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E03581: Floor mosaics with Greek inscriptions invoking the help of the God of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259), and of the God of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023). Found at Ḥorvat Ḥesheq near Diokaisareia/Sepphoris (Galilee, Roman province of Palaestina II). Dated 519.

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posted on 2017-08-19, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Rectangular mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.40 m; W. 2.80 m. Letter height c. 0.08 m. Set in the floor of the nave, in front of the chancel.

+ Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ ἐνδόξου μάρτυρος Γεοργίου, μνήσθητι
εἰς ἀγαθὸν τοῦ δούλου σου Δημητρίου διακ(όνου) τοῦ κτίσαντος τὼν
ἅγιον οἶκον τοῦτον καὶ Γεοργίου υἱοῦ καὶ παν(τὸς) τοῦ οἴκου αὐτῶν +

'+ O Lord, God of the holy and glorious martyr George, remember for good Thy servant Demetrios, the deacon, who built this holy building (oikos), and Georgios, (his) son, and all their household!'

Text: Di Segni 1990, no. 1. Translation: L. Di Segni.

Inscription 2:

Rectangular, framed mosaic panel. H. 0.25 m; W. 1.40 m. Letter height c. 0.06 m. Set on the border of the carpet mosaic of the south aisle, in front of the entrance to the south apsed chamber, flanking the central apse.

Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου, ἐλέησον τοῦ δούλου σου
Δημήτρι(ο)ν δ(ιάκονον) (καὶ) Γεόργι(ο)ν υἱὸν καὶ παντὸς τοῦ οἴκου αὐτῶ(ν)

'O Lord, God of Saint Sergios, have pity of Thy servant Demetrios, the deacon, and of Georgios (his) son, and of all their household!'

Text: Di Segni 1990, no. 4. Translation: L. Di Segni.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, soldier and martyr of Diospolis/Lydda : S00259 Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa : S00023

Saint Name in Source

Γεόργιος Σέργιος

Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. From: Di Segni 1990, 379.

Image Caption 2

Drawing of Inscription 1. From: Di Segni 1990, 380.

Image Caption 3

Inscription 2. From: Di Segni 1990, 384.

Image Caption 4

Drawing of Inscription 2. From: Di Segni 1990, 384.

Image Caption 5

Reliquary pit in the southern apse. From: Di Segni 1990, 381.

Image Caption 6

Plan of the church. From: Aviam 2004, 211.

Image Caption 7

Inscription from the reliquary pit in the southern apse, after most recent restoration. Kindly shared with us by Jacob Aviam and Mordechai Ashkenazi.

Type of Evidence

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Altars with relics 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 Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Diokaisareia in Palestine Ḥorvath Ḥesheq

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

Diokaisareia in Palestine Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Ḥorvath Ḥesheq Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Children Other lay individuals/ people


The floor mosaics were found in the church at Ḥorvat Ḥesheq, a three-aisled basilica with presumably three apses. The church was partially hewn into a rock-face, and built on the second floor of a stone complex, recorded by western surveyors already in the second half of the 19th c. (Guérin, 1880; Conder & Kitchener, 1881). Newer surveys were conducted by Rafael Frankel in the 1970s, and based on these the complex was at first ascribed to the Crusader period; but a closer examination allowed scholars to place its construction in Late Antiquity, and to identify the church on its second story. The church was excavated by Mordechai Aviam between 1985 and 1987. The excavations were recently renewed by Jacob Ashkenazi and Mordechai Aviam, under the auspices of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, and a new report will follow soon. Although early Roman spolia, including a fragmentary Latin dedication to Iovis Optimus Maximus, were found in the church, the site is believed to have been an entirely Christian construction, not a converted Roman building. A total of five mosaic inscriptions were found in the church. The two which we reproduce here contained invocations of saints. Others recorded names of donors, a dating formula, and a biblical quotation (Psalm 86(87).2: 'The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling-places of Jacob'.) The inscriptions were first published by Leah Di Segni in 1990. These texts were later reprinted in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum and re-published with virtually no changes by Leah Di Segni in 1993. The cleaning of the mosaics during the most recent work at the site resulted in several altered readings, compared with the editio princeps. These will be published by Jacob Ashkenazi and Mordechai Aviam in the report of the present excavations.


