which in the ninth and tenth centuries had been at the centre of the Nestorian Church. By the thirteenth century, despite the continuing strength of the Christian community at Mosul, it had been turned into a simple church. Much the same happened with monasteries close to Cairo, such as that of Nahya, a few kilometres to the west of the capital, which served the Fatimids as a very agreeable summer retreat, but when Abul-Makarim visited it in 1173 it had only seven monks and was in the process of being deserted. In the fourteenth century al-Maqrîzî noted that it was now completely ruined.
These developments meant that monasteries were less and less important as centres of social interaction and education, becoming primarily places of refuge and of pilgrimage, which preserved the spiritual and cultural values of eastern Christianity. We shall use the examples of some celebrated monasteries to illustrate this, beginning with the monastery of Barsauma,69 which took its name from a fifth-century ascetic, Barsauma, but only emerges in the light of history in the eighth century. It lies close to Melitene/Malatya, but in a remote region in the heart of the Taurus mountains. It numbered some hundreds of monks. The miracles attributed to the relics of Barsauma attracted the crowds. In the twelfth century it became one of the principal patriarchal residences. It was probably here that Michael the Syrian compiled his chronicle, to be followed by the anonymous of 1232 and Bar Hebraeus. Pillaged in 1148 by Jocelyn of Courtenay, prince of Edessa, it was then destroyed by a spectacular fire in 1183. Its reconstruction was the work of Michael the Syrian, who reconsecrated it on 15 May 1194. It remained a centre of the Jacobite Church until its destruction in the closing years of the thirteenth century.
From the ninth century the monastery of St Catherine founded by the emperor Justinian at the foot of Mount Sinai became the resting place of the relics of St Catherine of Alexandria.70 It became a popular destination for pilgrims, including westerners. It boasts an exceptionally rich library, with some 2300 Greek manuscripts, 600 Arabic, 270 Syriac, 85 Georgian and 45 Slavonic.71 This is a reflection not only of the importance of its scriptorium, but also of its
69 E. Honigmann, Le couvent de Barsauma et le patriarcatjacobite d'Antioche et de Syrie [CSCO 146 (Subsidia 7)] (Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1954).
70 Le Sinaï durant l'Antiquité et le Moyen Age: 4000 ans d'histoire pour un desert (Actes du colloque 'Sinai, UNESCO, 19-21 septembre 1997), ed. D. Valbelle and C. Bonnet (Paris: Errance, 1998).
71 A. S. Atiya, The Arabic manuscripts of Mount Sinaï: a hand-list of the Arabic manuscripts and scrolls microfilmed at the Library of the Monastery of St Catherine [Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man 1] (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955); M. Kamil, Catalogue of all manuscripts in the monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinaï (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1970); P. Géhin, 'La bibliothèque de Sainte Catherine du Sinai.'. Fonds ancien et nouvelles decouvertes', in Sinaï, 157-64.
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