Bar Sauma 1


















Sometime Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, British  Museum

Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences Lisbon; and

Corresponding Member of the Philosophical Society of America

With 16 plates and 6 illustrations in the text




First published in 1928

[All rights reserved]

Made in Great Britain

Printed by Harrison & Sons, Ltd., St. Martin's Lane, London, W.C. 2
















(1)' By the Power of our Lord Jesus Christ I begin to write the  History of the Father of Fathers, and Governor (Mara) and Head of Pastors, MAR YAHBH ALLAHA Catholicus and Patriarch of the East, and of RABBAN SAWMA, the Visitor-General of the Eastern (i.e. Nestorian) Turks. O our Lord, help me, and in Thy mercy bring me to the end [of the work]. Amen.

' The figures in heavy type within brackets on this and  following pages refer to the numbers of the pages in Bedjan's edition (the second) of the Syrian text, and are added to facilitate reference to this text.



God, the Lord of the Universe, the Merciful and Gracious, in the superabundance of His grace hath brought all this (i.e. the visible universe) into being. And that the race of mankind might be perfected in the  knowledge of the truth, and in good works (2), for the leading of the doers of good, and directing in the right way those who could step upwards, He sent His  only-begotten Son down [to earth], and He put on human flesh and hid His glory,  and from behind His human covering He made to shine forth the rays of His light. He hath annulled the laws which were brutal, defective, and coarse, and hath  spread abroad [in their place] commandments that are spiritual, perfect, and  refined. He hath done away the sacrifices of animals by offering as a sacrifice His Body and His Blood, and He hath made the whole world rich by the wisdom of  His knowledge. He hath spread out the net of His life-giving Gospel, by means of His holy disciples in every country and quarter of the and He hath cast the good seed of His


1.Professor J. A. Montgomery omits the Syrian translator's Prayer and Preface.


preaching in all the earth. And the  four quarters of the universe were illumined by their disciples after them, and  they were also lighted up by the Orthodox Faith, and by the glory of the Royal  Trinity, and were made to be glorious by good (or beautiful) actions and works that were perfect.

For the Word can neither be rejected nor made to be of no effect, for the  Framer of the Law hath established it and sealed it, saying, " Behold, I Myself  am with you all the days, to the end of the world," (Matt. xxviii. 20). Now to the beginning (var., promise), cleaveth the reward. Little by little, work (i.e.  realization) followeth the word until at length it maketh those who were without  the Law sons of God. For the Indians (Henduwaye), and the Chinese (Sinaye), and other Oriental nations from various countries, became restrained and submitted  to the bridle of the fear of God, and their emotions and their understandings  were anointed by the Spirit. For a good disposition availeth nothing if the mind  and the actions do not agree with the virtues, and the gift [of the Spirit] is  not withheld when good actions and healthy intentions are coupled with a  blame-worthy disposition. In what cloth it profit the Jews, who are of the seed of Abraham, seeing that they have become aliens to the household of God? And in what way do the Gentiles suffer [through not being of the seed of Abraham]  seeing that they have received [the Spirit] and have become


members of the household of God? To-day the Turks (Turkaye)  have bowed their necks under the yoke of the lordship of God, and they believe  and hold firmly the word of the Lord with their whole heart. Every man who will  not forsake father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and  sisters, and take up his Cross and come after Me (3) is not worthy to be  my disciple (Luke xiv. 26, 27).

Now the hearing of this perfect commandment straightway made the men to marvel, the two warriors about whom the narrative is ready to speak, and they cast away their longings, rejected parents and children, and in short, renounced all the dominion (i.e. influence) of their bringing up. And, like  swift eagles, they renewed the youth of their minds in works of toil and  laborious lives until they attained their true Hope, and from those labours which they had planted, they received for their perfect sustenance the delicious  fruits for which they longed.

Now therefore we will speak about the race of each of them separately, and about [their] country, and the different way in which each was brought up, and how they dwelt together, and the mode of life of each. And in  the midst of their history we will write down some account of the things which  happened in their time,. to themselves, and by means of them, and on account of  them, and we will describe thing by thing as it took place.






There was a certain man who was a believer, and he was a nobleman and a  fearer of God. He was rich in the things of this world, and he was well endowed with the qualities of nature; he belonged to a famous family and a well-known tribe. His name was SHIBAN the Sa'ora (i.e. the Inspector or Visitor--Periodeutes). He dwelt in the city which is called KHAN BALIGH or KHAN  BALIK (i.e. Pekin), that is to say (4) the royal city in the  country of the East. He married according to the law a woman whose name was KEYAMTA. And when they had lived together for a long time, and they had no heir, they prayed to God continually and besought Him with frequent supplications not  to deprive them of a son who would continue [their] race. And He who giveth  comfort in His gracious mercy received their petition, and He showed them compassion. For it is His wont to receive the entreaty of those who are broken of heart, and-to hearken unto the groaning of those who make supplications and petitions [to Him]. " Everyone who asketh


receiveth; and he who seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it is opened to him " (Matt. vii. 8), He said, confidently concerning the certain hope. And  behold, this is performed for both orders (i.e. sexes), namely, men and women, when petitions are presented with a right intention. For behold, Hanna, the wife of Halkana was not prohibited, seeing that she made entreaty with a right object (I Sam. i. 10 ff.), and the wife of Menokh (Manoah) was not rejected, and she received the angel readily in her chamber (Judges xiii. 2 f.).

Now God made the spirit of conception to breathe upon the woman Keyamta, and she brought forth a (5) son, and they called his name " SAWMA" [i.e. the son who was obtained by fasting; his full name was " BAR SAWMA," i.e.; the " son of the fast."]. And they rejoiced [with] a great joy, neighbours of his family and his relations rejoiced at his birth.

