Thursday, May 31, 2012

Contemporary Christian Arabic Paper Ephemera from Akko

While walking along the sea-facing ramparts of old Akko, I passed by an unassuming brown door with a red cross on it; the guidebook and maps didn't list it as a site to visit, but after considering my options for a few moments, I decided to cover my shoulders with my shawl and try the door. I could hear music inside. And I figured that whatever happened, it wouldn't be worse than the time I got trapped in the Mozarab Mass in the cathedral of Toledo (a story for another time).  It was the church of St. John built during the Ottoman period over the site of the Crusader church of St. Andrew.

When I entered the church, there were two children having a music lesson, taught by a woman playing a synthesizer; they were singing hymns and other religious songs. I arrived just in time for a rousing chorus of "uḥibbuka, yā rabbī yesū'."It was lovely, and so I sat in the back pew for a while and listened and followed along on a printed page of the songs, copies of which were spread along all the pews. I knew I'd get exactly one shot at a photograph, and this was the result:

Before leaving, my attention was grabbed by a small table with cards containing different prayers and requests for interdiction by saints. They are Christian texts written in modern standard Arabic rather than texts written in Christian Arabic, but I found them interesting nonetheless.

The hymnal from which the children were singing, recto and verso:

A benediction:

A prayer card for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, recto and verso:

And another one for St. Jean-Marie de Vianney, recto and verso:

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