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E02822: Mosaic panels from excavations under the modern Church of Mary's Nativity on the Via Dolorosa (Jerusalem), just possibly mentioning *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and her parents: *Joachim and Anne (S01327). Possibly 7th c. or later.

online resource
posted on 2017-05-18, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Inscription 1:

Mosaic panel with a cross flanked by four letters. Black tesserae on white background. Several grey tesserae. Letter height 0.07-0.075 m. Set in the floor of the upper chapel of the Church of Mary's Nativity.


Di Segni's interpretation:

τ(ό)π(ος) γ(εν)ν(ήσεως)

'Place of (Mary's) birth.'

Inscription 2:

Squarish mosaic panel with a crude inscription of black tesserae. H. 0.20 m; W. 0.18 m; letter height 0.05-0.075 m. Set in the floor of the lower chapel of the same church, within a larger mosaic with different patterns. Possibly remnants of an earlier pavement.


Di Segni's interpretation:

τ(ό)π(ο)ς κ(αὶ) τ(ά)φ(ος) Ἰ(ωα)κ(ί)μ

'Place and tomb of Joachim.'

Thomsen's interpretation:

τ(ό)π(ο)ς κ(αὶ) τ(ά)φ(ος) Ἰ(ωαχὶμ) κ(αὶ) Μ(αρίας)

''Place and tomb of Joachim and Mary.'

Inscription 3:

Three letters in a mosaic pavement, reportedly set in a niche to the left of a tomb (Thomsen). Now probably lost.


Di Segni's interpretation:



Thomsen's interpretation:

Ἰ(ωαχὶμ) κ(αὶ) Μ(αρία)

'Joachim and Mary.'

Text: CIIP 1/2, nos. App. 13*, 14*, 15*.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary, Mother of Christ : S01327

Saint Name in Source


Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. From: CIIP 1/2, 535.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2. From: CIIP 1/2, 536.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)


  • 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)


The inscriptions come from the modern Greek Orthodox Church of Mary's Nativity on the Via Dolorosa at Jerusalem, sited close to the Gate of St. Stephen (the so-called Lions' Gate). The church was built near the ancient Probatica Church, at the site believed by early Christians to have been the home of Anne and Joachim, parents of Mary, Mother of Christ, and the place of her birth. A church dedicated to Saint Anne was constructed there by the Crusaders. It is not clear if it was preceded by any ancient sanctuary, but the excavations conducted beneath that medieval foundation revealed a rock-hewn chamber with a reportedly Byzantine pavement. The modern Greek-Orthodox church and a nunnery have existed there since at least 1876. The site was excavated in 1856 by a French team. In early winter 1911 it was surveyed by Peter Thomsen who recorded our inscriptions and published them in 1922. He considered them as late 'forgeries', designed to bolster identification of the site as the place of Mary's birth. His opinion was repeated by Michael Avi Yonah. In the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Leah Di Segni expresses a moderate view. Even though the lettering of the mosaic inscriptions is very poor and some of the panels differ significantly from the main carpet mosaic, she points out that they may actually be original post-7th c. works, possibly re-laid in the 19th c. The site was recently revisited by Nili and Abraham Graicer who photographed the first two inscriptions but were unable to locate the third one. For a description of the site, see: CIIP 1/2, 535.


The inscriptions consist of very short abbreviations, and, Di Segni admits, their meaning is not clear. Thomsen suggested that they were meant to mark the site of burial of Mary and her parents, but Di Segni rightly points out that the place was venerated rather as the home of the Virgin, and not the tomb of the three. Furthermore, Joachim should be associated with Anne rather than Mary, and so her occurrence in Inscriptions 2 and 3 (as argued by Thomsen) is implausible. The actual purpose and dating of these panels seem very dubious to us, but since the discussion on their authenticity is still going on, we decided to include them in our database.


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. App. 13*, 14*, 15*. Avi-Yonah, M., "Mosaic pavements in Palestine", Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine 2 (1932), 176, no. 156. Thomsen, P., Die lateinischen und griechischen Inschriften der Stadt Jerusalem und ihrer nächsten Umgebung (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1922), no. 9b*, 9c*.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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