Ṣawma, Rabban Rabban Barṣawma (13th cent.) [Ch. of E.]

Ṣawma was a monk of the Ch. of E. who, sometime around 1275, set out from Dadu (also known as Khān Bālīq, i.e., modern Beijing) in his native China with a younger disciple, Markos, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The two reached Ilkhanate Persia, but due to the ongoing threat caused by the Mamlukes, they were unable to travel further west. Upon the death of Mar Denḥa (1281), cath. of the Ch. of E., Markos was elected to the patriarchal throne and assumed the name Yahbalaha III. Following his election as patr. , he sent Ṣawma on a diplomatic mission to enlist the help of Christian Europe on behalf of Christians in the East. Ṣawma who had kept a journal, presumably in Persian, of his travels from China, continued to document his travels that took him to Constantinople, Rome, Paris, before returning to Baghdad. The record of the journey of the two monks to Baghdad, and of Ṣawma’s subsequent mission to Europe, provides a rich, eye-witness account of places, people, and events in the last half of the 13th cent. A Syriac redactor produced a truncated version of the Persian original that was popularized in English by E. A. Wallis Budge in his The Monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China.


  • P.  Bedjan, Histoire de Mar Jabalaha patriarche et de Raban Sauma. Le Nestorianisme sous les Mongols (1888). (Syr.)
  • P.  Bedjan, Histoire de Mar Jab Alaha, patriarche et de Raban Sauma (1895). (Syr.)
  • P. G.  Borbone (tr. E. Alexandre), Un ambassadeur du Khan Argun en Occident. Histoire de Mar Yahballaha III et de Rabban Sauma (2008). (FT)
  • P. G.  Borbone, Storia di Mar Yahballaha e di Rabban Sauma. Cronaca siriaca del XIV secolo (2009). (Syr. with IT; incl. further references)
  • S. P.  Brock, ‘Rabban Ṣauma à Constantinople (1287)’, in Mémorial Mgr Gabriel Khouri-Sarkis (1898–1968) (1969), 245–53.
  • E. A. W.  Budge, The monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China (1928). (ET)
  • J. B.  Chabot, Histoire de Mar Jabalaha III (1895). (FT)
  • J. A.  Montgomery, The History of Yaballaha III, Nestorian Patriarch, and of his Vicar Bar Sauma, Mongol Ambassador to the Frankish Court at the End of the Thirteenth century (1927; repr. 2006).

How to Cite This Entry

Joseph P. Amar , “Ṣawma, Rabban,” in Ṣawma, Rabban, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Sawma-Rabban.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Joseph P. Amar , “Ṣawma, Rabban,” in Ṣawma, Rabban, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Sawma-Rabban.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Amar, Joseph P. “Ṣawma, Rabban.” In Ṣawma, Rabban. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Sawma-Rabban.

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