V 209. Cherkes-Kermen. Building inscription of Mary, 1351–1352 or 1381–1382 C.E.
Tempera on plaser.
H. 8.0, W. 191.0.
Side walls and arch of a flat arcosolium; red band along the perimeter. The surface is chipped.
Place of Origin
"Church of Donators," north wall, east arcosolium.
2006, survey of A.Yu. Vinogradov.
Institution and inventory
In situ, no inventory number.
Within a frame.
Dipinto in yellow paint with red outline against blue background. Letters are woven, elongated and pointy, very ornate, with many decorative elements. Ligature: omicron-upsilon.
1351–1352 or 1381–1382 C.E.
L1. Vinogradov 2008a.
<div type="edition" xml:lang="grc"> <ab> <lb n="1"/> <gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="character"/>ἐθεμ<supplied reason="lost">ηλιώθη</supplied> <supplied reason="lost">συ</supplied>ν<supplied reason="lost" cert="low">δρομῇ</supplied> <supplied reason="lost">τῆς</supplied> <unclear>δούλ</unclear><supplied reason="lost">η</supplied><unclear>ς</unclear> <unclear>τοῦ</unclear> <expan><abbr>Χ</abbr><ex>ριστο</ex><abbr>ῦ</abbr></expan> <unclear>Μ</unclear>αρύας· <unclear>ἐ</unclear><supplied reason="lost">πὶ</supplied> <date><supplied reason="lost">ἔ</supplied><unclear>τ</unclear><supplied reason="lost">ους</supplied> <app type="alternative"><lem><num value="686"><supplied reason="lost">ς</supplied><unclear>ωϞ</unclear></num></lem> <rdg><num value="689"><supplied reason="lost">ς</supplied><unclear>ωξ</unclear></num></rdg></app></date>, <date><expan><abbr>ἠν</abbr><supplied reason="lost"><abbr>δ</abbr><ex>ικτιῶνος</ex></supplied></expan> <num value="5">ε</num></date> <gap reason="illegible" extent="unknown" unit="character"/> </ab> </div>
... founded with the assistance of the servant of God, Mary. In the year 6890 (or: 6860), in the 5th indiction.
The inscription is prominently positioned - over the image of St. Theodore, the patron saint of the church. The arcosolium, in which it is placed, is one in a row of other arcosolia on the west and north walls, where the church's ktitores are depicted (according to inscriptions, at least three of them were deceased, see V 210, V 211, V 212), and for that reason they appear in what might be described as a memorial zone of the church. The connection with the other arcosolia is emphasised in the script of our inscription by the imitation of the ornamental weave pattern, which characterizes the parellel arcosolium on the west side of the north wall. Therefore, the inscription might be identified as building/dedicatory, or commemorative (epitaphs are positioned next to specific figures: see V 210, V 211, V 212).
Due to the fact that multiple fragments of plaster have fallen off and the paintwork has been damaged, only two segments of the text can be read. To the left of the point of the arch the letters ΕΘΕΜ can be read, which in this context probably belong to the word ἐθεμηλιώθη. A reference to the laying of foundations is unusual in a cave-church but it may have had to do with the master builder who had come from far away; at the same time, we lack broader comparanda since there is only one other building inscription found in cave-churches of Crimea, and in that one the verb used is "dedicated" (V 203).
The second segment of the text contains the expression "servant of Christ, Mary" followed by a colon. In between the segments a nu is clearly visible suggesting the possibility that the formula [συ]ν[δρομῇ] "with the assistance" had been used (cf. V 175). The expression "servant of Christ" maintains greater semantic specificity than the "servant of God": in Crimean inscriptions (with the exception of V 89, the identity of the person so described is unclear) it always indicates clergy (cf. V 181, V 201). It is therefore possible to hypothesize that Mary was a nun and might be identified with a female figure in a nun's garb depicted in the procession of ktitores as the last figure, at the extreme west, and not accompanied (unlike all other figures) by a reference to her passing (the association between the text and the image has been suggested to us by S.V. Kharitonov in a private conversation). Thus, we have an example of a building inscription mentioning the person who had commissioned the construction of the church - a certain Mary who apparently later became a nun.
The rest of the text, following the colon, must have contained a dating formula by the year, by analogy with numerous inscriptions from Mountainous Crimea (cf. V 149, V 175, V 177, V 178, V 179, V 180, V 219). The epsilon that follows the colon offers two possibilities for reconstruction: either we could reconstruct the formula ἔτους "the year" and then interpret the right serif decorated with a circle as a type of stigma - in that case, the end of the inscription cannot be restored. Alternatively, if we reconstruct the formula ἐπὶ ἔτους "in the year," then we would interpret the following traces as remains of a tau (which is more likely). In that case, a trace of the vertical stroke that follows could only belong to an omega (psi, giving us the date 1191–1292, is excluded on art-historical grounds), while what follows would be a koppa (or, less likely, a ksi). After that letter, there are traces of two vertical strokes merged together, which would belong either to an eta or nu, representing an abbreviation ἠνδ(ικτιῶνος) "in the indiction." The following epsilon would give us the 5th indiction, corresponding to the year 1381–1382 (or 1351–1352) C.E.
This date is supported by art-historical analysis (for more detail, see Vinogradov, Lukovnikova 2008).