And when they had brought him (after a praiseworthy system of education) to  the period when he was capable of receiving instruction, they handed him over to a worthy teacher, and before him (i.e. under his direction) they trained him diligently in ecclesiastical learning; and they betrothed him to a maiden  and rejoiced in him. He was held to be worthy to receive the grade of priest,  and he was numbered among the ranks (?) of the clergy, and he became Keeper in


the church of above-mentioned city. He led a life of strict chastity and humility, and he devoted himself with great diligence to the acquisition of  spiritual excellences, and he struggled to make himself fit for the things of  the world which is to come. And when he was twenty years of age the divine fire  was kindled in his heart, and it burned up the brambles (or thorny growth) of sin, and cleansed his chaste soul from impurity and contamination of every kind. For he preferred more than any other thing whatsoever the love of his Lord, and, grasping the plough, he was unwilling to look behind him (Luke ix. 62). He cast away forthwith the shadow of the world, and renounced straightway the desirable things thereof. (6) He esteemed dainty meats as things which had no existence, and he rejected wholly the drinks which make a man drunk.

Now when his parents perceived this, great pain overtook them, and acute sorrow cleaved to them, because their only son was separating himself from them.  They rose up and with broken hearts made supplication to him, and brought before  him promises of things of this world, saying, "Why, O our precious son, is separation from us beloved by thee? How is it that our affliction is desired by  thee? Why is our mourning sweet in thy sight? Consider now. To whom will our wealth revert? Think, who is our heir? Ponder well who will be the master of the  [produce of] our toil?


How can it possibly be pleasing to thee for our seed and name to be blotted  out? Why doth the thought of thy heart suggest that strangers should be our heirs?" And having persuaded him with tears in this manner, and having stirred up grief in him by their lamentation and talk similar [to that given above], he hearkened to them outwardly, and dwelt with them as far as his body was concerned, but very unwillingly. And during the three years in which he  ministered to his parents according to the body, he never (7) ceased from  his toil, and he contended continually in his laborious career.

And when [his parents] saw that their exhortations were of no avail, and that, in comparison with the love of Christ, their words were accounted as  nothing, they left him to perform his desire. Then he divided all his  possessions, that is to say, his apparel and his clothing generally (or furniture), among the poor, and took the garb of the monk; and he received the  tonsure from the holy and pious father, Mar Giwargis (George) the Metropolitan.  And he began to toil in the vineyard of his Lord with the hope of the kingdom  which is to come, and the confidence the possession of heavenly happiness, and  that he would receive the whole dinar as his wages. (Matt. xx. 1-16). He  set apart a cell for himself and he shut himself up therein seven years; and after that [period] he decided to remove


himself from the children of men, and to practice himself in the ascetic life  in the mountain, in a place which was wholly isolated, so that he might rest  there [undisturbed] in his life as a recluse. Then he set out and went a journey of one day from their [i.e. his parents'] city, and he elected to dwell there. And he found (8) a certain place where there was a cave, and there  was by the side of it in that mountain a spring of water. And he dwelt there peacefully and thanked his Lord, which held him to be so worthy that at length  the report of him went forth in that region, and men used to gather together  about him to hear his words, and honour was set apart for him (i.e. ascribed to him) by every man.





In the foreknowledge of God everything is known. And the thoughts of the children of men, whether they belong to the right hand (i.e. be good), or whether they belong to the left hand (i.e. be bad), all of them, even before they are formed in the breast, are revealed unto Him. He therefore, in accordance with their character, elects and makes righteous [if they be good], and because of them [if they be bad] He chastiseth and punisheth. Now unto Moses it was said, "Behold, I have given thee [as] God to Pharaoh." (Exod. vii. I).  And his election maketh known concerning the good disposition [of Moses] (9) and the hardness of the heart of Pharaoh. For even before Pharaoh  existed, it was known [to God] that he would be hard: [of heart], and he was  rejected. For unto Jeremiah God said, " Before I had formed thee in the belly I  knew thee, 'and before thou didst go forth from the womb I sanctified thee and  gave thee to be a prophet to the nations" (Jer. i. 5). And Paul said, "God hath  not cast aside His people who from the very beginning were known to Him" (Rom. xi. I, 2),


because assuredly, of [their] good will and pure thoughts. Now, certain  characteristics of election make themselves visible in the person of him that is elected, and certain radiances shine forth from him which makes known that he is worthy of grace. The man who hath an enlightened mind perceiveth these, but the  man who hath not an understanding mind knoweth them not. Since the person about  whom we are going to speak was elected because of his superior discipline (or, exalted life), it is necessary for us to describe the manner of his election,  and show how of a certainty it contributed to the perfect will.

There was, in the city of KAWSHANG, of the country of the East, a certain  righteous and believing man (10), pure and spotless, who served God continually in His church, and observed His laws strictly and carefully. [The  city of Kawshang, i.e. Kung-Tschang lay between Pekin and Tangut, and was about  fifteen days' journey from the former city. Chabot would identify it with  Ho-tchung-fu in the province of Shan-si.] His name was BAYNIEL; he was an  archdeacon and he had four sons. The youngest of them [who was born in the year  of our Lord 1245] was called MARKOS (Mark), and he was trained in ecclesiastical learning more than all his brethren……….

[The text is defective here, or some words have been omitted.]


and they admonished (or exhorted) him concerning these and much like matters,  and it seemed to them that they might be talking rather to a statue than to a  rational man. But even after suffering affliction in many ways he did not turn back from his course, and his mind did not resist from its quest. On the contrary he made straight his aim, and after fifteen days of great labour he  arrived at the place where RABBAN SAWMA was. And he gave the salutation of peace  to RABBAN SAWMA, who rejoiced in him and received him gladly.

