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icles of the Eastern Patriarchate, texts by Bar Hebraeus and the Unknown Edessan, an important document from Sultan Abdul Hamid recognizing the authority and influence of the Chaldean patriarch . . .

Reading Father Charbel’s letter, Father Joseph was overcome by gloom and sadness and felt that some part of his city’s history had departed along with the burned books and would never return. He wrote to Father Charbel, asking him to come to the Monastery of the Icons, and to try and save what volumes and manuscripts he could through restoration.

Then he asked him to establish a library in the monastery, which boasted a collection of the most important early works. Father Charbel continued to upgrade the library, asking Lebanese, Arab and Western publishers to donate a single copy of all their titles, and families even began to donate the collections of deceased relatives. Charbel dedicated himself to restoring the books and manuscripts. He even asked the monks and nuns to read them and to memorize sections of the Holy Book, the Lord’s Prayer, and the greater part of Psalms, and made novices learn the “ascetic’s ABC”: the virtues and duties of the monastic life. As for free time, the monks were obliged to spend it in reading from the Holy Book, which was memorized, by and large, and compulsory at the monastery. While telling us about something written in one the manuscripts he suddenly burst out laughing: “A funny story!”

Then he fell silent. “And what is the story, Father Charbel?” asked the monks and nuns.

His hands waved and gesticulated. “The physician to Caliph Abu Jaafar Al-Mansur . . . Do you know who he was? He was the Nestorian Jurjis bin Jibril, who cured the Caliph of a chronic illness which had played havoc with his stomach. Upon being rewarded he delivered a famous speech in the Caliph’s presence in Farsi and Arabic. The Caliph permitted him to drink alcohol and, when he learned that the physician was intending to depart to Elam to visit his wife, who had grown old and housebound, Al-Mansur sent him three thousand dinars and three Byzantine slave girls in the care of the eunuch, Salem. But Jurjis returned the girls to the Caliph, saying: ‘O Commander of the Faithful, these girls

32 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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