In 2014 Davide Bianchi published two bronze lamp-holders (polycandela) of unknown provenance, housed in the Archaeological Museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF) in Jerusalem. According to the editor it is not known how and when the Museum came into possession of these objects.
Polycandelon 1 (diameter 0.28 m; weight 1.071 kg) is a bronze ring with six slots for lamps. It is fitted with three loops for attaching chains and a hook. The inscription is punched, and runs on the upper surface of the ring, divided by lamp-slots.
+ Πελαγία εὐξαμένι τὶν εὐχὶν ἀπέδοκεν + τοῦ ἁγίου Ἰωάν<ν>ου
ἀπέδοκεν Feissel based on the drawing, ἀπέδοχεν Bianchi
'+ Pelagia, having sworn a vow, fulfilled it. + Of Saint John.'
Text: Bianchi 2014, 360, with a lightly altered reading by D. Feissel in BE (2016), 531.
Polycandelon 2 (diameter 0.235 m; weight 0.892 kg) consists of two rings connected by six slots for lamps and three spikes, to which three chains are connected by loops. It was likewise hung by a hook. The upper surface is flat and decorated with numerous concentric circles. It bears no inscription.
Saint NameJohn the Baptist : S00020
John, Apostle and Evangelist : S00042
Saint Name in SourceἸωάνης
Image Caption 1Polycandelon 1. From: Bianchi 2014, 361.
Image Caption 2Drawing of Polycandelon 1. From: Bianchi 2014, 361.
Image Caption 3Details of the inscription on Polycandelon 1. From: Bianchi 2014, 362.
Image Caption 4Details of the inscription on Polycandelon 1. From: Bianchi 2014, 362.
Image Caption 5Polycandelon 2. From: Bianchi 2014, 363.
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Inscribed objects
Images and objects - Lamps, ampullae and tokens
Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, etc.)
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after700
Activity not before500
Activity not after700
Place of Evidence - RegionSyria with Phoenicia
Palestine with Sinai
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Thabbora
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsVow
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsEx-votos
DiscussionIt seems that the two objects are not connected and were originally offered to different sanctuaries. The inscription on Polycandelon 1 says that it was a votive offering by one Pelagia. Binachi notes that the second part of the inscription indicates a church of John, the owner of the object, rather than being an integral part of the votive formula. The identity of that 'Saint John' is not clear, the most plausible explanation is that he was either John the Baptist or John the Apostle and Evangelist, the first option being probably more likely. Bianchi points out that John the Baptist was venerated, for example, at the Sanctuary of the Visitation at 'Ein Kerem near Jerusalem (cf. E02829), where some lamp-holders were found, but there is no clear link between that shrine and our objects.
Bianchi cites a number of similar polycandela, some of inscribed, other not, for example our E02587 from Umm er-Rasas with a dedicatory inscription to *Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa. Based on a comparative study of their style, he places our polycandela in the 6th or 7th c.
Bianchi prudently notes that the dedicatory formula τὴν εὐχὴν ἀπέδωκεν is well attested in both pagan and Christian dedications. We have recorded it in a monumental inscription at Lamos in Cilicia (E01082: υἱοὶ Ἀρουαρα τὴν εὐχὴν ἀπέδωκεν τῷ ἁ<γί>ῳ + Κόνωνει +/'sons of Arvaras (?), having made a vow to Saint Konon, fulfilled it'); on a reliquary cross from Seleucia ad Calycadnum in Isauria or Seleucia Pieria in north Syria (E01826: Ἰωάννης υεἱὸς Ἐνγολίου εὐξάμενος τὴν εὐχὴν ἀπέδωκα/'I, Ioannes, son of Engolios, having made a vow, fulfilled it'), and on a silver lamp-holder from the Kaper Koraon treasure, north Syria (IGLS V 2034; EXXXX: εὐξάμενοι τὴν εὐχὴν ἀπέδωκαν τῶ ἁγίου Σεργίου καὶ Βάχχου/'Having made a vow to Saint Sergios and Bakchos, they fulfilled it', followed by the names of four brothers).
Bianchi, D., "Due polycandela dal Museo Archeologico dello Studium Biblicum Franciscanum", in: G.C. Bottini, L.D. Chrupcała, J. Patrich (eds.), Knowledge and Wisdom. Archaeological and Historical Essays in Honour of Leah Di Segni (Milano: Edizioni Terra Santa), 363-370.
Bulletin épigraphique (2016), 531.