And after MARK had rested and was refreshed RABBAN SAWMA asked him, saying,  "My son, whence comest thou? And how did it happen to thee that thou hast come  to this mountain? (11) In what city do thy kinsfolk dwell? Who is thy father, and whose son art thou? "

And MARK answered him, saying, " I am the son of Bayniel the archdeacon of the city of Kawshang, and I am called ' Mark.' "

And RABBAN SAWMA said unto him, "What is thy reason for coming to me with  such labour and fatigue?" And MARK said unto him, "I wish to become a monk (or  anchorite). Because I heard the report of thee I dropped everything and have  sought thee; deprive me not of my desire." And RABBAN SAWMA said unto him, "O our brother, this path is difficult. Even the old [and experienced] monks endure the hardness


thereof with the greatest difficulty; shall I permit youths and children to  Journey on it?" And having besought him for many reasons to return to his  parents, and MARK having refused to do so, RABBAN SAWMA admitted him [to his  cell] and taught him; and he clothed him in a woollen garment, and made him to labour in the ascetic life. After three years MARK received the tonsure, that is to say the garb of the monk, from the pious Metropolitan MAR NESTORIS (Nestorius) on the first day of the week, or the Sunday [when the prayer  beginning] "Rukha Paraklita" is said. And he continued to perform many ascetic labours and kept the fasts which lasted all day until the evening. And [the monks] in that mountain used to toil in (12) the cultivation of purity  and holiness, and they were comforted by God unto Whom they had committed their  souls.






One day they meditated, saying, "It would be exceedingly helpful to us if we were to leave this region and set out for the West, for we could then [visit] the tombs of the holy martyrs and Catholic Fathers and be blessed [by them]. And  if Christ, the Lord of the Universe, prolonged our lives, and sustained us by His grace, we could go to Jerusalem, so that we might receive complete pardon  for our offences, and absolution for our sins of foolishness. Now although RABBAN SAWMA opposed RABBAN MARK, and [tried to] frighten him with the toil of  the journey, and the fatigue of travelling, and the terror of the ways, and the tribulations that would beset him in a (13) foreign country, RABBAN MARK burned to set out on the road. His mind seemed to reveal to him that there were treasures laid up for him in the West, and he pressed RABBAN SAWMA with his  words, and importuned him to depart. And the two of them having agreed together  that neither of them should be separated from his companion, even if one of them  might have to


submit to what was evil for his sake, they rose up and distributed their furniture, and the objects which they used in everyday life,  among the poor, and they went to that city (i.e. Pekin) so that they might take  companions for the journey [i.e. join a caravan] and provide themselves with  food for the way.

Now when the Christians who were living there became acquainted  with them, and knew their intention, they gathered together about them so that  they might make them abandon their plan. And they said [unto them}, "Peradventure ye do not know how very far off that region is to which ye would go? Or, perhaps ye have not the least idea in your minds, or have forgotten, how  difficult it will be for you to travel over the roads, and that ye will never reach there? Nay, sit ye down here, and strive to perform the works whereunto ye have been called. For it is said, 'The kingdom of heaven is within you'" (Luke xvii. 21). And RABBAN SAWMA and RABBAN MARK replied, "It is a long time since we (14) put on the garb of the monastic life, and we have renounced the world; we consider ourselves to be dead men in respect of it. Toil doth not  terrify us, neither doth fear disturb us. There is, however, one thing which we  ask of you: for the love of Christ pray for us. And ye shall cast away the word which would produce doubt (or hesitation), and shall make supplication to God that our desire may be


fulfilled." [And the Christians of that city] said, "Depart in peace." And they kissed each other, and parted with bitter tears and distressful words, saying, "Depart in peace. And may our Lord, Whom ye seek, be with you,  and may He allot to you that which is pleasing to Him, and will be of help to  you! Amen."

And RABBAN SAWMA and RABBAN MARK came to the city of KAWSHANG. And when the people of the city and the parents of RABBAN MARK heard that these  two monks had come there, they went out to meet them with joy, and they welcomed them with gladness and delight, and they escorted them into the church with  great honour. And they enquired of them how they had come to make the journey thither. Now they thought that the two monks were going to tarry with them, and that RABBAN MARK had done so in order that he might be near the people of his family (I5). And when they knew of a certainty that they were going to  Jerusalem, and that they had made their plan to travel to the West, they suffered greatly and were sorely afflicted.

And the report of the arrival of the two monks reached the lords of that city, KONBOGHA (i.e. Sun-worshipper) and IFOGHA (or IBOGHA)  (i.e. Moon-worshipper), the sons-in-law of the King of Kings, KUBLAI KHAN  (Plate XII), and as soon as they heard the report they sent messengers  and had


the two monks brought to the Camp. And they received them with gladness, and the fire of love for them burned in their breasts. And when the  Lords knew that they were "going to flee from us," they began to say unto them,  "Why are ye leaving this country of ours and going to the West? For we have  taken very great trouble to draw hither monks and fathers from the West. How can  we allow you to go away?" RABBAN SAWMA said unto them, "We (16) have cast  away the world. And as long as we live in the society of men there will be no peace to us. Therefore it is right that we should flee because of the love of Christ, Who gave Himself unto death for our redemption. Whatsoever is in the  world we have cast behind us. Although your love moveth us not to depart, and your gracious goodness would hold us fast, and your alms are bestowed upon us  lavishly; and although it is grateful to us to sojourn with you, we remember the Lord's word which saith, 'What shall it profit a man if he possess the whole world and lose his soul? And what shall a man give as a substitute for his  soul?' (Matt. xvi. 26). We earnestly desire the separation, but wherever we shall be we shall always remember, according to our feebleness, both by night and by day, your kingdom in [our] prayers."

And when the Lords of the city saw that their words had no effect upon them, and that they would


Portrait of Kublai Khan, the son of Hulagu Khan, Emperor of all  China

(died 1294). (See p. 135.)



not yield to their persuasion, they selected for them gifts, namely, beasts on which to ride, and gold, and silver, and wearing apparel [and  rugs]. Then the two monks said, "We have no need of any [of these things]. For what can we do with these possessions? (17) And how can we possibly carry  such a weight [as] this?" And the kings mentioned above replied, "Ye have no knowledge of the length of this journey, and the expenses which it demands. We,  however, do know, and we advise you not to set out empty [handed]; if ye do ye  will be unable to arrive at the place which ye have decided to be your destination. Accept then these gifts from us as a loan (or trust), and if some occasion of necessity should befall you, spend what ye need from them; if, on the other hand, the necessity does not arise, and ye arrive safe and sound, distribute them among the monasteries and habitations of the monks which are  there, and the Fathers (i.e. Bishops), so that we may enjoy association  with our Western Fathers. For it is said, 'Let your superfluity be [a supply]  for those who are in want' " (2 Cor. viii. 13). Then the two monks, seeing that the kings were giving with a sincere heart, accepted what they gave to them. And  they bade farewell to them sorrowfully, and they shed tears wherewith joy was  mingled.

