Portal:Eastern Christianity

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The Eastern Christianity Portal

Andrei Rublev's famous icon of the Trinity.


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.

Selected article

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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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Credit: Arild Vågen

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

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Anna of Kashin, icon about 1910

Selected biography

A millennium-old Byzantine mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia
Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347–407, Greek: Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος), archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death (or, according to some sources, during his life) he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning "golden mouthed", rendered in English as Chrysostom.

The Eastern Orthodox Church honors him as a saint (feast days: November 13 and January 27) and count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs (feast day, January 30), together with Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. Churches of the Western tradition, including some Anglican provinces and parts of the Lutheran Church, commemorate him on September 13. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria recognizes John Chrysostom as a saint (feast days: 16 Thout and 17 Hathor).

Chrysostom is known in Christianity chiefly as a preacher, theologian and liturgist, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Among his sermons, eight directed against the Jews remain controversial for their impact on the development of Christian antisemitism.

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