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Stephanos archbishop of Katepano of Vaasprakania (eleventh century)

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.1106
Diameter 29 mm
Condition Half missing.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 4, no. 77.1.

V. Laurent, "Mélanges de géographie ecclesiastique," EO 32 (1933) 315 (= Corpus V/1, no. 870).


St. Stephen standing, holding a censer in his right hand. Inscription visible in column at left: τε|φα|νο|ς : [Ὁ ἅ(γιος) Σ]τέφανος [ὁ Πρωτομάρτυς]. No visible border.


Inscription of eight lines. No visible border.


[Κ(ύρι)ε β(οή)θει τῷ σῷ] δούλ(ῳ) [Στεφά]νῳ ἀ[μαρτω]λο ἀρχ(ι)[επισ]κόπο τ(οῦ) [Κατε]πάν(ω) Βα[σπρ]ακανίας


Κύριε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Στεφάνῳ ἀμαρτωλο ἀρχιεπισκόπο τοῦ Κατεπάνω Βασπρακανίας.

Lord, help your servant, the sinner Stephanos, archbishop of Katepano of Vaasprakania.


This seal poses considerable difficulties in interpretation (Laurent, Corpus V/1, 676-77; Honigmann, Ostgrenze, 210). Things get even more complicated, as the last sign of line 5 of the reverse seems to be something between a τ and a S, showing some uncertainty on the part of the engraver. Now, despite the loss of half the seal, the restored reading κατεπάνω is secure when allowance for letters and space is made. This creates the problem of the unprecedented — and incompatible — combination of an ecclesiastical and a military office. But this difficulty disappears if one takes into consideration that Katepano was also the name of a town, which was the seat of this official (cf. M. Thierry, “Notes de géographie historique sur le Vaspurakan,” REB 34 [1976] 167-68). In this case one has to understand that Stephanos mentioned his seat and the name of the province in which it was situated much in the same way that Arethas signed his seal as Καισαρείας Καππαδοκίας (Laurent, Corpus V/1, no. 247).

The region of Vaasprakania, comprising the lands to the south and east of Lake Van, came into Byzantine control in 1021/22. It was established as a katepanate (based at Van) which lasted until the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert. See V. A. Arutjunova-Fidanjan, “Fema Vaspurakan (territorial’nyj sostav),” Vestnik obscestvennyh nauk AN Armjanskoj SSR 9 (1974) 92-99; W. Seibt, “Die Eingliederung von Vaspurakan in das Byzantinische Reich (etwa Anfang 1019 bzw. Anfang 1022),” Handes Amsorya 92 (1978) 49-66; Yuzbashian, “Administration byzantine,” 148-154; Kühn, Armee, 192-95; ODB 3, 2154; V. Sandrovskaja, “K istorii femy Vaspurakan,” VizVrem 55 (1994) 152-161; cf. SBS 6 (1999) 87.