And they came from thence to the city of TANGOTH [i.e. TANGKUT, or TANGAT, or THANGCHU,


a country in Central Asia; its capital was HIATCHEU, or  NING-HIA-FU]. When the people of that city heard (18) that RABBAN SAWMA  and RABBAN MARK had come there in order to go to Jerusalem, they went forth  eagerly to meet them, that is to say, old men and women, young men and youths, and boys and young children, for the people of TANGOTH were ardent believers, and their minds were pure. And they loaded the two monks with gifts of every  kind, and they received their blessings, and a crowd escorted them on their way, and shed tears, saying, "The Lord Who hath elected you to the honour of His  service shall Himself be with you. Amen."

And from there they went to the country of LOTON [? KHOTAN, or HO-THIAN, or YUTHIAN, a city between TANGOTH and KASHGAR], a toilsome and  fatiguing journey of two months; the region was a bare and barren desert and it  was without inhabitants, because its waters were bitter, and no crops are sown there. And on the whole journey there were only eight days when, with the  greatest difficulty, was sweet water found which the travellers could carry with them.(1) And in the days when they arrived at LOTON it happened that a war was  raging between the King of Kings (19) KUBLAI KHAN and King OKO ['O-'ho,  Commander-in-chief of the army of Mien?].

91) Or perhaps the meaning is, "was sweet water found wherewith to load (i.e.  to fill) the water-skins."


And OKO had fled from him and had entered [this] country, and  destroyed thousands of men therein. The caravan roads and ways had been cut, and grain (?) was scarce and could not be found; and many died of hunger and perished through want.

And after six months the two monks went forth from that place  and came to the country of KASHKAR [or KASHGAR, a city on the frontiers of CHINA and TURKESTAN]. And they saw that the city was empty of its inhabitants, because it had been already plundered by the enemy. And because the aim of the monks was  right, and they pleased God with all their hearts, He delivered them from every  affliction, and no suffering attacked them, and He saved them from obstructions  by highway robbers and thieves.

And they came to the place where King KAIDO [a nephew of KUBLAI  KHAN] was encamped by the Teleos (i.e. TALAS). And they went into his presence,  and prayed that his life would be preserved, and they blessed his kingdom, and they asked him for a written order so that no man in his country might do them  harm. And with the greatest difficulty (20) and in a state of exhaustion whereto fear was added, they arrived at KHORASAN, [a province of north-eastern  Persia, which lay between Persian 'Irak and Afghanistan]. Having lost the  greater part of what they had on the road, they went to the monastery of Saint  MAR SEHYON,


which was in the neighbourhood of the city of TUS [the capital of KHORASAN], and they were blessed by the bishop who lived therein and by the monks. And they thought (i.e. felt) that they had been born into the world anew,  and they gave thanks unto God in Whom they had trusted; they had placed their  hope in Him, and had been delivered, for He is the sustainer and helper of every  one who maketh entreaty unto Him.

And having enjoyed the conversation of those brethren they set out to go to ADHORBIJAN [a frontier province of Persia, on the north-west], so  that they might travel from there to BAGHDAD, to MAR DENHA, the Catholicus [he succeeded MAKIKA A.GR. I577=A.D. 1266, according to Bar Hebraeus, Chron. Eccles., sect. ii, p. 439]. Now; it happened that Mar Catholicus had come to  MARAGHAH [a town of ADHORBIJAN the capital of HULAGU KHAN], and they met him there. And at the sight of him their joy grew great, and their gladness was increased, and their minds were made to be at peace, and their anxious thoughts were set at rest. And they fell down on the ground before him, and they wept as they did homage to him (21) and they behaved as if they saw our Lord JESUS CHRIST in the person of MAR DENHA, the Catholicus. May his memory be for  blessing! And they said unto him, "The mercies of God [shown to us] are many,  and His grace is poured out abundantly upon us since


we have seen the glorious and  spiritual face of our General Father." And when he asked them, "Whence [come] ye?" they replied, "From the countries of the East, from KHAN BALIK, the city of the King of Kings [KUBLAI] KHAN. We have come to be blessed by you, and by the  Fathers (i.e. Bishops), and the monks, and the holy men of this quarter of the  world. And if a road [openeth] to us, and God hath mercy upon us, we shall go to JERUSALEM.

And when the Catholicus saw their tears, and that they were  moved with gladness at their meeting with him, his mercy showed itself unto  them, and he comforted them and said unto them, Assuredly, O my sons, the Angel of Providence shall protect you on this difficult journey, and he shall be a guide unto you until the completion of your quest. Let not your toil make you sad, for it is said in the Prophet (22) 'Those who sow in tears, shall reap in joy' (Ps. cxxvi. 5). That for which ye hope ye shall attain, and in  return for the sufferings and tribulations which ye will have to bear, ye shall receive a perfect recompense and wages twofold in this world, and never-failing good things and never-ending delights in the world which is to come." And they  did homage to him, and gave thanks to him.

And having enjoyed intercourse with him for a few days they  brought forward [the following]


request: " If we have found mercy (i.e. favour) in the eyes of Mar our Father, let him permit us to go to BAGHDAD, in order that we may receive a blessing from the holy sepulchres (or relics?) of MAR MARI [the disciple of  Saint ADDAI, Bar Hebraeus, Chron. Eccles., sect. ii, p. 15], the Apostle, the teacher of the East, and those of the Fathers that are there. And from there  we would go to the monasteries that are in the countries of BETH GARMAI and in  NISIBIS that we may be blessed there also, and demand assistance."

And when the Catholicus saw the beauty of their object, and the  innocence of their minds, and the honesty of their thoughts, he said unto them, "Go ye, my sons, and may Christ, the Lord of the Universe, grant unto you your  petition (23) from His rich and overflowing treasury, and may He grant  you a full measure of His grace, and may His compassion accompany you whithersoever ye go. And he wrote for them a pethikha (i.e. a letter of introduction) to these countries so that they might be honourably  entreated whithersoever they went; and he sent with them a man to show them the way, and to act as guide along the roads.

