Greek was essential for the representatives of the Church of Antioch during their journey, especially in Constantinople and in the Romanian Principalities. Patriarch Makarios III and his son, the Archdeacon Paul, used Greek both in Church services and in their daily interactions with Greeks and Romanians. During his sojourn of almost two months in Constantinople, Paul of Aleppo was also interested in seeing and identifying the traces of Byzantine Empire that he was familiar with from his readings. He looked for the past glory of Byzantium even in the Romanian Principalities and in Russia. Knowledgeable in Byzantine history, Paul of Aleppo compares the information obtained from books with the realities on the ground. The result is an account that often surpasses those of the Western travelers in the East. The aim of the present paper is to trace the information about Byzantium and the Greeks in Paul of Aleppo’s travel account and to propose a new approach of this data for historians of the Byzantine heritage.
In 1969, an exhibition of Lebanese and Syrian icons, under the scientific direction of Virgil Cândea and curated by Sylvia Agémian, took place at the Sursock Museum in Beirut. This exhibition revealed the existence of local artistic compositions between the 17th and the 19th centuries. After consultation with Lebanese specialists, these icons were labeled “Melkites” by Cândea. Fifty years later, this contribution aims to record the historiography of the Melkite art by looking at the research that was dedicated to it before 1969 and the 18 exhibitions that revealed the Melkite art to the Arab and European publics, as well as by reviewing the publications and significant scientific studies that allowed us to enrich our knowledge of this outstanding art form.
The present contribution offers an overview of the collection of Arabic manuscripts preserved at the Institute of Manuscripts of the National Library of Ukraine in Kyiv named after V.I. Vernadsky. It was formed mostly in the 1920s–1930s in the context of the complex process of development of Oriental studies in Ukraine, mainly on the basis of the following sources: a) the private collection of Agathangel Krymsky that belonged to the Cabinet of Arabic and Iranian Philology at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; b) manuscripts donated by Pr Antonin Kapustin to the Kyiv Theological Academy; c) the collection of the Polish nobleman Józef Jabłonowski that became a part of the library of the former University of St Vladimir. This chapter surveys the history of the formation and study of the collection of Arabic manuscripts in the National Library of Ukraine in Kyiv, with a special focus on the section of Christian Arabic manuscripts. The latter includes five Orthodox liturgical books, a manuscript of the Beirut Church Chronicle, and a manuscript copy of the Concise Epistle on How to Repent and Confess printed in Aleppo by Athanasius Dabbās in 1711, the last book that came out of his press.
The Late Middle Ages were a period of decline for the Middle Eastern Christian peoples in general and their monastic movement in particular. Most of the Palestinian monks were of Balkan or Caucasian origin. They had few ties to the local Christian population and crucially depended on material and demographical support from their distant metropoles. The collapse of the Orthodox states of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions in the 15th century caused a gradual abandonment of the monasteries in the Judean Desert. The Sinai Monastery of St Catherine was in a deep crisis in the last decades of Mamluk rule because of the lack of security and order in the sultanate. Around 1505, the monastery was captured and sacked by nomads. In the Middle Ages, the Monastery of St Catherine had been multiethnic. In the Ottoman period, however, the monastic community became almost exclusively Greek. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the political structure of Greek Orthodox civilization changed drastically. The Ottoman conquest of Syria and Egypt in 1516–1517 promoted an influx of monks and alms from the Balkans and the Romanian Principalities which caused the revival of the Judean Desert monasteries. In the late 1520’s and early 1530’s, the famous Mar Saba convent, which had been abandoned in the late 15th century, was resettled by a group of Slavic and Greek monks, with financial support from the rulers of Wallachia. The first head of Mar Saba was the former abbot of the Sinai Monastery Joachim Vlachos (the Wallachian). The brethren of Mar Saba—which had been multiethnic, albeit with a predominance of Serbs—received permanent support from the rulers of Moldavia and Wallachia, who belonged to the same Slavonic culture as the majority of the Sabaite community. Accumulating all these alms, the community of Mar Saba managed to survive in the barren desert among the aggressive nomads for another century.
“East” vs. “West,” “Orthodox” vs. “Catholic”: this article does not aim to define borders and identities. It approaches the issue of contacts and influence by examining the context and by scrutinizing the entanglement of actors at different levels during a precise and brief episode of the history of the Church of Antioch. At the onset of the 17th century, Rome played a central role in the production of scholarship on the Christian East. It did not only concentrate a big part of the sources and specialists of Eastern Christianity. It also published books in Eastern languages and trained many future leaders of the Eastern Churches, even future adversaries of Catholicism. It is in this context that Meletios Karma, the archbishop of Aleppo, came in contact with the head of the Roman Church, through Latin missionaries. His ideas on printing and clergy education perfectly matched the concerns and agenda of the Catholic Church in that moment. Yet, they also overlapped those of certain hierarchs in the Greek Orthodox Church. On the other hand, as opposed to the Patriarch of Antioch, supported by the anti-Latin ecumenical patriarch Cyril Lukaris, Karma belonged at the same time to the pro-Latin local network. By crossing information and establishing a precise chronology of the events, we can reveal the location of a single actor in different networks and his logic of action on a local and more global level. At the beginning of the 17th century, “Orthodoxy” did not have the same meaning as a century later, when the Orthodox consciousness became deeper in the Church of Antioch.
