Info

of which varied according to church and period, but included bishops and abbots, sometimes priests and monks; sometimes even influential members of the laity. It was also necessary to obtain confirmation from the Muslim ruling authorities.14 Only then could the solemn ordination of the new patriarch take place. If you read the ecclesiastical chronicles of the different churches, it is clear that this process produced violent quarrels among the candidates, with recourse to simony, tribal feuds and political infighting, and to the good offices of a Muslim ruler. Leaving aside personal ambitions, the rivalry among candidates for office often reveals the underlying divisions within the different Christian communities. It equally reveals an ecclesiastical organisation grounded in personal ties and the influence of the 'powerful'.

By way of illustration I shall limit myself to two examples. The first concerns the Coptic Church, which experienced a vacancy lasting nearly twenty years following the death of John VI in 1216.15 Christians in Egypt were effectively divided into two parties. The first supported the priest Da'ud, a native of the Fayyum, who eventually succeeded to the patriarchal throne in 1235 as Cyril III. He had a pragmatic view of the relationship of the church to power and wealth and enjoyed wide support among Christian functionaries. His opponents backed a series of candidates - notably, a monk renowned for his asceticism - who took a harder, more uncompromising line. The struggle crystallised around the two cities into which Cairo was divided. Da'ud's partisans were most strongly represented in al-Qahira, the urban centre established by the Fatimids, which housed the political elite. His opponents were concentrated in Fustat, the old town, which housed the venerable old church known as al-Mu'allaqa. The numerous twists and turns of this episode reveal not only that both sides sought to obtain the precious diploma of investiture from al-Kamil, the Ayyubid sultan of the day, but also that they had no hesitation in offering him considerable sums of money. Da'ud's supporters eventually paid 2000 dinars for his investiture. For his part, al-Kamil had no desire to designate a patriarch until he had the full support of the Christian community and he did his best to act as an honest broker. A modern historian cannot help but feel that such a crisis can only have contributed to the weakening and discrediting the Coptic Church, just at the moment when the soldiers of the Fifth Crusade had taken Damietta and were marching on Cairo.

14 See the charter granted to the catholicos 'Abdisho' III, editedby A. Mingana, 'A charter of protection granted to the Nestorian Church a.d. 1138 by Muktafi II, Caliph of Baghdad', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 10 (1926), 127-33.

15 See History of the patriarchs, iv, 2.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment