Patriarch Michael the Great
The World Chronicle by Patriarch Michael the Great
(1126-1199): Some reflectionsDorothea Weltecke
Almost 800 years ago Michael the Great, one of the most important SyrianOrthodox patriarchs of Antioch and the East, died in his favorite monastery, MorBarsaum�, on top of a mountain close to the old Cappadocian metropolis of Melitene, today the Turkish town of Malatya.1 700 years after his death, the first printed edition of his most acknowledged literary work, his world chronicle from the creation to the year 1195, was begun in Paris.2 By this time the site where the monastery had once thrived and hosted hundreds of pilgrims each year, well-off Muslim tradesmen included, lay waste, and even its exact location was controversial.3 The tide of history had washed away the defense walls and the four watchtowers, the hospice and the patriarchal residence Michael built, the library Michael had enlarged with books he bought or copied, and the luxurious book of the gospels he himself had filled with silver and golden letters. Gone also was the church built of the beautifully carved stones which Michael had appropriated from a former Pagan temple in the vicinity. In an area distant from great Christian city centers such as Antioch and Edessa, this was seen as a church of considerable importance. This is confirmed by the Edessean chronicler�s remark that��[w]hile it is small in size, here it stands very great, beautiful and high.�4 Unfortunately, the greater part of Michael�s achievements - his church, his buildings, and his reforms -- were lost.
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