1st Edition

The Making of Syriac Jerusalem Representations of the Holy City in Syriac Literature of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

By Catalin-Stefan Popa Copyright 2023

    This book discusses hagiographic, historiographical, hymnological, and theological sources that contributed to the formation of the sacred picture of the physical as well as metaphysical Jerusalem in the literature of two Eastern Christian denominations, East and West Syrians.

    Popa analyses the question of Syrian beliefs about the Holy City, their interaction with holy places, and how they travelled in the Holy Land. He also explores how they imagined and reflected the theology of this itinerary through literature in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, set alongside a well-defined local tradition that was at times at odds with Jerusalem. Even though the image of Jerusalem as a land of sacred spaces is unanimously accepted in the history of Christianity, there were also various competing positions and attitudes. This often promoted the attempt at mitigating and replacing Jerusalem’s sacred centrality to the Christian experience with local sacred heritage, which is also explored in this study. Popa argues that despite this rhetoric of artificial boundaries, the general picture epitomises a fluid and animated intersection of Syriac Christians with the Holy City especially in the medieval era and the subsequent period, through a standardised process of pilgrimage, well-integrated in the custom of advanced Christian life and monastic canon.

    The Making of Syriac Jerusalem is suitable for students and scholars working on the history, literature, and theology of Syriac Christianity in the late antique and medieval periods.

    Part I: The Beginnings of Syriac Christian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land; 1 Early Syriac Pilgrims to Palestine; 2 The Four Legendary Pilgrimages to Jerusalem of the West; 3 Rabbula of Edessa and Benjamin of Nehardea: Jerusalem as a Stage in the Formation of the Monk; 4 The Ideal of aksenoyutho: John of Ephesus Portraying Syriac Women as Pilgrims to Jerusalem; 5 Against the Pilgrimage to Jerusalem: Philoxenos of Mabug, Īšōʿyahb I, Rabban Hormizd, and the Promotion of Local Tradition; 6 The Motif of Travelling to Jerusalem in the Monastic Histories of Thomas of Marga and Īšōʿdenāh ̣ of Basra; 7 A Survey into Syriac Liturgical Theology and its Genealogical Interrelation with Jerusalem; 8 The Symbol of the Holy Wood of Jerusalem in the Consciousness of Syriac Christians; Part II: Syriac Christians and the Tradition of the Holy Places of Palestine following the Islamic Conquest of Jerusalem (638-639); 1 Syriac Sources and the Muslim Conquest of Jerusalem: Myths and Compilations in Syriac Sources; 2 Īšōʿyahb III and the Syriac Christians of the Holy City; 3 Timotheus I and the East Syriac Bishopric of the Holy Land; 4 West Syriac Bishops of Jerusalem; 5 A Brief Attempt at a Patristic Perspective: Jerusalem as Viewed through Political and Interreligious Identitary Clichés; Part III: The Portrayal of Jerusalem in Syriac Chronicles and Poems on the Second Islamic Conquest and Subsequent Period, and the Presence of Syriac Pilgrims in Palestine in the Late Medieval Period; 1 Ṣalāḥ ad-Din’s Conquest of Jerusalem in Syriac Literature; 2 Syriac Communities in the Holy Land and the Holy City of the Middle Ages; 3 Syriac Pilgrimages to the Holy City after the Second Muslim Conquest


    Catalin-Stefan Popa is Research Professor in Church History at the Romanian Academy in Bucharest. He holds his Ph.D. from Georg August University of Göttingen, Germany (2016). In 2021 he received the venia legendi (habilitation) at Karl Franzens University of Graz, Austria. He published articles, and edited volumes on Syriac and Oriental ecclesiastical history, exegesis, and literature, including the monograph Gīwargīs I. (660–680). Ostsyrische Christologie in frühislamischer Zeit (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016). He is the editor-in-chief and founder of The Syriac Annals of Romanian Academy (SARA).