Tag Archives: Byzance

China monk on diplomatic mission

Brussels 17.05.2021 Rabban Bar Sauma left China in 1275, followed the Silk Road, and made his way to Baghdad, Constantinople, and France, meeting khans, kings, and a pope. The remarkable Bar Sauma was born in Zhongdu, China, in 1220. His ancestors were descendants of the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group from Central Asia. Bar Sauma was brought up in the Nestorian faith, a Christian denomination that originated in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) when it broke away from the church in the fifth century. Nestorianism took root in Persia and then spread east to China.

The ilkhan elected Bar Sauma as head of a delegation to Europe to convince its leaders to join a military campaign against their common enemy. Then in his 60s, Bar Sauma began traveling west in 1287 on a new journey, with Constantinople as his first destination among many.

The Byzantine capital made a colossal impact on Bar Sauma. It was his first time in an entirely Christian city—and what a city it was—with its blend of Roman and Byzantine splendor. The Nestorian pilgrim was dazzled by the magnificent sight of Hagia Sophia, built seven centuries earlier by Emperor Justinian I.

From Constantinople he traveled to Italy in June 1287. His first stop was Rome, where he hoped to convince the pope to declare a new crusade to take the Holy Land from the Mamluks. Pope Honorius IV, however, had just died and his successor had not yet been chosen. Bar Sauma’s message would have to wait, so he made the most of his time waiting by visiting Rome’s basilicas and the relics of the holy figures he had so venerated in far-off China. After visiting the tomb of St. Paul and the Church of St. Peter in Chains, he set off to meet the French king Philip the Fair.

Orthodox cleric criticises Hagia Sophia Islamisation

Transformation of the Istanbul Hagia Sophia historic monument from a museum to a mosque would be “unacceptable”, a senior official in the Russian Orthodox Church said on July 4.

President Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a sixth century building, the Christian Byzantine emblematic consturciton, which became one of most visited world monuments.

“We can’t go back to the Middle Ages now,” Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said on state television, reported the Interfax news agency.

“We live in a multipolar world, we live in a multi-confessional world and we need to respect the feelings of believers.”

Hilarion said the Russian Orthodox Church did not understand the reason for Hagia Sophia’s transformation and that they believed domestic politics was behind the move.

“We believe that in the current conditions this act is an unacceptable violation of religious freedom,” the cleric concluded.

A Turkish court earlier this week heard a case aimed at transfering the building back into a mosque and will announce its verdict mid-July.

The court case, brought by an NGO, disputes the legality of a decision in 1934, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to convert Hagia Sophia – known in Turkish as Ayasofya – from a mosque into a museum.

However the revolutionary proposal of NGO, backed by President Erdogan, has been criticised by other religious and political leaders.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.

Erdogan has assessed the foreign criticism over the proposal as an attack on Turkey’s sovereignty.

Russian meida reported that the first symbolic Muslim service could take place mid-July.