Alain Delattre

École pratique des hautes études (Paris), France / Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Naïm Vanthieghem

Université libre de Bruxelles
Monks and Monasteries in the Early Islamic Period: Insights from Documentary Sources

Egyptian monasteries from the Islamic period have attracted renewed interest for the last twenty years, notably the monastery of Bawit that has been thoroughly studied. Many Greek, Coptic, and to a lesser extent Arabic sources allow to follow the development of monastic institutions in seventh and eighth century Egypt. In our paper we will study the relationship between the monasteries and the civil authorities, especially in the field of economy and taxation.


Luise M. Frenkel

University of São Paulo, Brazil
Egyptian Female Coenobitic Monasticism During the Early Arab Conquest: Maximus the Confessor on Alexandrian Nuns in Exile

Seven of Maximus the Confessor’s letters provide enough information on his involvement in a prolonged and multifaceted affair involving a group of female ascetics from Alexandria who had fled Egypt because of the Arab invasion. Scholars have disentangled significantly the chronology of the letters and of the cited events, the political motivations of the many named individuals from the capital, North Africa and Italy who were involved, and some of the religious opinions which the main players espoused. The incidents elicit, however, many other questions, especially related to the presentation of various perspectives on the Arab invasion which influenced the nuns to remain in exile and not return. It is now understood that Byzantine sources reflect a perception of the invasion which resorted mainly to images used on the long Persian occupation, and was also aware of the demise of Persia. Thus, at least in Palestine, toleration of religious difference and cooperation were presented as viable alternative. The paper focuses on the context in which Maximus refers to the nuns and implies that the life options for monophysite female ascetics in Egypt under Arab rule seemed worse than as exiles residing in coenobitic foundations in which the tenets of Christian orthodoxy required the exiled women to give up or repress some of the main precepts of their Christian faith. It compares the initial local willingness to accommodate suppressed deviant creeds, to the violent measures taken, after some months, against the Egyptian women, allegedly in reaction to their attempts to ostensively profess their views. The letters suggest that they were encouraged and began to proselytise and defend their identity despite the efforts of key aristocrats and church leaders in the Byzantine empire, with which Maximus was engaged on friendly or hostile terms. The paper considers the pastoral responsibilities Maximus had towards these women, and weights in the influence his theological and ecclesiastic polemics could have on his portrayal and handling of the situation. The nuns come out too easily almost as pawns caught in ongoing disputes, and the paper tries to assess from the letters, which are among the few Greek sources contemporary to the early years of the Arab expansion with references to the religious and social changes in Alexandria, why they remained in exile.


Maya Müller

University of Basel, Switzerland
A Coptic Citizen Orders a Joseph Tunic in Early Islamic Egypt (Cuff Trimming Museum der Kulturen Basel III 17088)

Studien zur koptisch/frühislamischen Ikonographie und Rezeption der Josephsgeschichte, (d.h. Josephs des Patriarchen). Josephsbilder sind ausschließlich auf gewirkten Kleiderverzierungen des 6. bis 10. Jhs. belegt; jede Josephstunika ist eine individuelle Anfertigung, an der ein  Auftraggeber, ein Textildesigner und ein Bildwirker beteiligt waren. Es handelt sich um eine bürgerlich-profane Bildwelt, deren technischer und künstlerischer Niedergang im Zuge der Islamisierung anhand des textilen Materials beobachtet werden kann. Eine wichtige Besonderheit der Josephsgeschichte ist auch die Tatsache, dass sie für Christen, Muslime und Juden gleichermassen faszinierend war, wie aus den reichlichen Schriftquellen hervorgeht.