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SIR BANI YAS CHURCH AND MONASTRY

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ANCIENT SYMBOL OF FAITH

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Buried for centuries, a church and monastery discovered in 1992 on Sir Bani Yas Island illuminates the evidence for early Christianity in the region.
In the early 1990s a church, a monastery and a series of courtyard houses were discovered on the eastern side of Sir Bani Yas Island. Dating to the 7th and 8th centuries CE, these buildings are the earliest known evidence for Christianity in the UAE. The church was identified by the presence of plaster crosses and its plan, which resembles ancient churches known from elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf. 
The Church 1

ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS

Hundreds of artefacts found at the site reveal that the people exploited the sea for food and also kept cattle, sheep, and goat. Glass and ceramic objects indicate that the inhabitants of the settlement traded widely across the Arabian Gulf and into the Indian Ocean. 

 

The most important finds are plaster stucco fragments that originally decorated the outside and inside of the church. Finer plaster stucco panels were used within the interiors of the church as decorative and architectural design elements.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT
In written sources, Christianity is well-attested in the Arabian Gulf region until the late 7th century CE. Similar churches to that found on Sir Bani Yas are known from other areas in the Arabian Gulf. It is believed all these places were linked by trade and monasticism and were part of the Church of the East.

 

The church and monastery continued to exist after Islam became the dominant religion in the region in the 7th century CE. This reflects the belief in tolerance and acceptance practised by the early Islamic leaders of the time. This tradition of tolerance and acceptance continues today in the UAE.


THE FUTURE
In 2015-2016, the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi completed a conservation management plan for the church site as part of a wider site management plan for Sir Bani Yas Island. The plan achieves a better understanding of the significance and historic context of the site.

 

Did You Know ?

A burial was found near the entrance to the church, although not well preserved, it may have been the remains of someone who was an important member of the community.

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Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Dhafra

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