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Greek Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem under Mamluk Rule

Johannes Pahlitzsch, University of Mainz, Germany, Fellow 2011/12

The project for my stay during the fall term was to investigate the situation of the Greek Orthodox Christians, including the Georgians and the Arabic-speaking Melkites, under Mamluk rule at a specific period, namely the reign of the emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282–1328). The relationships of the Orthodox Christians in Palestine to the Mamluks, however, cannot be viewed from an isolated, purely internal perspective. Their fate depended very much on the general state of relations between their Christian protective powers and the Mamluks. And indeed Byzantium and the Georgian kings intervened regularly in the affairs of the local communities, looking after their own interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Of special interest in this context is the role of the Greek Orthodox patriarchs of Jerusalem as well as those of Alexandria and Antioch, who were not only the representatives of the Byzantine emperor and the Orthodox church in the Orient, but at the same time served as intermediaries for the Mamluks with respect to Byzantium. During my term, I was able to read several Arabic and Greek chronicles dealing with the situation of Christians in Egypt during the time of the third reign of sultan an-Nasir Muhammad (1309–1341). I also dealt with the increasing number of anti-Christian treatises at this period. Another very important text I read is the oration of Theodoros Metochites on the neo-martyr Michael of Alexandria which not only provides information about the situation of Melkite Christians in Egypt but also could be read as an official statement about the policy of Andronikos II regarding the Mamluks. The third group of sources I dealt with has been yet unpublished Arabic documents issued by sultan an-Nasir Muhammad for the Greek Orthodox communities in Jerusalem. It is my hope that an extensive article entitled “Andronikos II and an-Nasir Muhammad: Byzantine-Mamluk Relations and Greek Orthodox Christians under Mamluk Rule in the Early Fourteenth Century” will appear soon.

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