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E04019: Red limestone reliquary with multiple compartments, found in the chancel of the South-West Church at Hippos/Sussita (Roman province of Palaestina II). Probably late 6th-early 7th c.

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posted on 2017-09-13, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Red limestone casket. H. c. 0.20 m; W. c. 0.40 m; L. c. 0.50 m. Sunk into the middle of the floor-mosaic of the chancel, beneath the altar. The interior is divided into three cavities, the central one of which is round, and the other two are rectangular. The reliquary was found and examined during the excavations in 2005.

The reliquary is apparently a smaller copy of that from the south pastophorion of the North-West Church in Hippos (E02968, Reliquary 3). It therefore probably dates from the late 6th/early 7th c. (see Młynarczyk 2011, 270).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060 Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518

Type of Evidence

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Altars with relics Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures


  • 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)

Hippos/Sussita Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned


The South-West Church at Hippos was identified and surveyed in the 1970s by Zvi Ilan. The site was excavated in the winter of 2004/2005 by Michael Heinzelmann of the German Protestant Institute in Jerusalem, with the aid of Zvika Tsuk of the National Parks Authority, Nili and Abraham Greizer, and a group of volunteers. Only the east end of the building was examined, and the plan of the entire structure is unknown. The building lies in the southwest sector of the city, in an area remote from other churches, on a slope leading down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was constructed with the use of spolia from a synagogue, or was even built into a former synagogue. The church was probably a three-aisled basilica with a single apse (lacking a synthronon). We have no information on any rooms flanking the apse from the south, whilst a doorway to the north pastophorion was found. We cannot say if the apse was inscribed or protruding from the nave. It is very probable that some rooms were annexed to the south wall of the church, and to the east end of the north wall, and that the church had an exonarthex at its west end. Floor-mosaics, decorated with geometric patterns and images of fish, were found in the nave, the south aisle, and the chancel. An inscribed mosaic panel was found in the chancel. It records an offering (prosphora) of the presbyter Simonios. According to the editor, Adam Łajtar, it refers to the paving of the chancel. Jolanta Młynarczyk argues that the panel is later than the rest of the pavement and refers to the offering of the altar or the reliquary. The church was probably constructed in the mid-5th c., which is suggested by two lime mortar floors below the level of the present floor-mosaic. It was in use until it was destroyed by a fire, certainly well before the earthquake of 749, and possibly before or at the very beginning of the Umayyad period, as no typically Umayyad pottery has been recorded. Jolanta Młynarczyk suggests that the church was destroyed under the Persian occupation, soon after 613/614.


Our database does not usually include anonymous reliquaries of which there were a large number in the Near East. But we have included this one as an exceptionally good example of a multi-chambered reliquary, possibly connected to the reliquaries from the North-West Church, found with their relics still in situ and even still accompanied with a metal rod for achieving a closer contact with the relics within.


Edition: Comte, M.-Ch., Les reliquaires du Proche-Orient et de Chypre à la période protobyzantine, IVe-VIIIe siècles: formes, emplacements, fonctions et cultes (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 20, Turnhout : Brepols Publishers, 2012), 173-175. Further reading: Łajtar, A., "Mosaic inscription from the South-West Church", in: A. Segal, J. Mlynarczyk, M. Burdajewicz, M. Schuler, M. Eisenberg, Hippos-Sussita. Eighth Season of Excavations, July 2007 (Haifa: Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2007), 57-59. Młynarczyk, J., "Churches and society in Nyzantine and Umayyad-period Hippos", ARAM 23 (2011), 268-271. Segal, A., Eisenberg, M., "The South-West Church (SWC)", in: A. Segal, J. Młynarczyk, M. Burdajewicz, Schuler, M., Eisenberg, M., Hippos-Sussita, Sixth Season of Excavations, July 2005 (Haifa: The Zinman Institute of Archaeology, 2005), 15-22.

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