[(ησίαις) τῆς ὀρθοδόξου πίσ]τεως σπουδὴ ̣ἡ [κε]-
[χρε]ωστημέ(νη) [προσενήνεκται, καὶ τοὺς ἀσυλία]ς ὅρους τοὺς ταῖς ΛΕ̣Ι[- -]
[- -]̣ΑΝΕΡΩ̣Μ[- - τῷ πρ]ώτῳ μάρτυρι ὅ τε Θ̣Ε[- -]

1. Χ](ριστο)̣ῦ Di Segni | 2-3. ᾿Ιουστινιαν]ὸς ᾿Αλαμανι[κ(ὸς) Φρ]|[ανκικ(ὸς) Γερμανικ(ὸς) Γοτ]θικ(ὸς) ᾿Α[λανικ(ὸς) ᾿Αφρικ(ὸς) Οὐα]νδαλικ(ὸς) Di Segni || 4. [εὐτυχὴς νικ]ητὴς Di Segni || 4-5. ἀεισεβαστὸς] | [Αὔγουστ(ος) πάσαις Di Segni || 6. ]ωCΤΗΜΕ(--) [ Di Segni || 7. ]̣ΑΝΕΡΩ̣Μ[ Di Segni & Feissel: probably a form of φανερόω, ]̣Ν̣Ε̣Ρ̣ω[ Di Segni || 6-7. perhaps [προσενήνεκται, καὶ τοὺς ἀσυλία]ς ὅρους τοὺς ταῖς ΛΕ̣Ι[- -|- -]̣ΑΝΕΡΩ̣Μ[- - τῷ πρ]ώτῳ μάρτυρι ὅ τε θε[ῖος ἡμῶν τύπος], θε[οφιλέστατος ἐπίσκοπος (?) Di Segni & Feissel || perhaps τούτους τοὺ]ς ὅρους τοὺς ταῖς λε[γομέναις | ἁγιωτάταις ἐκλησίαις καταπεμφθέντας ἐν τούτ]ῳ τῷ μαρτυρίο τεθε[ῖσθαι Di Segni

'[In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ] our God. [Imperator Caesar Flavius Justinianus,] Alamanicus, Gothicus, [Francicus, Germanicus, Anticus,] Vandalicus, Pius, victorious, glorious, [winner of trophies], forever Augustus. The due zeal [was displayed] towards [the] most holy churches [of the orthodox] faith, and the boundaries [of asylia] that (...) to the (church of) the First Martyr (...) [- - -].'

Text: CIIP 1/2, no. 785. Translation: Denis Feissel and Leah Di Segni, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Image Caption 1

Fragment A: photograph by A. Graicer. From: Di Segni 2011, 354.

Image Caption 2

Fragment B: photograph by A. Graicer. From: Di Segni 2011, 355.

Image Caption 3

Fragment C: photograph by V. Corbo. From: CIIP 1/2, 87.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Canonical and legal texts


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


Three non-conjoining fragments of a marble plaque. Broken and lost on all sides. Reused in the cosmatesque pavement in Apse 16 (the south Apse) of the rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Anastasis) in Jerusalem. The pavement was made of spolia in the 11th c., under the emperor Constantine Monomachos. Fine lettering. The fragments were first recorded by Virgilio Corbo during his excavations of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre between 1960 and 1969. He identified Fragments A and B as probably belonging to the same inscription and published them in photographs with no transcription in 1982. In the same report he also published our fragment C, but did not comment on its contents. Fragments A and B were recovered by the members of the project Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, Nili and Abraham Graicer, and Naomi Schneider, surveying the church under the supervision of Theo Mitropoulos. It appears that the fragments were displaced from the floor during a recent restoration, and that Fragment C was lost. Soon after, in 2006, a transcription and comments were offered by Leah Di Segni (re-published in 2011), and an altered edition by Di Segni and Denis Feissel appeared in the second part of the first volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae in 2012. Here we follow the latter edition. Fragment A: H. 0.313 m; W. 0.25 m. Letter height: line 1: 0.07 m; lines 2-3: 0.055-0.06 m. Three well preserved lines and one scarcely legible. Now in the wall of the bell tower of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Fragment B: H. 0.16 m; W. 0.287 m. Letter height 0.06 m. Five lines. Now in the wall of the Chapel of Adam in the same church. Fragment C: Dimensions unknown. One scarcely legible line and three well preserved. Now lost but seen and photographed by Virgilo Corbo during his excavations.


