Gewargis Warda (13th cent.?) [Ch. of E.]

The Kthābhā d-wardā ‘Book of the Rose’ is a collection of hymns for the various festivals of the liturgical year, usually attributed in the mss. to a certain Gewargis, surnamed Warda. Most of the hymns belong to the ʿOnithā genre and parts or the whole of the corpus have been incorporated, especially in the 19th cent., in larger collections of ʿonyāthā by other hymnographers. So far, only 31 of the ca. 150 items have been published or translated. The ms. transmission presents a high degree of variation in the number and order of the texts. No systematic study of the text history of the Kthābhā d-wardā or of the hymns attributed to Gewargis is available, and it is therefore difficult to define criteria of authenticity. The two poems ‘On the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin’, preserved in only one ms., probably do not belong to the original nucleus.

There is no reliable information on the life or birthplace of the alleged author (and/or compiler?). One poem is an outcry against an infidel deacon of a village near Arbela, and in one ms. (Sachau 64) it is said that Gewargis was from Arbela, perhaps because he has been confused with the 10th-cent. E-Syr. author Gewargis of Arbela, or in order to distinguish him from a Gewargis of Mosul, mentioned in the same ms. Like Khamis bar Qardaḥe (also connected with Arbela), Gewargis is not included in the ‘Paradise of Eden’ by ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha. Attempts to place Gewargis in the first half of the 13th cent. at the time of the events described in poems of the Wardā collection (famines and the Mongol raids of 1223/4–1235/6) are in contradiction with, e.g., the mention of Timotheos II ( patr. from 1318 to 1332) in the ‘ʿOnithā on the Catholicoi of the East’.

The Wardā contains exhortations to repentance, hymns for the various feasts, commemorations of saints, martyrs, and calamitous historical events. The melody and the liturgical occasion for which the text is fitted are noted above each poem. The use of biblical texts and exempla is often rich and felicitous. Some texts elaborate on apocryphal material, e.g., ‘In praise of Mary’ lists the traditional names of the twelve kings (as in Shlemon of Baṣra) and ‘On the Childhood of Christ’ possibly derives from a lost E.-Syr. source, parts of which are preserved in the ‘History of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ (ed. E. A. W.  Budge, 1899). A ‘memrā on Man as Microcosm’ appears to derive from Greek medical and philosophical traditions via the Syr. Traité d’Ahoudemmeh sur l’homme (ed. F. Nau, PO 3.1, 1905). The hymns on historical events have recently been read as examples of theological reflection on history. More properly, they should be interpreted as liturgical texts, as their function was stated to be. Referring to specific historical events or, more in general, to disasters which were dramatically recurrent, they probably functioned as textual supports for public commemorations, as prayers of supplication, or to avert disaster.

