The Miracle of Pilgrimage: A Coptic Journey to the Holy Land During the Ottoman Period

7 March, 2024

We are deeply honoured to welcome Professor Febe Armanios, Professor of History at Middlebury College, USA, to lead the Eastern Christianity in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group.

Here are the details of this fascinating event.

Title: The Miracle of Pilgrimage: A Coptic Journey to the Holy Land during the Ottoman Period

Abstract: The pilgrimage to Jerusalem constituted one of the most critical and public manifestations of Christian religious expression within the Ottoman world. The execution of this practice among Egypt’s Coptic Christians in the early eighteenth century—costly and precarious as it was—reveals a moment when lay and clerical leaders negotiated with each other and with religious and political authorities, from Egypt to Ottoman Palestine, to preserve this cherished ritual. This talk focuses on one early eighteenth-century text drawn from Coptic archives, which details the logistical preparations for making this journey and the feelings of spiritual edification that Ottoman-era Copts experienced through this ritual. On this occasion, Coptic lay elders (or archons) negotiated with local powerholders, supplied necessary provisions, gave alms to the poor, and paid requisite fees for the journey. In his spiritual capacity, the Coptic patriarch blessed villagers, led pilgrims in prayer, and interfaced with other Christian leaders in Jerusalem. For Coptic Christians, the pilgrimage rejuvenated their faith and allowed them to experience a palpable sense of community inside and beyond Egypt.

Speaker: Professor Febe Armanios, Professor in History at Middlebury College, USA.

Speaker’s Biography: Professor Febe Armanios teaches Middle East history at Middlebury College. She specializes in the history of Christian communities in the Middle East, with a strong focus on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Her work is grounded in historical and contemporary examinations of comparative religious practices, including pietistic rituals, food traditions, and media expression. She is the author of Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt (Oxford UP, 2011) and co-author with Boğaç Ergene of Halal Food: A History (Oxford UP, 2018). Currently, she is completing a book-length project titled Satellite Ministries: The Rise of Christian Television in the Middle East. For her research, she has been awarded fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Luce Foundation-ACLS, among others. She’s been a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Williams College, and has served on the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Middle East Studies. Over the span of two decades, she has emerged as a sought-after public speaker and international expert in various academic, media, political, and legal settings.

Chair: Professor Sebastian Brock, FBA, University of Oxford, UK

Date: 7 March, 2024.

Time: 17:00-18:00 GMT | 9:00-10:00 PST | 12:00-13:00 EST

Venue: Online

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