Jerusalem (Old city) - New Church of the Theotokos (Nea Church monastery)

Church/Monastery name: 
Jerusalem (Old city) - New Church of the Theotokos (Nea Church monastery)
Inscription number: 
Selected bibliography: 
145-151, pl. 19 (phs.) (ed. pr.)
128-135 (ph.)
II, 293
614-620, no. 210
384-385 (ph.) (in Hebrew)
Abbreviation for Journals and Series
Epigraphical corpora: 

AE 1977: 830

SEG 27 (1977): 1015

CIIP I.2 (2012): 800 (ph.)

Inscription type: 

Findspot: Substructure, high up in the southern wall, ca. 8 m above floor level, exactly in front of the opening of a stepped gallery that entered the vaults from the north.

Pres. loc.: Israel Museum, Jerusalem, inv. no. 1977-250.

Physical description : 

The inscription is set in a tabula ansata. Underneath is a cross 66 cm high. Script and cross are moulded in high relief in the hard hydraulic plaster that lines the cistern wall. The characters are applied on the plaster and painted red; a few are damaged or have slipped off the surface, leaving traces on the plaster, but the preservation of the text is quite good. The letters belong to the square alphabet. A number of abbreviations are used, namely, two types of small stigmas (shoulder-high and below the line) and superscript letters (l.5). The diphthong OY is in ligature in ll.3 and 5. The numerals are marked with a horizontal stroke. A ligature in l.1 joins two letters belonging to different words. Square sigma and square w-shaped omega. The text ends with a small cross. The right margin of the register is uneven.

Meas.: h 68, w 122 cm (158 cm, including the handles); letters 8-10 cm.


       Κ(αὶ) τοῦτο τὸ ἔργον ἐφιλοτιμή-

       σατο ὁ εὐσεβ(έστατος) ἡμῶν βασι-

       λεὺς Φλ(άουιος) Ἰουστινιανός, προνοί-

4     ᾳ κ(αὶ) σπουδῖ Κωνσταντίνου

       ὁσιωτά(του) πρεσβ(υτέρου) κ(καὶ) ἡγουμέ(νου), ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ιγʹ. ☩


This work too was donated by our most pious Emperor Flavius Justinianus through the provision and care of Constantinus, most saintly priest and abbot, in the 13th indiction.


The position of the inscription indicates that it was meant to remain visible when the space was filled with water; in other words, it commemorates not the building of the vaults, but rather the creation of the cistern. In his description of the building of the Nea, Procopius of Caesarea (Aed. 5, 6) states that the architects built a substructure in order to enlarge the available space for the foundations of the church. This can be identified with the vaults occupied by the cistern. Obviously, the cistern (τὸ ἔργον) was inaugurated as a separate structure; the addition of καὶ strengthens this assumption. Did the inauguration of the cistern precede or follow that of the church? The 13th indiction fell thrice in Justinian’s reign: in 534/5, 549/50 and 564/5. Avigad considered only the first and second dates as possible: the first would imply that the vaults were inaugurated before the completion of the church; the second, that the substructure was built after the erection of the main building, perhaps to support the annex that housed the monastery attached to the church. Avigad ruled out the third date, since the vaults are mentioned by Procopius and were therefore in existence before 560, the latest possible date of De Aedificiis. However, the vaults may well have been fitted as a cistern years after their construction. Constantine was probably not the first abbot of the monastery of the Nea, but was the successor of John the Eunuch, an Origenist who was appointed ca. 544 and either died, or was removed, when the anti-Origenist party prevailed. The final defeat of the Origenists occurred in 554, but Origenist leaders were being expelled from various monasteries as early as 539 (see discussion in DGI 618ff.; Di Segni). Therefore, it is more appropriate to date the inscription to 549/50 or 564/5.

Given date: 
549/50 or 564/65

Building inscription of Justinian I within tabula ansata moulded in plaster on the wall of a cistern.

Ecclesiastical titles: 
Monastical titles: 
Epithets of clergy/monks: 
most saintly (hosiotatos)
Titles/epithets of patrons/dedicators: 
pious (eusebes)
Personal names: 
Constantinus, Flavius Justinianus
Epigraphical Abbreviations: 
small stigmas, overhanging letters, ΟΥ is in ligature, horizontal stroke for numerals