The Syriac Christianity Portal
Syriac or Syrian Christianity (Syriac: ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ, mšiḥāiūṯā suryāiṯā), the Syriac-speaking Christians of Mesopotamia, comprises multiple Christian traditions of Eastern Christianity. With a history going back to the 1st Century AD, in modern times it is represented by denominations primarily in the Middle East and in Kerala, India. Christianity began in the middle east in Israel among Aramaic speaking Semitic peoples. It quickly spread to Sassanid-ruled Mesopotamia & Assyria, Roman-ruled Syria (ancient Aramea), Phoenicia, India, and Egypt. From there it spread to Asia Minor, Greece, Armenia, Georgia and the Caucasus region.
Services in this tradition tend to feature liturgical use of ancient Syriac, a dialect of Middle Aramaic that is of direct relation to the Aramaic of Jesus.
Syriac Christianity is divided into two major traditions: Eastern Rite, historically centered in Assyria/Mesopotamia, and West Syrian, centered in Antioch. The Eastern Rite tradition was historically associated with the Church of the East, and is currently employed by the Middle Eastern churches that descend from it, the Assyrian Church of the East, Ancient Church of the East, and the Chaldean Catholic Church, (the members of these churches usually consider themselves to be ethnic Assyrians) as well as by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of India. The West Syrian tradition is used by the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Maronite Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and churches that descend from them, as well as by the Malankara churches of the Saint Thomas Christian tradition in India.
The Church of the East (Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ʿĒ(d)tāʾ d-Maḏn(ə)ḥāʾ), also known as the Nestorian Church is a Christian church, part of the Syriac tradition of Eastern Christianity. Originally the church of the Persian Sassanid Empire, it quickly spread widely through Asia. Between the 9th and 14th centuries it was the world's largest Christian church in terms of geographical extent, with dioceses stretching from the Mediterranean to China and India. Several modern churches claim continuity with the historical Church of the East.
From its peak of geographical extent, the church experienced a rapid period of decline starting in the 14th century, due in large part to outside influences. The Mongol Empire dissolved into civil war, the Chinese Ming Dynasty overthrew the Mongols and ejected Christians and other foreign influences from China (also including Manichaeism), and many Mongols in Central Asia converted to Islam. The Muslim Mongol leader Timur (1336–1405) nearly eradicated the remaining Christians in Persia; thereafter, Nestorian Christianity was largely confined to Upper Mesopotamia and the Malabar Coast of India. In the 16th century, the Church of the East went into a schism from which two distinct churches eventually emerged; the modern Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Holy See.
A scene from the Syriac Bible of Paris.
Saint Maroun was a 5th century Syriac Christian monk who after his death was followed by a religious movement that became known as the Maronites. The Church that grew from this movement is the Maronite Church. St. Maroun was known for his missionary work, healing and miracles, and teachings of a monastic devotion to God. He was a priest that later became a hermit. His holiness and miracles attracted many followers and drew attention throughout the empire.
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