Leroy, Jules (1903–1979)

French art historian and Syriac scholar. In 1920, Leroy entered the Benedictine order with the monks of Solesmes who, due to the anti-catholic legislation of the Third Republic, were in exile at the Isle of Wight (UK) since 1901 and returned to Solesmes (Sarthe) only in 1922. In 1930, he was sent to Rome, where he graduated in biblical studies from the Pontificio Istituto Biblico in 1933. For the next twenty years he lived as a priest in Paris and taught in various high schools. During his spare time he developed an interest in illuminated Syriac mss., which he investigated first in the Bibliothèque Nationale and later in the other major European libraries. In the early fifties, he studied with André Grabar, the famous scholar of early Christian art, who then taught at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where Leroy graduated in 1955 with a thesis on the illuminations of the Syriac Rabbula Gospels. Starting in 1954, as an employee of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and stationed for several years at the Institut Français d’Archéologie in Beirut, Leroy complemented his earlier work on illuminated Syriac mss. in Europe with research in all major collections of the Middle East. This led to his pioneering 1964 publication, Les manuscrits syriaques à peintures, which includes the study of several mss. from Ṭur ʿAbdin, Iraq, and Syria. In the same period he also wrote his ‘Moines et monastères du Proche-Orient’ (1958), which was subsequently translated into English (1963; repr. 2004). It covers Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq.

In the mid-sixties Leroy, together with Serge Sauneron (d. 1976), launched an ambitious project that aimed at the documentation of Coptic wall paintings. The first volume of ‘La peinture murale chez les Coptes’ appeared in 1975. The second volume, which appeared posthumously (1982), included the first detailed description of the wall paintings of Dayr al-Suryān known at that time. To this monastery, situated at the intersection of the Coptic and Syriac worlds, he devoted additional publications, studying its condition in the 16th cent. (1967), the decoration of the church (including the two 10th-cent. inscriptions on the wooden doors) (1974), and a flabellum with Syriac inscription dated 1202/3 (1974–75). His contribution to the first Symposium Syriacum (1972) was on the famous 10th-cent. abbot of Dayr al-Suryān, Mushe of Nisibis (published 1974). Leroy was the first western art historian with a lifelong commitment to the study of the art of the Syriac and other eastern Christian traditions. Along with his pioneering Syriac publications, which remain authoritative today, he published extensively on Coptic, Copto-Arabic, Ethiopian, and Armenian art. In spite of his focused iconographical approach, he always was aware of the larger historical, literary, and cultural contexts and paid due attention to the links between eastern Christian art and late ancient, Byzantine, and Islamic art.

Select publications by Leroy

  • Moines et monastères du Proche-Orient (1958). (ET as Monks and monasteries of the Near East [1963; repr. 2004])
  • Les manuscrits syriaques à peintures conservés dans les bibliothèques d’Europe et d’Orient. Contribution à l’étude de l’iconographie des églises de langue syriaque (2 vols.; 1964).
  • ‘Un témoignage inédit sur l’état du Monastère des Syriens au Wadi ’n Natrun au début du XVIe siècle’, Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 65 (1967), 1–23.
  • ‘Moïse de Nisibe’, in SymSyr I, 457–70.
  • ‘Le décor de l’église du Couvent des Syriens au Ouady Natroun (Égypte)’, CahArch 23 (1974), 151–67.
  • ‘Un flabellum syriaque daté du Deir Souriani (Egypte)’, Cahiers de Mariemont 5–6 (1974–75), 31–9.
  • Les peintures des couvents du Ouadi Natroun (La peinture murale chez les Coptes II; 1982).

Secondary Sources

  • R.-G.  Coquin, ‘L’abbé Jules Leroy (1903–1979)’, Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 80 (1980), v–xv.
  • M.  Daniels, ‘Leroy, Jules’, Dictionary of Art Historians (http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/).
  • P. van Moorsel and K. Innemée, ‘Brève histoire de la “Mission des peintures coptes” ’, Dossiers d’Archéologie 226 (Sept. 1997), 68–75. (repr. in P. P. V.  van Moorsel, Called to Egypt. Collected Studies on painting in Christian Egypt [2000], 15–29)
  • A. N.  Palmer and J. van Ginkel, ‘Leroy, Jules’, Dictionary of Art 19 (1996), 231–2.


How to Cite This Entry

Lucas Van Rompay, “Leroy, Jules,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Leroy-Jules.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Lucas Van Rompay, “Leroy, Jules,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 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/Leroy-Jules.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Van Rompay, Lucas. “Leroy, Jules.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. 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/Leroy-Jules.

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