And they arrived in Baghdad, and thence they went to the Great Church of KOKE [at Ctesiphon wherein every Catholicus was consecrated]. And they went to the monastery of MAR MARI, the Apostle, and received a blessing from the  sepulchres


(or relics?) of that country. And from there they turned back  and came to the country of BETH GARMAI, and they received blessings from the shrine (or tomb) of MAR EZEKIEL [the prophet, near Dakok], which was full of  helps and healings. And from there they went to ARBIL, and thence to MAWSIL  (i.e. Mosul on the Tigris). And they went SHIGAR (SINJAR), and NISIBIS, and MERDA (MARDIN); and were blessed by the shrine [containing] the bones of MAR  AWGIN, the second CHRIST. And thence they went to GAZARTA of BETH ZABHDAI, and  they were blessed by all the shrines and monasteries, and the religious houses,  and monks, and the Fathers (i.e. Bishops) in their dioceses. And they  paid the vows which they had laid upon themselves, and they spread (24)  tables of food [wherefrom all might eat], and they gave alms and oblations  wherever they went. And they turned back and came to the holy monastery of MAR MICHAEL of TAR'IL. And they bought a cell, and both of them were received by the  monks who were there. And the thought which made them toil through the journey had rest, although they had not arrived at the end of [their] expectation.

Now when MAR DENHA or DENKHA, the Catholicus, heard of their manner of life, he sent and asked them to go to him; and they went forthwith and gave him the customary salutation.

And he said unto them, " We have heard that ye


have been received into a monastery. This however, doth not  please us. For whilst the two of you sojourn in the monastery ye will be able to make perfect your own peace (or rest), and that is all that ye will do, but if ye abide with us ye will bring benefit and peace (or rest) to the whole community. Therefore stay ye with us, and support the Door of the Kingdom  [compare Sublime Porte] in whatever manner cometh to your hands." And they said unto him, "Whatsoever thou commandest (25), O our Father, we will do."  And the Catholicus said unto them, "Ye shall go to King ABGHA [or ABAGHA KHAN,  or ABAKA KHAN, the son and successor of HULAGU KHAN, and great grandson of Chingiz Khan, who ascended the throne of Persia as the second Mongol Khan in  1265], and obtain for us PUKDANE (i.e. written orders, or letters patent confirming his appointment as Catholicus)." And the two monks said unto him, "Thus shall it be, but let Mar our Father send with us a man who shall take the Pukdana [from the king] and give it to him (i.e. the Catholicus), and we will go on from there to JERUSALEM." And the Catholicus granted them this [request], and gave them blessings on their journey.

And when the two monks went to the Blessed Camp, the Amirs brought them in before the King, and he asked them about the object of their coming, and what their native country was;


and they made a reply to him which revealed unto him their object. And ABHGHA KHAN commanded the nobles of  his kingdom to fulfil their petition, and to give them the written orders (Pukdane)which they had asked for. And the two monks sent the written order which Mar Catholicus had demanded to him by the hands of his messenger,  and they and their companions set out for JERUSALEM.

And when they arrived at the city of Animto [i.e. ANI,  the ancient capital of Christian ARMENIA, situated on an affluent of the river  Araxes], and saw (26) the monasteries and the churches therein, they marvelled at the great extent of the buildings and at their magnificence. And thence they went towards BETH GURGAYE (i.e. the country of Georgia), so that they might travel by a clear (or safe?) road, but when they arrived there they heard from the inhabitants of the country that the road was cut because of the murders and robberies which had taken place along it.







And the two monks turned back and came to Mar Catholicus, who  rejoiced [at the sight of] them, and said unto them, "This is not the time for a  journey to JERUSALEM. The roads are a disturbed state, and the ways are cut. Now  behold, ye have received blessings from all the Houses of God, and the shrines (or relics?) which are in them (27), and it is my opinion that when a man  visits them with a pure heart, the service thus paid to them is in no way less  than that of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I am now going to counsel you with a  council which is appropriate, and it is meet that ye should hearken unto it. I  have decided to appoint MARK Metropolitan, and to bestow upon him the apostolic  gift. As for thee RABBAN SAWMA, I am going to make thee Visitor-General, and I  am going to send the two of you, each back to his own country." And those monks said unto him, "The word of Mar our Father is from the command of Christ, and he who does not carry it out committeth transgression of the command; nevertheless  we


will reveal our thought, and show forth what is hidden in our  heart.

" We have not come from that country (i.e. China) in order to turn  back and go again thither, and we do not intend to endure a repetition of the  hardship which we have already suffered. For the man who is tripped up twice by the [same] stone (28) is a fool. And moreover, we declare that we are  unworthy of this gift, and for defective creatures [like ourselves], a  responsibility of this kind is too difficult. What we are seeking after is this: to dwell in a monastery and to serve Christ until we die." Then Catholicus said  unto them, "This gift is suitable for you, and the responsibility befits your modesty." And when the two monks saw that their excuse was unavailing, they  said, "The will of our Father be done." And the Catholicus said, "Hitherto no  man hath called RABBAN MARK 'MAR MARK,' but I wish to call him by this name. And, moreover, I have thought out a plan [for doing so]. We will write down [on  slips of paper a number of] names, and lay them upon the altar. And whichever name shall go forth [from among them] with some clearly recognizable indication,  that we will call MARK."(1) And he did this, and


1 The terseness of this sentence renders it almost ununderstandable. The Patriarch having decided to make Mark Metropolitan Bishop, wished to give him a Syriac name, and to hear him called "Mar(i)" i.e. "My Lord," but he could not make up his mind as to the name Mark should in future be known by. Therefore, he resorted to "pious divinations." He wrote  certain names on slips, and laid them face downwards on the Altar and, presumably, prayed. Whether someone, either the Patriarch or a Priest, then drew out a slip as in a lottery, or whether the slip bearing the chosen name  separated itself from the other slips under some supernatural influence, cannot be said.


the name of YAHBH-ALLAHA came forth, and the Catholicus said, "This is from the blessed Lord, blessed be He!" And  they were each worthy [of honour]. And RABBAN MARK received the rank of Metropolitan of the See of KATI [i.e. Kathay, or Northern China], and ONG  [i.e. WANG, or HUANG], from MAR DENHA, the Catholicus, when he was  thirty-five years of age [in the year 1280] (29). And RABBAN SAWMA also  received a blessing from him, and was named "Visitor-General." And they both took letters of introduction; each man's letter being drawn up according to the  requirements of his service.

