Yosip Audo (1790-1878), ‘Patriarch of Babylon’ 1847-78, was primate of the Eastern-rite Catholic church known as the Chaldean Church, in what is now Iraq. Audo is remembered in church history for his repeated attempts – always frustrated by Rome – to assert his jurisdiction over the ‘Syro-Malabar’ church in India. As a literary figure, Audo is less well known. As a young monk he had copied Syriac manuscripts, and about five of these survive in the Middle East.
Our new acquisition, MS Syriac 192, is a sixth manuscript from Audo’s hand, and the only one recorded in a western library. It was written out by him in 1848, after he had become patriarch. The manuscript is surprising in several respects. It contains a collection of hymns for the feast of Corpus Christi, a western Catholic feast that must have been quite new among the Chaldeans – a liturgical innovation, indeed, that someone with Audo’s reputation might have been expected to resist. The text of the hymns is in Arabic in Syriac letters (known as Karshuni). We know about a set of hymns for Corpus Christi by the 18th-century Syrian Catholic patriarch Mīkhāʾīl Jarwah, and probably that is what Audo has copied. But if so, he took it from a manuscript in the West Syriac script, and copied it into his own East Syriac script. Karshuni in the East Syriac script is very rare and must have looked strange to local readers, if there were any.
Pictured above is the last page of the manuscript, showing the end of the Arabic text and the colophon in Syriac naming the scribe as Yosip Audo Patriarch of Babel, and giving the date Mosul 21 May 1848. (Click on the image to see it in more detail.)
f MS Syriac 192. Purchased with the Daniel D. Chabris Book Fund and the Stanley Marcus Fund. Image may not be used without permission. This post was kindly contributed by Houghton manuscript cataloger Chip Coakley.
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