We have here an interesting case of contemporary dedications to two different saints in the same church. Both George and Sergios, were very popular in the East and both were soldiers and martyrs in the hagiographical tradition. Importantly, the son of the founder bears the name Georgios, the same as one of the patron saints. Hence, we can suppose that the selection of George as the principal dedicatee could have been dictated by a peculiar devotion of the family to that holy figure. Inscription 1 was placed in front of the chancel screen, a very prestigious place in the church, and for this reason Di Segni supposes that the entire shrine was dedicated to George. A reliquary pit was found in the middle of the chancel, beneath the altar. Is, therefore, possible that some relics of George were deposited there. Next to the reliquary pit there was another mosaic inscription, recording a vow for the salvation of Demetrios and his son Georgios, and for the repose of Somas, father of Demetrios, and of Demetrios and Theodora (according to Di Segni, the deceased children of Demetrios). For similarly placed inscriptions, which personify the presence of donors close to holy relics, see E02966 (Khirbet Beit Sila in Samaria) and E03562 (Ḥorvat Be’er-Shema in the northwest Negev). As Inscription 2 (= Inscription 4 on the plan of the church) was located at the entrance to the south chamber, Di Segni presumes that this room was dedicated to the cult of Sergios, and that another reliquary was installed there. This supposition seems correct to us, as in near-eastern churches martyrs were often venerated in rooms flanking the central apse. One might wonder whether the placing of his cult in a side apse could imply that Sergios was considered by the donors to be a saint slightly inferior to George. Dating: The date of the construction of the church can be established thanks to yet another mosaic panel, embedded in the floor of the nave (Di Segni 1990, no. 3 = SEG 40, 1446). It mentions both Demetrios and his son Georgios, and says that the work was completed 'in the month of April, of the year 582 (of a local era), 12th indiction' (ἐτελ(ε)ιώθη τὸ πᾶν ἔργω(ν) ἐν μη(νὶ) Ἀπριλίου τοῦ πβφʹ ἔτους ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ιβ΄). Di Segni considers several possibilities, but notes that only in the case of the Pompeian era beginning in 64/63 BC, would the year 582 coincide with the 12th indicton year. Hence, the date can be plausibly computed as April AD 519. In addition, Aviam and Ashkenazi provided us with a new reading of a mosaic inscription placed immediately before the reliquary in the south apse (published as Di Segni 1990, no. 2), where they suggest the relics of St Sergios were kept. A recent cleaning and restoration work done on this mosaic allowed the excavators to uncover its lower right-hand corner. There the noun πάπποι ('grandparents') is now clearly visible (and perfectly coherent with the contents), whereas Di Segni read τέκνοι ('children'). Hence the inscription should no longer be interpreted as a vow for the repose of prematurely deceased son and daughter of the benefactor: + ὑπὲρ σωτηρίας Δημητρίου διακ(όνου) (καὶ) Γεοργίου υἱoῦ (καὶ) ἀναπαύσεος Σόμαδ(ος) πατρὸς (καὶ) Δημητρίου (καὶ) Θεοδώρας πάπων 3. πάπων Aviam & Ashkenazi (forthcoming), τ(έκν)ων Di Segni 'For the salvation of Demetrius, the Deacon and of George his son and for the rest of Somas his father and of Demetrius and Theodora his grandparents.' Text: Di Segni 1990, no. 2, modified; see also a photograph which we attach here. Translation: M. Aviam, J. Ashkenazi - from their forthcoming report on the site.


Edition: Di Segni, L., "The Greek inscriptions at Horvat Hesheq", in: Y. Tsafrir (ed.) Ancient Churches Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1993), 66-70. Di Segni, L., "Horvath Hesheq: The inscription", in: G.C. Bottini, L. Di Segni, E. Alliata (eds.), Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land: New Discoveries. Essays in Honour of Virgilio C. Corbo (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1990), 351-378. Further reading: Ashkenazi, J., "Family rural churches in late antique Palestine and the competition in the ‘field of religious goods’: A socio-historical view", Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68 (2018), 712-715. Ashkenazi, J., Aviam, M., "Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung und materielle Kultur im christlich geprägten Galiläa der Spätantike. Ein Forschungsbericht", Antike Welt 2 (2018), 48-49. Aviam, M., "Horvat Hesheq - a unique church in Upper Galilee: preliminary report", in: G.C. Bottini, L. Di Segni, E. Alliata (eds.), Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land: New Discoveries. Essays in Honour of Virgilio C. Corbo (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1990), 351-378. Aviam, M., "Horvat Hesheq: A church in the Upper Galilee", in: Y. Tsafrir (ed.) Ancient Churches Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1993), 54-65. Aviam, M., "Remains of churches and monasteries in Western Galilee", Qadmoniot 28/1 (1995), 48-52. Aviam, M., "Five ecclesiastical sites in Western Upper Galilee", in: Z. Gal (ed.), Eretz Zafon: Studies in Galilean Archaeology (Jerusalem: Rashut ha-ʿatiḳot, 2002), 172-189. Aviam, M., "Horvat Hesheq - a unique church in Upper Galilee: preliminary report", in M. Aviam (ed.), Jews, Pagans and Christians in the Galilee. 25 Years of Archaeological Excavations and Surveys: Hellenistic to Byzantine Periods (Rochester, NY : University of Rochester Press, 2004), 205-240. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 5 (1986), 51-52. Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 148, no. 218 (with further bibliography). Schick, R., The Christian Communities of Palestine from Byzantine to Islamic Rule: A Historical and Archaeological Study (Studies in late antiquity and early Islam 2, Princeton, N.J: Darwin Press, 1995), 310. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 788. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 40, 1444-1447.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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