V 239. Massandra. Building inscription of an archbishop, XII–XIIIth centuries C.E.





Tempera on plaster. 

Dimensions (cm)

H. 116.0, W. 59.0, Th. 24.0.

Dimensions (cm)

H. 50.0, W. 42.0, Th. 21.0.

Additional description

Side walls and arch of an arcosolium between pilasters; plaster and tempera; ornamental border along the perimeter. Two blocks are preserved, but the first broke into two pieces; the paint has peeled in many places. 

Place of Origin


Find place

Massandra, Verkhniya. 

Find context

Church, wall. 

Find circumstances


Find place

Massandra, Verkhniya. 

Find context

Church, wall. 

Find circumstances


Modern location

Yalta, Crimea. 

Institution and inventory

Yalta Museum of History and Literature, КП 5330/10-11, КП 5330/12. 


September 2005, September 2009. 

Epigraphic field


Within a frame. 


Lapidary, dipinto. The direction of writing from bottom up. 

Letterheights (cm)




Building inscription. 


XII–XIIIth centuries C.E. 

Dating criteria

Style of painting, historical context. 


L1. Vinogradov 2011, 245–247, № 15. 


. ἐλέη κ(υρίο)υ ἀρχ[ιε]π̣[ίσκοπος ---]η· ν[---]ΣΕ[---].



EpiDoc (XML)

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      <lb n="1"/><gap reason="illegible" quantity="1" unit="character"/> 
      ἀρχ<supplied reason="lost">ιε</supplied><unclear>π</unclear><supplied reason="lost">ίσκοπος</supplied> 
      <gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="character"/><w part="F">η</w>· <w part="I">ν</w><gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="character"/><orig>ΣΕ</orig><gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="character"/>.


...by the grace of the Lord, archbishop...



The inscription was kindly brought to my attention by N.P. Turova. The exact position of the inscribed arcosolium in the church is unknown. Building inscriptions on frescoes are known in the Late Byzantine period from Eski-Kermen (V 219) and Sudak (V 245, V 246).

Apparently, the inscription mentioned the dedication of some church by an archbishop. The title of archbishop points to a date before the end of the XIIIth century, when Cherson and Gotthia became metropoleis: the first metropolitan of Gotеhia is known in 1292 (Vasiliev 1936, 276). Cherson is already mentioned as a metropolis in Notitia episcopatuum 15, that is, at the end of the XIIth century (Darrouzès 1981, 386). Thus, if the frescoes in our case date to the XIIIth century, then the archbishop mentioned can oтly be that of Gotthia. A date in the XII-XIIIth century fits well with the mural decoration on the pilasters of the church (kindly pointed out to me by E.A. Vinogradova): the rendering of facial features, which would allow a more precise dating, is lost, but the treatment of arches and the dissimilarities with other known murals of the XIIIth century in Mountainous Crimea ("Church of Three Horsemen" and "Dormition Church" at Eski-Kermen) suggest the XIIth century as a more likely date.

The reason for mentioning an archbishop in the inscription may have something to do with with the establishment of ownership for the church at Massandra (cf. inscription of similar kind from Partenit, ca. 1427 C.E., made by the metropolitan Damianos of Gotthia, — V 244). It is corroborated by a passage in the Act of the patriarch (1384 C.E.): «In addition, our mediocrity instructs them regarding the patriarchal district of Yalita - to find out about local venerable churches, and as many of them as are found dedicated as stavropegial, either by an archiereus of Gotthia or by a patriarchal exarch, to bring them under the patriarchal authority and rule» (Miklosich, Mueller 1862, 67–68, № 367). The common opinion has it that a neighbor of Massandra, Nikita, was a subject of dispute between the metropolitans of Cherson and Gotthia in 1384 (Vasiliev 1936, 277–278), however this opinion is based on a conjecture - a correction of the manuscript reading Sikita to Nikita - and thus cannot be used as proof. In addition, it is known that Yalta, also a neighbor of Massandra, was under the patriarchal authority (see above). Still, it is not clear under which ecclesiastical jurisdiction Yalta and Massandra found themselves in the XII-XIIIth centuries. On the one hand, the mention of a metropolitan of Gotthia in connection with Yalta has to do with his status as a patriarchal exarch. On the other hand, in the same Act of 1384 it says furthermore: "However, if an archiereus of Gotthia has a seat there and had consecrated those churches as his own, then he should rule them." Thus, it appears that by 1384 in the region of Yalta there were churches that were under the direct authority of the eparchy of Gotthia. Complete silence about the eparchy of Cherson with respect to Yalta in the same act of 1384 firmly suggests that the church of Massandra had also been consecrated by the archbishop of Gotthia, possibly before the transfer of Yalta to the authority of the patriarch. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that in 1386 Yalta came as an exarchy under the authority of the metropolitan of Gotthia (Miklosich, Mueller 1862, 74–75, № 371). The return, by a patriarchal Act of 1390 (Miklosich, Mueller 1862, 148–150, № 419), of some other places addressed by the Act of 1384, under the authority of the metropolitan of Cherson characteristically does not affect Yalta, although all other territories lost by Cherson (Phouna, Alania, Alushta, Lampad, Partenit, Kinsanos and Elissos) are included in the Act and even one more territory is added, that of Chrichari. In sum, the most probable scenario seems to be the inclusion of Massandra in the oversight of the archiereus of Gotthia: initially - directly, and subsequently - as part of the patriarchal exarchy.



(cc) © 2015 Andrey Vinogradov (edition), Irene Polinskaya (translation)
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