As archaeologists with the Hippos-Sussita expedition in the Galilee carefully removed dirt from a previously excavated mosaic, they made an unexpected discovery that has opened a window into the lives of everyday Byzantine Christians in the sixth century. The team uncovered two new inscriptions from the mosaic floor of the Martyrion of Theodoros, also known as the “Burnt Church.” These, in addition to two they had already identified in the mosaic, give fascinating details about the community members who had gathered their money together for the construction of the simple church building.
The four dedicatory inscriptions provide the names and occupations of the local Christians who lived in the prosperous city of Hippos-Sussita, perched high in the hills just a mile east of the Sea of Galilee. One inscription set in the entrance hall states, “Offering of Megas, the most holy bishop, for the peaceful rest of Eusebios and Iobios, his brothers.” Another reads, “Offering of the priest Symeonios, goldsmith, custodian[?], he [the Lord] will protect him and his children and his wife.” This inscription is particularly intriguing as it may suggest that the minister of the church was also one of the town’s craftsmen.
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