    Primary Sources

    • G. P. Badger, The Nestorians and their rituals (1852), vol. 3, 51–7. (Mary; only ET)
    • G.  Cardahi, Liber thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum (1875), 51–55. (Annunciation)
    • A.  Deutsch, Edition dreier syrischer Lieder nach einer Handschrift der Berliner Königlichen Bibliothek (1895). (1. Attack by the Mongols at Karamlish in 1235/6; 2–3. Rogation of the Ninivites; Syr. with GT)
    • I.  Folkmann, Ausgewählte nestorianische Gedichte von Giwargis Warda, mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen und deutscher Übersetzung (1896). (1. Penitence; 2–7. St. George)
    • Ph. Gignoux, ‘Un poème inédit sur l’homme-microcosme de Guiwarguis Wardā (13ème siècle)’, in Ressembler au monde (1999), 95–189. (Syr. with FT)
    • H. Hilgenfeld, Ausgewählte Gesänge des Giwargis Warda von Arbel (1904). (1–4. Famine and other calamities; 5. Attack by the Mongols at Karamlish in 1235/6 AD; 6. The deacon Abraham of Meshkaleg, an infidel; 7. John the Baptist; 8. Tahmazgerd and the martyrs of Karkha d-Beth Slokh; 9. Jacob of Beth Lapat)
    • Ktābonā d-partute (Urmia, 1898; repr. The Book of Crumbs, 2006), 266–74. (for the 3rd Sunday of Elijah; partial FT in H. Pognon, Une version syriaque des aphorismes d’Hippocrate [1903], vol. 2, v–x)
    • J. E.  Manna, Morceaux choisis de litérature araméenne (1901), vol. 2, 295–322. (1. In praise of Mary; 2. Temporal Birth of God; 3. Man as Microcosm)
    • Th.  Noeldeke, ‘Zwei syrische Lieder auf die Einnahme Jerusalems durch Saladin’, ZDMG 27 (1873), 489–510. (Syr. and GT)
    • A.  Pritula, ‘An autobiographic hymn by Givargis Warda’, in Syriaca II, ed. M. Tamcke (2004), 229–41. (photo-reproduction of a ms., here and there illegible, and ET)
    • A.  Pritula, ‘A Hymn by Givargis Warda on the Childhood of Christ’, in Die Suryoye und ihre Umwelt, ed. M. Tamcke and A. Heinz (2005), 423–51. (Syr. and ET)
    • A.  Pritula, ‘Iz istorii vostochno-siriyskoy liturgicheskoy poezii: Zaklyuchitelnoe pesnopenie “Moleniya Ninevityan”’, Volshebnaya gora 12 (2006), 147–59. (Rogation of the Ninivites; Syr. with RT)
    • A.  Pritula, ‘Pesnopenie Givargisa Vardy o grobe’, Volshebnaya gora 14 (2007), 92–103. (The soul and the body in the grave, Syr. with RT)
    • A.  Pritula, ‘Gimn o neravenstve v chelovecheskom obshchestve iz vostochno-siriyskogo sbornika Varda’, Volshebnaya gora 15 (2008), 123–35. (Social inequality; Syr. with RT)
    • B.  Vandenhoff, ‘Vier geistliche Gedichte in syrischer und neusyrischer Sprache’, OC 8 (1908), 389–452. (Childhood of Christ; GT of the Syr. text and of a Sureth poetic version attributed to Yawsep of Telkepe)

    Secondary Sources

    • D. Bundy, ‘Georges Warda’, DHGE , vol.20 (1983), 668–9.
    • D. Bundy, ‘Interpreter of the acts of God and humans: George Warda, historian and theologian of the 13th century’, Harp 6.1 (1993), 7–20.
    • Ph. Gignoux, ‘Giorgio Warda’, Storia della scienza — Treccani, vol. 4, sez. 1. La scienza siriaca, ed. J. Teixidor and R. Contini (2001), 52–3.
    • M.  Tamcke, ‘Bemerkungen zu Giwargis Wardas ʿOnita über die Katholikoi des Ostens’, in Syriaca II, ed. M. Tamcke (2004), 203–27.
    • M.  Tamcke  ‘Die islamische Zeit in Giwargis Wardas ʿOnita über die Katholikoi des Ostens’, in The Encounter of Eastern Christianity with Early Islam, ed. E. Grypeou, M. Swanson, and D. Thomas (2006), 139–52.
    • M.  Tamcke,  ‘How Giwargis Warda retells biblical texts: Some remarks’, in Rewritten Bible Reconsidered, ed. A. Laato and J. van Ruiten (2008), 249–69.
    • M.  Tamcke, ‘Heuschrecken, Dürre und Mongolen. Gott und die Katastrophen in der syrischen Literatur’, in Vorsehung, Schicksal und göttliche Macht, ed. R. G.  Kratz and H.  Spieckermann (2008), 241–63.

How to Cite This Entry

Alessandro Mengozzi , “Gewargis Warda,” in Gewargis Warda, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Alessandro Mengozzi , “Gewargis Warda,” in Gewargis Warda, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Mengozzi, Alessandro. “Gewargis Warda.” In Gewargis Warda. 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.

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