The church is a relatively large basilica sited at the village Ḥorbat Kenes/Khirbet el-Kanayis, close to the city of Karmiel (Galilee). The basilica was discovered by chance, during local construction works, and the salvage excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority followed in the early 1990s, carried out by Mordechai Aviam. The apse was elevated by a natural rock, and the nave was laid out with opus sectile of white and red elements. The church had a small baptistery on the plan of a cross, annexed to the south aisle. One of the annexed rooms housed a tomb beneath the floor (later covered by a mosaic). Burials also took place in the south porch of the atrium, and at the north end of the narthex. Although the initial research suggested that the basilica belonged to a monastic complex linked with the village of Ḥorbat Bata, this has not been confirmed. The present-day interpretation is that the basilica was almost certainly founded by a local rich family, and served as their family church (see Ashkenazi 2018, 715-716, cf. Ashkenazi & Aviam 2014, 164-165).
As a result of the excavations, a pavement of floor-mosaics, virtually intact in the aisles, was uncovered with six inscribed panels embedded. They were located in the aisles, and in-between the columns of the nave. The inscriptions provide us with ten names of benefactors, among them several deacons and one archdeacon. One of the inscriptions (SEG 63 1566) considered as the main building inscription of this church (Ashkenazi 2018, 716) takes the shape of a medallion framed by a braided pattern, and terms the building ἅγιος τόπος/'holy place'. It contains an invocation of the memory (μνησθοῦσειν = μνησθῶσιν) of four married couples, a single man, and three apparently unmarried women.
The inscription naming St Konon is still unpublished, but some work on it has already been done by Leah Di Segni, and Jacob Ashkenazi has referred to it in his publications (2018, 715-716 and in a forthcoming paper).
Saint NameKonōn, gardener and martyr of Magydos of Pamphylia : S00177
Konōn, martyr of Isauria (south-eastern Asia Minor) : S00430
Konōn, martyr of Iconium in Lycaonia (central Asia Minor) : S00429
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcḤorbat Kenes
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Ḥorbat Kenes
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
SourceWe are grateful to Jacob Ashkenazi and Mordechai Aviam from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, who kinldy drew our attention to this site.
DiscussionJacob Ashkenazi supposes that this Konon was the gardener and martyr of Magydos in Pamphylia (our S00177), who, according to the account of his martyrdom, came from Nazareth in Galilee, and claimed descent from Christ (if these words are to be taken literally, and not as a metaphor of his Christian faith). Ashkenazi implies that the sixth century Galileans knew this story and, being inspired by it, introduced the cult of Konon in their homeland. He also hypothesizes that some oral story about this martyr could circulate in Galilee, but this requires an assumption that Konon of Magydos was an historical figure, not a later literary construct (for this problem, see also Mimouni 2006).
This is not the first time when someone comes up with an idea of the cult of Konon of Magydos in Palestine. Similarly, Bellarmino Bagatti had long before argued for the spreading of the cult of Konon of Magydos in Galilee, based on a mosaic panel from the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth which records a donation by a deacon Konon, whom he believed to have been named after this saint: π(α)ρ(ὰ) Κώνω|νος διακό(νου) | Ἱεροσολ|ύμων/‘From Konon, deacon of Jerusalem’ (SEG 8, 14). But, of course, one cannot take for granted that this Konon the deacon was a local. He could move to the Holy Land from south Asia Minor, to develop his spiritual life in Jerusalem, and his name cannot be taken as evidence for naming people after Saint Konon in late antique Palestine. Such famous places as the Basilica of the Annunciation had a peculiar power of attracting donors from all over the Mediterranean, and we can expect there donations by foreigners.
Conversely, we would like to draw the reader’s attention to a mosaic from the main church of Ḥ. Bata (sometimes termed the ‘cathedral’ of Ḥorbat Bata), as dedications made in this otherwise insignificant countryside sanctuary are much more likely to have been done by people of local origin. The text is set out in three columns framed by a rectangular panel (see the photograph we reproduce here):
[- - - οἰ]- [- - -] [- - -]
κονό- ΚΟΝΟ[- - -] [- - -] Ο. Υ.
μος τῆ- γράμ- ἀνα-
ς ἐκλη- μα γνώσ-
σίας (branch) της
7-8. Κονο | Γράμμα Tzaferis, [- - - διά]|κονο[ς] Bingen in SEG, but possibly οἰ]|κονό|μος τῆ|ς ἐκλη|σίας | [τοῦ ἁγ(ίου)] | Κόνονο[ς
Text: SEG 42 1466 = Tazferis 1992, 133.
One could possibly interpret the crucial lines 1-7 as οἰ]|κονό|μος τῆ|ς ἐκλη|σίας | [τοῦ ἁγ(ίου)] | Κόνονο[ς/‘steward of the church [of St] Konon’, even though Jean Bingen offered a different restoration, with a reference to a deacon: διά]|κονο[ς]/‘deacon’ in the place of the name 'Konon'. It is difficult to judge which version is correct, but the entry on the donation of the steward in column 1 does not specify the amount of the reader's offering, and his description could indeed continue in column 2. This would be another testimony to the institutionalized veneration of Konon in Galilee, in proximity of Karmiel. Perhaps the church is identical with that mentioned in the unpublished inscription from Ḥorbat Kenes, as this read need not serve in Ḥorbat Bata.
As for the identity of this Saint Konon, it is, of course, very tempting clue to identify him with Konon of Magydos, given his Galilean background, but one must also remember that at least two other saints of these name were venerated in south Asia Minor, and *Konon, martyr of Iconium (S00429), was probably far more popular.
BibliographyBasic reports from the site:
Gorny, D., Aviam, M., "Ḥorbat Kenes", Hadashot Arkheologiyot 103 (1995), 21–23 [in Hebrew].
Hadashot Arkheologiyot: Excavations and Surveys in Israel 175 (1998) in Hebrew
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), 715–716.
Ashkenazi, J., (in print).
Ashkenazi, J., Aviam, M., "Small monasteries in Galilee in Late Antiquity: The test case of Karmiel", in: G.C. Bottini, L.D. Chrupcała, J. Patrich (eds), Knowledge and Wisdom: Archaeological and Historical Essays in Honour of Leah Di Segni (Milan:, 2014), 164-165.
Ashkenazi, J., Aviam, M., (2013), "Horvat Bata: A village and its monasteries: A study of a rural landscape in Late antique Palestine", Cathedra 147 (2013), 22-23 [in Hebrew].
Aviam, M., Jews, Pagans and Christians in the Galilee: 25 Years of Archaeological Excavations and Surveys: Hellenistic to Byzantine Periods (Land of Galilee 1, Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2004), 188-191
Aviam, M., „Remains of churches and monasteries in western Galilee”, Qadmoniot 28,1 (109) (1995), 53 = SEG 45 1952.
Di Segni, L., "On the contribution of epigraphy to the identification of monastic foundations", in: J. Patrich, O. Peleg-Barkat, E. Ben-Yosef (eds.), Arise, Walk through the Land. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of his Demise (Jerusalem: Old City Press, 2016), 190*
Mimouni, S. C., "La tradition de la succession “dynastique” de Jésus", [in:] B. Caseau, J.C. Cheynet, V. Déroche (eds.), Pèlerinages et lieux saints dans l’antiquité et le moyen âge. Mélanges offerts à Pierre Maraval (Paris: , 2006), 291-304.
Tzaferis, V., "Greek inscriptions from Carmiel", ‘Atiqot 21 (1992), 133 = SEG 42 1466.