Rhétoré, Jacques Yaʿqo Nukhraya, Yoḥannan bar Qushta (1841–1921)

French Dominican missionary, scholar, writer and poet in Sureth. Rhétoré entered the Dominican order in 1861, and he was ordained a priest in 1866. After having been master of the novices in Mazères (France) and having been in charge of the monastery of Corbara in Corsica, he was sent to the mission of Mosul in 1874. Between 1874 and 1879 he lived in Mar Yaʿqo, near Dehok, and then for two years in Mosul. In 1881 he joined the newly-founded mission of Van, from where he often visited the Assyrians dwelling in the mountains between Van and Mosul. He stayed in Van until 1908, but was absent between 1894 and 1897, to take up an appointment as lecturer in Chaldean and Armenian at the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem, and in 1897–98, for a short visit home to France. Between 1908 and 1911 he lived in the village of Ashitha, in the Hakkari mountains. Back in Mosul, during the First World War, Rhétoré was taken hostage by the Ottomans and interned in Mardin and Konia. He witnessed and carefully recorded the persecutions and massacres of Christians in 1915 in his Les chrétiens aux bêtes. In 1918 he stayed in Constantinople and two years later went back to Mosul, where he died on 12 March 1921.

Rhétoré regularly published letters and articles in a number of missionary periodicals. He also collected, copied, and wrote mss. in Sureth wrote grammars of Ṭuroyo, Sureth, and Armenian, and an essay on Sureth poetry. Most of this valuable material is unpublished. Like the missionaries in Urmia, he contributed to the emergence of a literary written form of the Neo-Aramaic vernacular of the Mosul region. He opted for moderately classicized spelling and vocabulary. More prescriptive than descriptive, his Grammaire de la langue Soureth is nevertheless a precious source for the knowledge of the Neo-Aramaic varieties spoken in the Mosul plain and in the Hakkari region.

In Sureth Rhétoré composed fables in verse, songs, and poems, sometimes with the assistance of the famous native poet David Kora (School of Alqosh). Rhétoré studied the traditional Dorekthā genre and himself composed a number of hymns, under the pseudonym Yaʿqo Nukhraya ‘Jacques l’Étranger’. In 1896, during his stay abroad, some of these texts were edited rather unsatisfactorily under the name of David Kora (‘Daoud l’Aveugle’) and were included in two collections of the Dominican Press. In the last years of his life, Rhétoré composed a Dorekthā ‘On the sufferings of the Christians under the Sultan Reshad’, with historical notes and commentary, using the pseudonym of Yuḥannan bar Qushta.

See Fig. 44.

    Select publications by Rhétoré

    • Recueil de chants religieux en langue chaldéenne vulgaire (Mosul, 1896; repr. 1954 and Baghdad, 1990).
    • (Daoud l’Aveugle), Fables en langue chaldéenne vulgaire (Mosul, 1896).
    • Grammaire de la langue Soureth ou Chaldéen vulgaire selon le dialecte de la plaine de Mossoul et des pays adjacents (Mosul, 1912).
    • Livre de l’enfance de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Récits versifiés en langue Soureth (Mosul, 1913).
    • Cantiques et poésies diverses sur des sujets religieux en langue Soureth (Mosul, 1914).
    • Les chrétiens aux bêtes: souvenirs de la guerre sainte proclamée par les Turcs contre les chrétiens (Paris, 2005). (IT in M. Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro: Documenti inediti sulla strage degli armeni, 1915–1916 [Milano, 2000], 95–250)

    Secondary sources

    • J.  Alichoran, ‘Un Dominicain témoin du génocide de 1915, le Père Jacques Rhétoré (1841–1921)’, in J. Rhétoré, Les chrétiens aux bêtes (Paris, 2005), 215–327.
    • J.  Alichoran, ‘Un “aventurier” de la foi catholique, le Père Jacques Rhétoré (1841–1921)’, La Vie spirituelle 86e année, n° 763, t. 160 (2006), 142–50.
    • J. F.  Coakley and D. G. K.  Taylor, ‘Syriac Books Printed at the Dominican Press, Mosul’, in Malphono w-Rabo d-Malphone, ed. G. A. Kiraz (2008), esp. 94–5 and 108–9.
    • B. Poizat, ‘Jacques l’Etranger, la vie et l’œuvre du Père Jacques Rhétoré’, Journal of the Iraqi Syriac Corporation, Baghdad 6 (1982), 536–24 (1–13).
    • B. Poizat, ‘Un manuscrit retrouvé du P. Jacques Rhétoré’, in Studi afroasiatici, ed. A. Mengozzi (2005), 413–23. (on p. 422 a list of published and unpublished works by Rhétoré)

How to Cite This Entry

Alessandro Mengozzi , “Rhétoré, Jacques,” 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/Rhetore-Jacques.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Alessandro Mengozzi , “Rhétoré, Jacques,” 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/Rhetore-Jacques.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Mengozzi, Alessandro. “Rhétoré, Jacques.” 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/Rhetore-Jacques.

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