The fragments almost certainly belong to the same text: a letter of the emperor Justinian, and they are treated as such by the editors. The text is plausibly restored as referring to the delineation of the boundaries of the zone protected by the privilege of asylum of a martyr shrine. That shrine was first identified as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and later as a sanctuary of Stephen the First Martyr. The heading of the letter contains imperial titles, certainly of the emperor Justinian, very similar to those preserved in inscribed imperial letters from Ephesos, dealing with the privileges of the Church of *Mary, Mother of Christ, and the Church of *John the Evangelist (see: E00708; E00745; E00765; E00766; especially E00745 and E00766), and the letter from Miletos, addressed to the Church of the Archangel *Gabriel (see E00812). At first Leah Di Segni associated our inscription with Justinian's Novela XL, issued on 18 May 535, in which the emperor wrote to the patriarch of Jerusalem Peter (524-552) and partially exempted the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the ban on the alienation of ecclesiastical property, that is he allowed it to sell the buildings owned by the Church, but not the plots of land. Another possibility, suggested by Di Segni, was that the inscription could refer to Justinian's edict sent to all churches on 15 March 533 (CJ 1,1,6), devoted to the orthodox creed and condemning the teachings of Nestorius and Eutyches. Its version preserved in the Chronicon Paschale says that the edict was sent specifically to Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Thessaloniki, and Ephesos, and that bishops were required to display it in their episcopal churches. Arguing for this possibility, Di Segni suggested a rather implausible explanation that the term ὅροι, occurring in Fragment C, refers to 'boundaries of the faith' and not the boundaries of the asylum zone. She also restored the last lines of Fragment C as follows, believing that they mention the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as a 'memorial' shrine/martyrion (as it indeed used to be named: τὸ μέγα μάρτυριον/'the great memorial'): τούτους τοὺ]ς ὅρους τοὺς ταῖς λε[γομέναις ἁγιωτάταις ἐκλησίαις καταπεμφθέντας ἐν τούτ]ῳ τῷ μαρτυρίο τεθε[ῖσθαι/'these definitions of the faith that have been sent to the above-mentioned most holy churches to be displayed in the martyrion/memorial shrine'. When in 2012 the inscription was re-published in the new Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae by Di Segni and Denis Feissel, the editors offered a completely different restoration and interpretation of lines 6-7. They no longer see there a reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (ἐν τούτ]ῳ τῷ μαρτυρίο τεθε[ῖσθαι), but rather to a sanctuary of Stephen the First Martyr (τῷ πρ]ώτῳ μάρτυρι ὅ τε ΘΕ). The editors suggest that this church of Stephen was probably the Eudocian church and monastery sited to the north of the north city gate of Jerusalem (nowadays the Damascus Gate), and that its authorities asked the emperor to delimit the boundaries of the zone protected by the right of asylum which presumably included the church itself, the monastery, and nearby buildings. They conclude that the inscription was probably displayed there, and was taken to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the medieval period together with other spolia. As a parallel they cite the inscription with an imperial letter sent to the sanctuary of Saint *Zechariah in El Bassah/Bezet, sited on the coast at the north frontier of the Acre Subdistrict (E04405). We must admit that lines 6-7 are very hard of interpretation and the preserved letters actually allow for both readings (with a common misspelling of the dative form of the term martyrion in the first option). However, the hypothesis that the inscription deals with the 'boundaries of the faith' is certainly implausible. In either case, whether the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or a church of Stephen is addressed here, the inscription certainly gives an account of imperial decisions concerning the size of the zone of asylum. Dating: the date of the letter falls in the period between 533 when Justinian began to use the titles mentioned and his death in 565.


Edition: Cotton, H.M., Di Segni, L., Eck, W., Isaac, B., Kushnir-Stein, A., Misgav, H., Price, J.J., Yardeni, A. and others (eds.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 1, part 2: Jerusalem, nos. 705-1120 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), no. 785. Di Segni, L., "Epigraphic finds reveal new chapters in the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the sixth century", in: K. Galor, G. Avni (eds.), Unearthing Jerusalem. 150 Years of Archaeological Research in the Holy City (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 351-360. Di Segni, L., "Epigraphic finds reveal new chapters in the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the sixth century", in: A. Faust, E. Baruch (eds.), New Studies on Jerusalem 12 (Ramat Gan: Universiṭat Bar-Ilan, 2006), 157-161 and 20* (in Hebrew). Bieberstein, K., Bloedhorn, H., Grundzüge der Baugeschichte vom Chalkolithikum bis zur Frühzeit der osmanischen Herrschaft (TAVO Beiheft B 100, 1-3; Wiesbaden 1994), vol. 2, 210-211, nos. 1-2 (after Corbo's edition). Corbo, V., Il Santo Sepolcro di Gerusaleme (Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1981-1982), vol. 1, 147; vol. 3, photographs 155-157. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 472. Supplementum Epigraphicum graecum 57, 1896.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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