SEG 45 (1995): 1973
CIIP IV.1 (2018): 3171 (phs., dr.)
In the larger of the two “hanging” niches in the rock face above the cave church.
Chitty describes a fresco of the crucifixion with the virgin and St. John below the cross on the rear wall of a niche; on each of the side walls of the niche there is “a bearded monastic saint carrying a scroll,” but “it was impossible to get near enough to read the Greek inscriptions on the scrolls” (Chitty). This changed partly with Kühnel and Goldfus–Arubas–Alliata, but still only poor quality photographs are available. Kühnel identified the saint on the right side wall as St. John Damascene and the text written upside down on the scroll which he is holding as the beginning of a liturgical hymn (b). Goldfus–Arubas–Alliata noticed in addition that St. John the Evangelist in the crucifixion scene was identified by a caption written vertically to the right-hand side of his nimbus (a). The Greek letters of the inscriptions in the niche present some diacritical marks and many abbreviations and ligatures.
(a) Ὁ ἅ(γιος) Ἰω(άννης) ὁ θεολόγος.
(b) ☩ Στ(αυ)ρ(ὸ)ς κατε-
[σεν ἡμῖν ἀθανασίαν.]
(a) St. John the Theologian.
(b) The cross was fixed on Calvary and gave us immortality. (CIIP)
(b) The text is incomplete due to the destruction of part of the aedicule. However, the scroll itself does not seem to have had room for more than five lines. It shows the first words of a liturgical hymn attributed to St John Damascene, or to his successor, Joseph the Himnograph, one of two dedicated to the memory of the Cross (ἀπόστιχα σταυρώσιμα) and belongs to the first of the eight tones. It is used in the Vespers of Tuesday and Thursday in the Greek liturgy. (Goldfus–Arubas–Alliata). The turban identifies the figure as John the Damascene is an iconography that comes into existence only in the 12 cent. (Kühnel).
Fresco of the crucifixion with St. John the Theologian and beginning of a liturgical hymn, in the larger of the two hanging niches in the rock face above the cave-church.