And after a few days a report came to the effect that the road by which they had travelled there was wholly cut off, and that it was impossible for any man to use it, for the hearts of the kings of the two frontiers were  changed [i.e. were hostile to each other and they were fighting], namely,  the king on the one side of the [river] GIHON (i.e. the Oxus), and the king of the other side. And therefore the luminaries (i.e. RABBAN


SAWMA and MARK the Metropolitan) returned  to the monastery of MAR MICHAEL of TAR'IL, and they sat down in their cell for two years, more or less.

And one night when MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA was sleeping he saw a  dream, and it seemed to him that he went into a great church, and that there  were in the church images of the saints, and that in the midst of them there was the CROSS (30). And he stretched out his right arm in order to receive a  blessing from it, and as he stretched forward his arm, the Cross receded from  him, and it ascended until it came to the top (roof?) of the temple, where he grasped it and kissed it, and then he went out of the church.

And he saw lofty trees that were laden with different kinds of hard fruits, and various soft fruits, and he began to pluck and to eat them, and  he gave [some of them] to the crowd of people who were gathered together, and fed them therewith. And when he woke up he showed the dream to RABBAN SAWMA, saying, "I have seen a dream and it troubleth me." And RABBAN SAWMA said unto him, "Relate thy dream to me." And when he had related it to him RABBAN SAWMA interpreted it, saying, "That thy arm extended itself after thou hadst stretched it out to be blessed by the CROSS and by the images of the saints, showeth that thou wilt attain to the great stature [i.e. the


highest rank] of the Fathers (or Bishops). And that thou didst eat of the fruit of the trees, and didst give of them to the people to eat, showeth that thou wilt thyself enjoy the heavenly gift which resteth upon thee, and that thou wilt also make many people enjoy  that same gift."

And again, on another night, MAR YAHBH ALLAHA saw another  (31) vision. It seemed him as if he were sitting upon a high throne and  that many people were gathered together round about him, and he was teaching [them] And as he was speaking his tongue became long and longer until the greater part of it went forth from his mouth; and then it became divided into  three portions, and there appeared on the tip of each portion something which  was like unto fire. And the people who were there marvelled and glorified God. And when he awoke he again related his dream to RABBAN SAWMA, who said unto him,  "This is no dream, for it is a revelation and it resembleth a revelation; and it  differeth in no way from [the revelation of] the Spirit which in the form of tongues of fire rested upon the Apostles (Acts ii. 3). And assuredly the Holy  Spirit resteth upon thee, and the patriarchal throne shall be given into thy hands, so that thou mayest complete His service, and minister to its operation"  (32).



Now whilst these things were taking place, MAR DENHA, the  Catholicus, was still alive, but he had been suffering from sickness for a long  time in BAGHDAD. And many of the monks and Fathers (i.e. Bishops) had  been seeing visions which resembled those [described above]. And after a few days there arose in MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA the thought that he would go to the Catholicus in BAGHDAD so that he might receive from him a blessing, and the birona (i.e. pontifical cloak Bippiov) and pastoral staff that they might  go with him to his country. And when he arrived in the neighbourhood of BAGHDAD,  a certain man who was an acquaintance of his met him, and said unto him, "The Catholicus is dead, but peradventure if thou wilt urge on thy caravan thy wilt arrive before he is buried." Then, with great anguish and a sorrowful heart, Mar  Yahbh-Allaha set out and pressed on quickly until he came to the door of the  church; and when he had gone inside he saw some groups of people weeping  (33) and some groups praying. And he went up to the bier, and cast aside his turban, and rent his garments, and wept so bitterly and with such


anguish that at length he fell down upon the ground like a dead  man. After a time the people lifted him up, and put his turban on him, and spake words of consolation to him. And when the prayers for the dead were ended [the  Catholicus] was buried [on February 24, 1281]--may his memory be for blessing! And the Fathers returned to the Cell [which was actually a palace] of the  Catholicus.

And on the following day the Fathers gathered together to elect  a person suitable to sit on the [patriarchal] Throne. There were present the following: first and foremost there was MARAN-'AMMEH, Metropolitan of ELAM. Another was [the Metropolitan of] TANGOTH [in China]; another was [the  Metropolitan of] TIRAHAN near Samarra in 'Irak; and another was [the  Metropolitan of] TURE [i.e. TUR 'ABHDIN]. And with these were the nobles, and  governors, and scribes, and lawyers, and physicians of BAGHDAD. And one said,  "this man shall be Patriarch," and another said, "that man shall be Patriarch,"  until at length they all agreed that MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA should be the head and governor of the Throne of SELEUCIA and CTESIPHON (34). The reason for his  election was this: The kings who held the steering poles of the government of the whole world were MUGLAYE (Mongols), and there was no man except MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA who was acquainted with their manners and customs,



The obverse and reverse of a silver Paizah, with an inscription in the Uighur  character. The Paizah was worn on the breast, being suspended from the neck by a  chain which passed through the moulded iron ring near the rounded end.


(See Plate V and p. 63)



and their policy of government, and their language. And when [the nobles of Baghdad] said these things to him he made excuses and demurred to  their statements, saying, "I am deficient in education and in ecclesiastical doctrine, and the member of my tongue halteth. How can I possibly become your  Patriarch? And moreover, I am wholly ignorant of your language, Syriac, which it  is absolutely necessary for the Patriarch to know." And having pressed upon him their quest, he agreed to their opinion and accepted [the office]. And all the aged men, and priests, and nobles, and scribes, and also the physicians, gave their support to him.

And MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA rose up and came to the holy monastery of MAR MICHAEL of TAR'IL, where Rabban Sawma was. Now the monks had already heard  of the death of the holy Father, Mar Denha, and when MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA arrived, they received him with gladness, and comforted him; and they [told] him that  they approved of his being elected Catholicus. It was a divine movement, and an act (35) which proceeded from God, and which all creation was compelled  to carry out. And when he talked to RABBAN SAWMA, the Rabban said unto him,  "This is a divine matter, from which thou canst not possibly ask for release;  therefore let us go forthwith to King ABHGHA (or ABAGA), and if he consents thereto we shall receive the conclusion."


And they rose up and set out for ADHORBIJAN together with the  aged and venerable men, and Fathers (i.e. Bishops), and monks who accompanied them, for at that time the kings used to pass the summer in that place. And they arrived at the place where the king was at BLACK MOUNTAIN, which is known in  Persian as SIA KUH, and the Amirs introduced them, and put forward their request. And the monks said unto the king, "May the king live for ever! The Catholicus is dead, and all the Christians wish and have agreed together that  this Metropolitan who hath come from the countries of the East to go to  Jerusalem should stand in his place. What doth the king command?" And Abhgha replied, "This purity (or sincerity) of thoughts and conscience (36) is worthy of admiration. And God is with those who seek Him and do His will. This  man and his companion have come from the East to go to JERUSALEM; this hath happened to them through the wish of God. We also will minister to the Divine Will and the entreaty of the Christians; he shall stand for them as their head  and shall sit upon the Throne."

And he took Mar Yahbh-Allaha by the hand and said unto him, "  Be strong and rule, and may God be with thee and support thee." And he covered his head with a cloak, for a cloak was lying on his shoulders, and he gave him his own chair of state (sandali) which was a small throne.


And he gave him also a parasol (shather), which is called in Mongolian sukor, and this is raised up above the heads of kings and queens, and their children, and it is sufficient to keep away from them the  strength of the sun and rain; but on most occasions parasols are spread over them to do them honour. And the king gave him also a PAIZA of gold, which is the sign (or symbol) of these kings, and the customary Pukdane, that is to say, written commands, which authorized him to have dominion over every one (37), and the great seal which had formerly belonged to the Catholicus,  his predecessor. And he allotted to him the large sum of money which was necessary to pay the expenses of the laying on of hands.

Then Rabban Sawma and MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA rose up and came to Baghdad. And they went to the Great Church of KOKE, and MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA  received the Xeipotovia, that is to say, the laying on of hands, to hold  the steering poles of the government of the Oriental Church. And he sat on the  throne of SELEUCIA and CTESIPHON through the offices of the holy Father, MARAN 'AMMEH, Metropolitan of ELAM, the disposer and keeper of the Apostolic Throne,  and through the Fathers who were present there, and who were:- MAR ISHO ZEKHA, Metropolitan of SUBHA (NISIBIS) and of ARMENIA.

MAR MOSES, Metropolitan of ARBIL.


MAR GABRIEL, Metropolitan of MOSUL and NINEVAH.

MAR ELIJAH,  Metropolitan of DAKUK and BETH GARMAI.


MAR JACOB, Metropolitan of SAMARKAND.

MAR  JOHN (38) Metropolitan of ADHORBIJAN.

And the other Bishops, twenty-four in number, among whom were: -



[These three names are added from Bedjan's note on p. 38 of this text.]

This laying on of hands took place in the month of the second  Teshri, on the first Sunday of the "Consecration of the Church," in the year one  thousand five hundred and ninety-three of the Greeks [i.e. in November, I28I], in the seven and thirtieth year of his age.

Now it happened that in the winter of that year King ABHGHA  came down to BAGHDAD, and MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA, the Catholicus, went to him on the  Sabbath which came before the Lord's Fast (i.e. Lent). And he explained  to him the affairs of the Christians [i.e. their actual condition], and found mercy (i.e. sympathy) in his sight. And the king bestowed upon him


large gifts, and gave him a written authority (pukdana) to levy  a tax each year on behalf of the churches, and monasteries, and monks, and  priests, and deacons, thirty thousand dinars (nearly  15,000) or one hundred and eighty thousand white zuze. [The silver zuza=about 20d. of our money?]. And the Catholicus sent out [men] to exact a gift from the various countries equivalent to this amount. (39) Now when King Abhgha departed this temporary life the gift was withheld.





About the events which immediately followed we will not prolong  our discourse. [In short] after ABHGHA there rose up as king, his brother, AHMAD  [who is also known as NEKUDAR, or TAKUDAR, who was baptized and was called  NIKALEOS, or NICHOLAS], the son of HULAGU. He lacked education and knowledge, and he persecuted the Christians greatly because of his association with the HAGARAYE [i.e. the descendants of HAGAR, the Muhammadans], towards whose  religion he leaned, and because of two of the envious old men (i.e. bishops}, who found the opportunity to fulfil their desire. They went into the king's presence through the help of certain erring men, one of whom was called (40) SHAMS AD-DIN, the lord of the DIWAN [the son of BEHAI AD-DIN MUHAMMAD] that is to say, chief of the scribes of the dumasion (. . .the State or Treasury), and the other was the Shakh 'ABD AR-RAHMAN. And they  calumniated MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA the Catholicus, and RABBAN SAWMA, and made accusations against them [to the king], saying, "The hearts of these


men are with ARGHON, the son of ABHGHA, and they have written  treasonable things against thee, O King, to the King of Kings KUBLAI KHAN. And the Amir if SHAMOT is a participator in the treason." The latter had been a monk  and an ascetic, and was then the Eparch of the city of MOSUL and its  district.

Now these two men used Ahmad as a tool in fulfilling their desire through the two old men who have already been mentioned, that is to say  Isho'-Sabhran, Metropolitan of TANGOTH, and SIMON, Bishop of ARNI [or Arna, in  the diocese of 'Akra]. These two bishops had plotted together and agreed that  the one of them should become the Catholicus, and the other Metropolitan and Visitor-General. And this plan having, through the counsel of the Adversary,  entered (41) their minds they contrived this scheme of theirs as we have  described.

