CHRISTIAN SURVIVALS NUBIAN
The people of NUBIA adhered to the Coptic Christian faith from the time of their conversion in the sixth century (see NUBIA, EVANGELIZATION OF) until nearly the end of the fifteenth century. At that time the Christian Nubian kingdoms were destroyed through a combination of internal weakness, nomad Arab migrations, and Mamluk intervention.
Effective political power passed to Arab tribal shaykhs, and at the same time contact between the Nubian Christian communities and the Coptic patriarchate was broken. Gradually the people adopted the Islamic faith of their new rulers, and the numerous churches of Nubia fell into ruin. There were reported to be surviving communities of Christians in Nubia as late as the eighteenth century, but there are none today.
Nevertheless, traces of the earlier faith can still be observed in the folk religious practices of the Nubians. Among them are a form of baptism; an Easter ritual involving early morning ablution in the Nile, followed by marking the sign of the cross on house walls; and the frequent invocation of Mary and the angels by women in childbirth. In some areas the Latin term angeles is still in use. Christian survivals are reported also among Nubian tribal peoples in the western Sudan (see NUBIANS), though it is not certain that these people were ever officially converted.
- Kronenberg, A., and W. Kronenberg. “Preliminary Report on Anthropological Field-Work 1961-62 in Sudanese Nubia.” Kush 11 (1963):304, 311.
- . “Preliminary Report on Anthropological Field-Work in Sudanese Nubia, 1962-63.” Kush 12 (1964):285-86.
- Vantini, G. Christianity in the Sudan, pp. 208-215. Bologna, 1981.
WILLIAM Y. ADAMS