monasteries of Upper Mesopotamia, where Bar Hebraeus was buried. In addition, the library of the monastery of Dayr al-Za'faraninthe Tfiur 'Abdîn-known as the Saffron monastery on account of its yellow walls - has preserved, among others, two magnificent gospel books of the thirteenth century, whose illustrations, even more than those of the Mar Mattaï gospel book, betray strong Byzantine influences. But Syriac and Coptic art would follow a quite different line of development.
A sarcastic little work entitled the 'Priests' banquet', which we surely owe to the pen of the Christian physician Ibn Budan (fi066),75 sheds precious light on the life of the Syriac clergy in the Tfiur 'Abdîn. Modelled on the Arabic genre of Maqâmât or ' Seances', which relate the deeds and sayings of a hero in elegant and refined language, the narrator describes a banquet, which took place at Mardîn in the house of the priest. This satire denounces the clergy for the following shortcomings: their ability to make money out of their ministry (especially over funerals and prayers for the dead); their ignorance of church music; and their incompetence as preachers, being content to rehash the works of John Chrysostom, rather than devise eloquent new sermons. But this satire also reveals a clergy who were relatively well-to-do, were on good terms with their Muslim neighbours, and had a perfect command of Arabic language and culture.
The celebration of the liturgy dominated religious life. It was regulated by the calendars of the different churches, but local festivals also had an important role to play. The latter combined a mixture of ancient agrarian traditions and local memories with a more strictly Christian content, but this did not prevent Muslims takingpart, so much so that paradoxically knowledge ofthese festivals has often only come down to us through Muslim sources. This is the case for the feast of Holy Thursday, celebrated in Egypt and Syria under a variety of names: 'Lentil Thursday', ' Rice Thursday' or even 'Egg Thursday'.76 It took
75 Ibn Butlan, Lebanquetdesprîtres: unemaqamachrétienneduXIesiecle, trans. J. Dagher and G. Troupeau (Paris: Geuthner, 2004).
76 Evidence is suppliedby the following authors: for Alexandria al-Bakrî (eleventh century); for Cairo al-Maqrîzî (fourteenth century); for Syria Ibn-Shaddad (thirteenth century), al-Dimashqî (fourteenth century) and Ibn Taymiyya (fourteenth century). The latter, a hanbalite thinker well known for his rigorism, castigated Muslims who participated in Christian festivals in a treatise entitled 'the necessity of following the right path, so as to separate yourself from the companions of Gehenna': see G. Troupeau, ' Les fêtes des chrétiens vues par un juriste musulman', in Melanges offerts a Jean Dauvillier (Toulouse: Centre d'histoire juridique méridionale, 1979), 795-802 [=Études sur le christianisme arabe au moyen aîge, xIx].
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