Portal:Eastern Christianity

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The enthronement of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.


Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity.

The term is generally used in Western Christianity to describe all Christian traditions that did not develop in Western Europe. As such, the term does not describe any single communion or common religious tradition, and in fact some "Eastern" Churches have more in common historically and theologically with "Western" Christianity than with one another. The various "Eastern" Churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern," with one exception (the Church of the East).

The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with divisions in the Church mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latinate west and the political divide between the weak Western and strong Eastern Roman Empires. Because the most powerful Church in the East was what has become known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similarly loose fashion as "Eastern", although strictly speaking most Churches consider themselves part of an Orthodox and Catholic communion.

Eastern Christians do not have shared religious traditions but many of these groups have shared cultural traditions. Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). It would be many centuries later that Western Christianity fully split from these traditions as its own communion. Today there are four main branches or families of Eastern Christianity, each of which has distinct theology and dogma.

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Christian Nubia in the three states period. Makuria would later absorb Nobatia.
Makuria was a kingdom located in what is today Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt. It was one of a group of Nubian kingdoms that emerged in the centuries after the fall of the Kushite Kingdom, which had dominated the region from approximately 800 BC to AD 350. Makuria originally covered the area along the Nile River from the Third Cataract to somewhere between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts. It also had control over the trade routes, mines, and oases to the east and west. Its capital was Dongola, and the kingdom is sometimes known by the name of its capital. By the end of the 6th century it had converted to Christianity, but in the 7th century Egypt was conquered by the Islamic armies, and Nubia was cut off from the rest of Christendom. In 651 an Arab army invaded, but it was repulsed and a treaty known as the baqt was signed creating a relative peace between the two sides that lasted until the 13th century. Makuria expanded, annexing its northern neighbour Nobatia either at the time of the Arab invasion or during the reign of King Merkurios. The period from roughly 750 to 1150 saw the kingdom stable and prosperous, in what has been called the "Golden Age". Increased aggression from Egypt, and internal discord led to the state's collapse in the 14th century.

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Church of St John the Baptist Chesme, Russia
Credit: A.Savin

The Chesme Church is a small Russian Orthodox church at 12 Lensoveta Street, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was built by the Russian court architect Yury Felten in 1780, at the direction of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. A memorial church,it was erected adjacent to the Chesme Palace between Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo to commemorate the anniversary of Russia's 1770 victory over Turkish forces in Chesme Bay (Turkish: Çeşme) in the Aegean Sea during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774.

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Anna of Kashin, icon about 1910

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Constantine the Great, mosaic in Hagia Sophia, c. 1000
Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (27 February c. 272 – 22 May 337), commonly known in English as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, or (among Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and other Christians) Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306, and the undisputed holder of that office from 324 until his death in 337. Best known for being the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine reversed the persecutions of his predecessor, Diocletian, and issued (with his co-emperor Licinius) the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious toleration throughout the empire.

The Byzantine liturgical calendar, observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church and some Churches in union with Rome, lists both Constantine and his mother Helena as saints. In the West, he is revered under the title "The Great" for his contributions to Christianity. Constantine also transformed the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium into a new imperial residence, Constantinople, which would remain the capital of the Byzantine Empire for over a thousand years.

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