University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04415: Fragmentary Greek inscription discovered at the church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) on Mount Gerizim (Roman province of Palaestina I), tentatively and probably wrongly identified as an invocation of Mary. Probably late 5th c. - 8th c.

online resource
posted on 2017-11-29, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A church dedicated to Mary the God-Bearer (Theotokos) was built on Mout Gerizim, by the emperor Zeno between 484 and 491, following the emperor's repression of the Samaritan community. The church was surrounded by a stone wall which was later extended and better fortified by Justinian. It is not clear if, and to what extent, the church was damaged during the Samaritan uprising of 529 (for Procopius' description, see: $EXXXXX; for Malalas' description, see $EXXXXX).

The site was explored by European surveyors already in the 19th c., and in the 1930s excavated by Alfons Maria Schneider. The excavations focused on a Justinianic fort (kastron), 73.35 m x 62 m. At its centre was a central-plan octagonal church, with an apsed extension protruding to the east, built of limestone blocks. The church measured 37 m x 30 m, and, as well as the central octagonal room, had four apsed chambers. It is normally identified with the church mentioned by Procopius and Malalas.

The original floor-mosaics of the church were largely lost, but Schneider discovered a number of very fragmentary dedicatory inscriptions, epitaphs, and invocations. One of the epitaphs mentions the 9th indiction year under the emperor Phokas (= AD 605/606), and the most famous find is an inscribed fragment of a stone reliquary, saying that it contained a rock from Golgotha. Among the preserved inscriptions there were virtually none referring explicitly to Mary, except for one fragment tentatively interpreted by Schneider as Θ(εοτόκε), β(οήθει)/'O God-Bearer (Theotokos), help!' (see p. 228).

In 1990 Leah Di Segni published a reassessment of Schneider's inscriptions enriched with several new finds. She re-interpreted his 'invocation of Mary' as an invocation of God θ(εὸς), β(οήθει)/'God, help!', and suggested that some (if not the majority) of the inscription may be pre-Christian (Samaritan) invocations of God.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • 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

Mount Gerizim

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

Mount Gerizim Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs



Edition: Di Segni, L., "The church of Mary Theotokos on Mount Gerizim: the inscriptions", 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 Print. Press, 1990), 343-350. Schneider, A.M., "Römische und byzantinische Bauten auf dem Garizim", Zeitschrift des deutschen Palästina-Vereins 68 (1951), 228-231. Bagatti, B., "[Note in the Chronique archéologique]", La Revue biblique (1962), 418-420 and Plate XLVIIIb. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1955), 246.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager