RABBAN ŠĀPUR, East Syrian monk (7th century CE).

The main source concerning Rabban Šāpur is the Chronicle of Seert (LIV, Scher, 1919, II/2, pp. 459 [139]-461 [141]; see Chabot, 1896, p. 30, no. 55; Gismondi, 1897, p. 57-58). We learn the name of Šāpur’s village in Beth Huzāye (see AHWAZ i. HISTORY) was Ad-Dolāb. After completing his studies, he became a teacher in the school at Dayr-Mihraq; then he went to Šuštar (see KARUN RIVER i) with seven companions. During a pilgrimage—probably to Egypt or Ṭur ʿAbdin (see NISIBIS)—he stopped off at Kaškar at the monastery of Rabban Ḥaïa, a famous monk and disciple of Mār Abraham of Izla; there, he was given the rule of the Great monastery (Scher, 1919, II/2, p. 453 [133]), and he decided to establish his own convent back in Ḵuzestān, in the mountains of Šuštar. He evangelized the pagan populations designated as al-Akrād (on this term, see ʿAŠĀYER) in the surrounding areas (Scher, 1919, II/2, pp. 460 [140]-461 [141]).

According to ʿAmr Ibn Mattaï (14th century), John Bar Martha, and Isaac, bishop-to-be of Karkā-d-Ledān, were his first disciples (Gismondi, 1897, pp. 57-58; Scher, 1919, II/2, p. 460 [140]). Others, sometimes well-known, can be mentioned: Rabban Xvadāhoy, who was the superior of the great convent of Beth Ḥāle (Chabot, 1896, p. 45, no. 78; Scher, 1919, II/2, p. 590 [270]); Malkišoʿ, who built the New monastery near Beth Lapaṭ (Scher 1919, II/2, p. 634 [314]; Chabot, 1896, p. 52, no. 98; Gismondi, 1897, p. 55; Braun, 1914-1915, pp. 75-76; see Fiey, 1969, p. 248); Rabban Makkiha, the founder of the convent of Beth Nišar near Kaškar (Chabot, 1896, p. 42, no. 73; p. 51, no. 95; p. 53, no. 100; Scher, 1919, II/2, p. 599 [279]; Scher, 1919, II/2, p. 599 [279]). Rabban Šāpur’s fondation has to be distinguished from a homonymous one, situated in ʿĀqula on the west bank of the Euphrates (Kufa, south of Baghdad, Nau, 1909, p. 78). We learn from the The Book of the Founders that it was built on the remains of an ancient temple of idols, near the town of Šuštar (Chabot, 1896, p. 35, no. 55). J. M. Fiey identifies the place with Dayr Ḥamim mentioned in the Arab sources (Fiey, 1969, p. 247, n. 126).

The monastery of Rabban-Šāpur was a masterpiece among the monastic establishments reformed in accordance with Abraham of Kaškar’s (d. 588) rules and had a noteworthy influence in the Persian Gulf, Fārs, and Beth Huzāye during the 7th century. It played an important role in the settlement of East Syrian monasteries in these areas. Very famous monks from Beth Qaṭrāye sojourned or were trained there: Dādišoʿ Qaṭrāya (second half of the 7th century), Rabban Bar Sahde (ca. 735); when the bishop of Nineveh and mystical author Isaac the Syrian (ca. 640-700) resigned from his episcopal functions, he went to Rabban-Šāpur, where he eventually died.

This convent was also a Christian center of resistance in southern Iran during the crisis which occurred in the Gulf territories during the Arab conquest; when the number of apostasies and renunciations increased among Christians, East Syrian monks were very valuable supporters of Išoʿyahb III’s patriarchate policy (649-659) of unity: the monks acted as a relay of the catholicosal authority so as to extend the hierarchical power in provinces where it was contested, as in Fārs and Beth Qaṭrāyē (Fiey, 1969, pp. 305-33; 1970, pp. 5-46; Jullien, 2006, pp. 345-46). The encounters of the catholicos with Rabban Šāpur (Scher, 1919, II/2, p. 460 [140]; Jullien, 2006, pp. 345-46) at this time might be indicative of their making common cause in sustaining the faith of church members.



O. Braun, Timothei patriarchae epistulae I, CSCO 74-75, Script. Syr. 30-31, Rome and Paris, 1914-1915.

J.-B. Chabot, Le livre de la chasteté composé par Jésusdenah, évêque de Baçrah, Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire 16, Rome, 1896.

S.Chialà, Isacco di Ninive. Terza Collezione, CSCO 637-638, Script. syr. 246-47, Louvain, 2011.

F. Del Rio Sanchez, Los cinco tratados sobre la quietud (šelyā) de Dādīšō‘ Qaṭrāyā, Aula Orientalis, Supplementa 18, Barcelona, 2001.

R. Duval, Išō‘yahb patriarchae III Liber epistularum, CSCO 11-12, Script. Syr. 11-12, Paris, 1904-05.

J. M. Fiey, “L’Elam, la première des métropoles ecclésiastiques syriennes-orientales,” Melto 5, 1969, pp. 221-267.

H. Gismondi,  Maris, Amri et Slibae De patriarchis nestorianorum commentaria, Pars Prior, Rome, 1899; Pars altera, Rome, 1897.

F. Jullien, “Rabban-Šāpur, un monastère au rayonnement exceptionnel. La réforme d'Abraham de Kaškar dans le Beth-Huzāye,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 72, 2006, pp. 333-48.

Eadem, “Le charisme au service de la hiérarchie : les moines et le catholicos Īšōʿyahb III. Regard sur la crise sécessioniste du Fārs au VIIe siècle,” in D. Aigle, ed., Les autorités religieuses entre charismes et hiérarchie. Approches comparatives, Miroir de l’Orient musulman 1, Turnhout, 2011, pp. 41-51.

Eadem, “Xvadāhoy de Bēth-Ḥālé. Un développement du monachisme réformé à Ḥīra?” Aram 21, 2009, pp. 515-35.

F. Nau, Histoires d'Aḥoudemmeh et de Marouta, métropolitains jacobites de Tagrit et de l'Orient, Patrologia Orientalis 3, Paris, 1909.

A. Scher, Histoire nestorienne inédite (Chronique de Séert) II/2, Patrologia Orientalis 13, Paris, 1919.


(Florence Jullien)

Originally Published: October 29, 2015

Last Updated: October 29, 2015

Cite this entry:

Florence Jullien, “RABBAN ŠĀPUR,” Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/rabban-shapur (accessed on 29 October 2015).