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Introduction

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches (that are in communion with Rome but still maintain Eastern liturgies), and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church is also an Eastern Christian church that uses the Byzantine Rite. The term is used in contrast with Western Christianity (namely the Latin Church and most of Protestantism), although its scope has been one of continual discussion. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with geographical divisions in Christianity mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. Because the largest church in the East is the body currently known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similar fashion to "Eastern", to refer to specific historical Christian communions. However, strictly speaking, most Christian denominations, whether Eastern or Western, consider themselves to be "orthodox" (following correct beliefs) as well as "catholic" (or "universal"), as two of the Four Marks of the Church listed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic" (Greek: μία, ἁγία, καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησία).

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Emperor Manuel I
The Second Crusade (1147–1149) was the second major crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church, called in 1145 in response to the fall of the County of Edessa the previous year. The Second Crusade was announced by Pope Eugene III, and was the first of the crusades to be led by European kings. The armies of the French and the German kings marched separately across Europe and were somewhat hindered by Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus. Prior to the arrival of the Crusaders, Manuel had broken off his military campaign against the Sultanate of Rüm and signed a truce with his enemy Sultan Mesud I. This was done so that Manuel would be free to concentrate on defending his empire from the Crusaders, who had gained a reputation for theft and treachery since the First Crusade and were widely suspected of harbouring designs on Constantinople. Some of the French were outraged by Manuel's truce with the Seljuks and called for an alliance with Roger II of Sicily and an attack on Constantinople, but they were restrained by their King.

After crossing the Byzantine Empire into Anatolia, both the French and German armies were separately defeated by the Seljuk Turks. The remnants of their armies reached Jerusalem and, in 1148, participated in an ill-advised attack on Damascus. The crusade in the east was a failure for the Crusaders and a great victory for the Muslims. It would ultimately lead to the fall of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century.

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Saint Catherine's Monastery
Credit: Berthold Werner

Saint Catherine's Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox monastery which lies in Saint Catherine, Egypt, on the Sinai Peninsula. Established between 548 and 565 AD, it is recognised by UNESCO as one of the oldest working Christian monasteries.

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Anna of Kashin, icon about 1910

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Mosaic of Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus
Saint Justinian, 482 or 483 CE – 13 or 14 November 565, was the second member of the Justinian Dynasty (after his uncle, Justin I) and Eastern Roman Emperor from 527 until his death. He is considered a saint amongst Eastern Orthodox Christians, and is also commemorated by the Lutheran Church. One of the most important figures of Late Antiquity, Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Byzantine Empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and empire. Justinian's reign is marked by the ambitious but ultimately failed renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the empire". This ambition was expressed in the partial recovery of the territories of the Western Roman Empire, including the city of Rome itself. A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states. His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded such masterpieces as the church of Hagia Sophia, which was to be the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for many centuries. A devastating outbreak of bubonic plague in the early 540s marked the end of an age of splendor. The empire entered a period of territorial decline not to be reversed until the ninth century.

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