Now the king who lacked understanding, inasmuch as he had cast God aside, did not ponder in his mind, saying, "These men can have no benefit in  this matter, why should they bring themselves to make false accusations?" but he  believed the words of the crafty ones. And by his command MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA, the Catholicus, and RABBAN SAWMA and the Amir SHAMOT were brought up into the Great  House. After the written authorisations (Pukdane) which he had given to them, he  took away the house of Mar Catholicus, and the Paiza [some words omitted?]. And when


Mar Yahbh-Allaha and Rabban Sawma had gone into the Hall of  Judgment, they did not know what was required of them, and they remained there  stupefied, saying, "What have we done?" And the messenger who had brought them  into the Hall of Judgment said unto them, "Your holy men, and the scribes, and  the men of your Communion have made accusations against you before the king."

And the great Amirs, that is to say the judges said unto the Catholicus, "What evil thing hast thou seen in the king that thou shouldst lie  concerning him, and shouldst send calumnies about him to the King of Kings,  KUBLAI KHAN saying, 'This man hath abandoned the way of his (42) fathers  and hath become a Muhammadan. And the Catholicus replied, "I do not understand." And the judges said unto him, "Thy scribes have declared these things against thee." And the judges brought the scribes, and when each one of them had been questioned by himself, every one of them stated that which he knew. And Mar  Catholicus said, " O Amirs, why do ye weary yourselves? Fetch back that messenger, with whom are the letters, and examine them. If this accusation which  hath been made against me is [proved] true, I will die ungrudgingly an in my own  blood. But if it be [proved] to a false, it rests with you to judge and to take vengeance [on my behalf]."


And the Amirs accepted this proposal, and  they made it known to the king, and the king sent after the messenger, and took  back from him all the letters in the neighbourhood of Khorasan. And when the  letters had been opened and read, there was found in them nothing which any way  resembled the accusations. But the judges said nothing about this to [the accusers of the Catholicus], and therefore we know that they had taken the  letters as a pretext.

And the Catholicus remained in prison for forty days, more (43) or less, in great anxiety, and bitter suffering and anguish all day  long, until God in His mercy visited him, and he as saved from death. Now King  Ahmad as exceedingly wroth with him, and as the thirsty man longeth for cool  waters, even so did the king thirst to shed his blood. And would have done so had it not been for the Angel of Providence who governs this holy throne, and who wrought upon the mother of the king [KUTUI KHATUN], and upon the Amirs, and prevented him from carrying into effect the thought which he had devised. And further, through the word of those whom we have mentioned, the Catholicus found mercy in the sight of the king, and he gave him [back] the Letter of Authority (Pukdana) and the Paiza, and he made his heart happy and sent him  back.


Then Mar Yahbh-Allaha said farewell to the king and went to the  city of URMI. And he saw a vision (or dream) in the church of MART MARYAM, and he knew that he would never see the king again. And after some days he arrived in the city of MARAGHAH, he and the bishops who had made accusations against him. And King AHMAD and his troops went to KHORASAN in order to seize King  ARGHON, the son of King ABHGHA. And he had made a pact with the two persons who  have been mentioned above, and with the chiefs of the Arabs (44), that when he had seized that prince (ARGHON) he should slay the rest of the royal  children, and that he should become Khalifah in Baghdad, and put an end to the life of the Catholicus also. But his thought returned empty, and his plan had no result, for the Lord setteth aside the thoughts of the children of men, and  establisheth His design. He dismisseth kings and maketh kings to pass away, but  His kingdom standeth for ever. And the armies of AHMAD were scattered--now, the  greater number of the troops took the side of ARGHON and Ahmad was captured and killed [in the year 1284].

One night, before he had heard of what had happened to AHMAD the king, MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA had a dream. And it seemed to him that a young man of handsome appearance came to him carrying a dish, which was covered over


with a napkin, in his hands, and he said unto the Catholicus, "Stand up, and eat what is laid on the dish." And when he drew back the cloth he found a boiled head [of a man] in the dish, and he ate the whole head leaving nothing except he  bones of the jaw. And the young man said unto him, "Dost thou know (45)  what thou hast eaten?" And the Catholicus said unto him, "No." And the young man said unto him, "This was the head of King AHMAD"; and the Catholicus awoke  straightway and was frightened. And a few days later the report of the murder of the king, which hath already been mentioned, arrived, and the news that King ARGHON was reigning. And the joy of the Catholicus was great, not because of the  death of Ahmad, but because ARGHON had become king.

And there and then the Catholicus, and the old men and the monks went to offer their congratulations to King ARGHON, and to pay the homage  which the Christians were in duty bound to pay to their kings according to the apostolic commandment, "Let every soul be in subjection to the supreme powers  who are in authority, for there is no authority existing which is not from God" (Rom. xiii. I). And having seen King ARGHON and congratulated him, the Catholicus prayed for the permanence of his kingdom. And Arghon paid him very  great honour, and magnified his grade when he heard what had happened to


him through the king, his  predecessor. And when he knew how the two holy bishops, who we have mentioned above, had served the Catholicus he commanded them to be destroyed. Then MAR YAHBH-ALLAHA (46), the Catholicus, said unto him, " O King, live for  ever! We Christians have laws, and everyone who doth not fulfil them is called a  transgressor of the law. Our law doth not demand the slaying of a man, but only  the condemnation of [his] guilt; and behold, there are many kinds of punishment which those who discipline offenders can apply to him. By our law the sentence  of death cannot be passed on these reverend men, but only the sentence of complete dismiss from that grade with the ministration which they have been  entrusted." And this [advice] was pleasing in the eyes of the king, and he sent  away the Catholicus in great honour, and he returned to his cell in great  gladness. And when the venerable Fathers had gathered together to the Catholicus  to salute him and to comfort him, a discussion (or enquiry) took place  concerning the action of the old men who have already been mentioned. And after  much debating, and after those old men had confessed their offence, they came to  a decision and excommunicated both the bishops, and they were expelled from  every ecclesiastical office [which they held].

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