Hagiography, an essential part of ecclesiastical literature, evolved in Arabic among Melkites since the 8th century. Several original pieces from the 9th to the 11th centuries demonstrate its progressive development regarding literary genres and style. In the 17th century, after the “Era of Synaxaria,” this community experienced the so-called Melkite Renaissance. The major figure in this movement was Makarios III ibn al-Zaʿīm, the patriarch of Antioch (1647–1672). This chapter aims to reveal different aspects of his hagiographical activity that could be considered a revival and the development of the earlier tradition. The examination of Makarios’s preface to The Estival Book provides a new identification of the compiler of the Synaxarion of Constantinople. His work is characterized by “hagiographical patriotism,” already witnessed in the early Melkite literature; but in Makarios’s case it is sometimes based on dubious, if not false, identifications or a shifting of emphasis. Makarios also tried his hand at composing his own hagiographical text, to honor a person not venerated as a saint: his teacher, Metropolitan Meletios Karma. In this composition he attempted to use canonical hagiographical models and was presumably relying partly on the most elaborate text from the formative period of the Arabic Melkite hagiography, the Life of Christopher, Patriarch of Antioch.
In the Soviet epoch, researchers connected with traditional religions and their heritage were prohibited or limited in their activities. Therefore, Ignaty Kratchkovsky, the greatest Russian Arabist of the 20th century, had to abandon the Arab Christian Studies, which before the Revolution constituted his main field of scholarly work. However, some aspects of them, for instance, the study of manuscripts copied by the Christian Arabs, were not completely deserted. At least one of his disciples, Alexandra Mikhaylova, who was born in a simple peasant family, contributed to this sphere of research. She specialized in the composition of catalogues of Arabic manuscripts and, while working on a volume dedicated to cultural history, she commented on an illuminated copy of the post-Byzantine Greek Chronograph of Matthew Cigalas, translated into Arabic by Paul of Aleppo (Ms C 358 of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St Petersburg). She also described the Arabic manuscripts of the so-called “New Series” preserved at the State Public Library in St Petersburg (currently, the National Library of Russia), almost a half of which are Christian Arabic, and she wrote on that matter a detailed article that retains its importance till now. She also has the merit to have revealed the significance of the early printed books produced in the Orthodox press of Aleppo. Unfortunately, she did not have a chance to defend a thesis and retired in 1979. The present chapter presents her scholarly life and works, attempting to restore the value of her activity as an Arabist and a specialist of Christian Arabic manuscripts.
According to Ms Sbath 642 of the Vatican Library, Athanasios III Dabbās (1647–1724), who held the position of Metropolitan of the Greek-Orthodox church in Aleppo and was two times the Patriarch of Antioch, translated an anonymous Greek rhetorical text into Arabic in 1718. This paper has three main aims: first, to highlight some aspects of Athanasios Dabbās’s life and works; second, to examine the remarkable literary and linguistic features in his text, by relying on an extensive study of primary sources; third, to reveal the Arabic rendering of poetical verses. Thus, the author of this chapter makes a comparative study with their Greek original version and provides, in conclusion, an assessment of the text concerning its composition and completion. This research is part of the author’s ongoing PhD devoted to the Kitāb fī ṣināʿat al-faṣāḥa, where he is undertaking a critical edition of the Arabic text, a French translation, and a commentary.
Almost two hundred years ago, the first research institution specialized in the field of Oriental Studies, i.e., the Asiatic Museum (Musée Asiatique) of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, now known as the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, was founded. The core of the Middle Eastern part of its funds was acquired by the Russian government in two lots, in 1819 and 1825, from Jean-Baptiste Louis Jacques Rousseau, who was born in the famous family of French diplomats and jewelers. It was his father, Jean-François Xavier, who had started collecting Oriental manuscripts in Ispahan, around 1757. The first lot of their family collection included not only 484 manuscripts, but also 16 early printed books. Eleven of them were identified for the first time in the Library of the Institute and they are described herewith by the author of this chapter. Among them, five were published in Aleppo in the printing press of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (the Psalter, in two damaged copies, the Four Gospels, and the Evangeliary, in 1706, and 34 Homilies of St John Chrysostom, in 1707), three in Rome (the Four Gospels, in 1591, Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine, in 1593, in the Typographia Medicea, and the Arabic-Latin Psalter, in the Typographia Savariana), and two more in Constantinople, produced by the pioneer of Islamic printing Ibrāhīm Müteferrika (the cosmographic work Ğihān-nümā and the Persan-Ottoman dictionary in two volumes Ferheng-i Shuʿūrī). As a result, this collection of early printed books gives a detailed image of the development of the art of book-printing in Arabic types in the East as well as Europe.
The 1969 exhibition of Melkite icons organized at the Sursock Museum in Beirut under the coordination of a Romanian scholar, Virgil Cândea, was an event that led to the initiation of a new field of research in the history of post-Byzantine art. Fifty years after, in 2019, events were organized to celebrate half a century of studies on this special church art form. This chapter gives a report on the circumstances that helped this event take place, the scholarly cooperation of many experts, hierarchs, and clerics from several Eastern and Western countries, and the significance of producing an exhibition catalogue that subsequently became an obligatory source for any comment on the Melkite icons. Complementary to Charbel Nassif’s rich historiography in the previous chapter, this closing contribution is a homage to all those who granted time and expertise to the 1969 Beirut exhibition of Arab Christian icons.