Beth ʿAbe, Monastery of

This famous monastery was founded in 595/6 by Yaʿqub, a monk of the ‘Great Monastery’ of Abraham of Kashkar (on the mountain of Izla), who originated from Lashom in Beth Garmai. Along with others Yaʿqub had been banished from the Great Monastery by Babai for countenancing what Babai regarded as monastic laxity. The monastery that Yaʿqub founded was evidently near the village of Kherpa, to the northwest of ʿAqra (thus Fiey, against Budge); it must have been in or near an earlier inhabited site named Beth ʿAbe since Bethaba is mentioned in Ptolemy’s ‘Geography’ (VI.1.4). The history of the monastery up to 832 is exceptionally well documented thanks to the account of its first 20 abbots by Toma of Marga, himself originally a monk of Beth ʿAbe. The monastery was especially flourishing in the mid 7th cent. when the future Patr. Ishoʿyahb III endowed it with land and built it a larger church, the monastic community having grown from 80 to 300. Toma relates that the patr. also left to the monastery ‘a golden Gospel’ (perhaps a Gospel lectionary with some rubrics in gold, surviving examples of which are known from the 13th cent.). One of the most famous monks of the monastery was the compiler of the ‘Paradise of the Fathers’, ʿEnanishoʿ, who also assisted Ishoʿyahb III in his liturgical reforms. Many interesting details of the history and life of the monastery are provided by Toma (summarized by Budge, xli–xcvii). After 832 the history of the monastery is very little known, though a number of 13th-cent. mss. which were written there survive (Fiey, 247; a high quality one is a Gospel Lectionary of 1218, now Chester Beatty [Dublin], ms.4; Hatch, Album of Dated Syriac Mss., plate CLXXI). The monastery may possibly have lasted until the 16th cent.


  • P.  Bedjan, Liber Superiorum seu Historia Monastica, auctore Thoma, episcopo Margensi (1901). (Syr)
  • E. A. W.  Budge, The Book of Governors by Thomas bishop of Marga (2 vols., 1893). (Syr with ET)
  • Fiey, Assyrie chrétienne, I, 236–48.

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