The feast of the Encaenia in the fourth century and in the ancient liturgical sources of Jerusalem


The central concept in this book is the Encaenia, particularly the Jerusalem Encaenia of the Martyrium Basilica and the anniversary feast of the same name, but also other, lesser known, inaugurations of churches which occurred in the fourth century. The book commences with a review of the recent scholarship on early Christian buildings, the Holy Land, and the Jerusalem Encaenia feast. Chapter two discusses the appearance of "egkainia" in the Septuagint and early Christian literature before considering the first documented occasion of an encaenia feast, the inauguration of the basilica in Tyre. Chapter three is a detailed study of Constantine's 'New Jerusalem' from the finding of the Cross to the inauguration of the Martyrium basilica in 335. A distinction is drawn between the work of Constantine and the interpretation of Eusebius. The subsequent chapter draws attention to the growth and uniform pattern of imperial involvement in the inauguration of churches under Constantius, paying particular attention to the alleged Encaenia of an Alexandrian basilica by Athanasius without imperial consent.

The study of the Jerusalem Encaenia, the anniversary of the Martyrium inauguration, commences in chapter five with an analysis of the feast in the Journal of Egeria and the brief account recorded by Sozomen. Both writers portray the Encaenia as a pilgrim feast. Chapter six examines the liturgical content of the feast reconstructed from the earliest Jerusalem lectionaries and calendar. The theology of the feast is discerned from the biblical texts prescribed for the liturgy. Many of the observations made in previous chapters are drawn together in chapter eight which proposes the Encaenia as a Christian interpretation of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. The conclusion to the book discusses the prominence of the Jerusalem Encaenia in the liturgical calendar, and locates the rite and feast of the Encaenia within the wider context of the dedication of churches in the east and western liturgy. Further avenues of research are outlined regarding the rites and surviving homilies for the dedication of a church.


The complete work is now available as a single PDF file.

If you find this publication useful or if you have any other comments, please contact the author, Michael Fraser, mafraser @

PS. If you are seeking information on the Oxford encaenia then please see the Oxford University information page.

Last updated: 2014-10-25