The Rediscovery of the Church of the East in the Arabian Gulf

Site of Christian monastery, Kharg Island, Arabian Gulf.

Date: Apr 12, 2022 Time: 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Location: Zoom REGISTER

Robert Carter, Qatar Museums, discusses the rediscovery of the Church of the East in the Gulf during the mid-20th century.

Robert Carter | Qatar Museums

This lecture will explore the sites, material culture, history, and ongoing legacy of the early Christian communities of the Arabian Gulf, which thrived in the region both before and after the coming of Islam. The records of the Church of the East (known to some as the Nestorian Church) reveal a lively, and sometimes rebellious, population of bishops, monks, pearl fishers and merchants in eastern Arabia and the Persian islands between the 5th and 7th centuries AD. Judging from the number of Syriac authors originating from Beth Qatraye, the central region of the Gulf, a major centre of monastic learning existed there towards the end of this period. The historical record ends abruptly in the late 7th century AD, about 50 years after Islam was brought to eastern Arabia, at which time the head of the Church in Iraq was still actively managing the numerous dioceses of the region. Remarkably, however, the archaeological evidence belies the historical data, showing a continuing florescence of Christianity throughout the 8th and into the early 9th century AD. Large decorated churches and extensive monasteries were newly built, their communities connected by shared cultures of faith, trade and intellectual exchange. After this time these establishments fell into ruin, and although the Church of the East survives elsewhere to this day, their existence in the Gulf was entirely forgotten until archaeological excavations began in the mid-20th century. It was not until recent years that we have started to understand how Christianity continued to thrive in the region during the first two centuries of Islam.

This lecture will take place live on Zoom, followed by a question and answer period. Please register to receive the Zoom link.

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An East of Byzantium lecture. EAST OF BYZANTIUM is a partnership between the Arthur H. Dadian and Ara Oztemel Chair of Armenian Art at Tufts University and the Mary Jaharis Center that explores the cultures of the eastern frontier of the Byzantine empire in the late antique and medieval periods.

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