Derwas James Chitty

Not long ago a friend gave me a large collection of Orthodox publications, including a number of editions of the “Eastern Churches Review”. Volume VI Number 1 (Spring 1974) focuses on the life and work of the remarkable scholar, Derwas James Chitty (1901-1971), author of “The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire” [Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1966; St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1977].
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“Derwas James Chitty (1901-1971) was an English Anglican priest and member of the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius. He was known as a writer on the spirituality of the Greek Orthodox tradition.
After a childhood in the country rectory of Hanwood, Shropshire, an education at Winchester where he and his brother were Scholars, and at New College, Oxford, followed by 2 years at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, in 1929 he and his friend Michael Markoff excavated the Monastery of St. Euthymius in the Judaean wilderness. In 1931 he became Rector of Upton near Didcot, 15 miles from Oxford, in what was then Berkshire, where he remained until 1968. In 1943 he married the archaeologist Mary Kitson Clark whose Gazetteer of Roman Remains in East Yorkshire is still in use. During the Second World War he was a Chaplain in the Royal Navy, posted in Columbo and Bombay among other places (hence possibly the erroneous mention of India on this page previously).
He published a large number of articles and works on early Eastern Monasticism, including his magnum opus, ‘The Desert a City’.”
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“This study of early Christian monasticism by Derwas Chitty has already proved to be a classic. No other account of this vital period in the history of the monastic movement equals it for detailed scholarship combined with vivid and dynamic writing. Dr. Chitty, one of the major scholars in this period, deals with the golden age of Egyptian monasticism and describes the three founders of the movement, Anastasius, Anthony and Pachomius. He follows the development of monastic life in all its forms in Egypt to the end of the fourth century, when the center shifted to Palestine; the following chapters are devoted to accounts of the great ascetics of Palestine. The controversies surrounding the monastic movement are examined in their political and ecclesiastical aspects and the book concludes with an account of the monastic history of Mount Sinai. This book contains a wealth of material indispensable to any serious student of monasticism; it is also a book which will bring alive for any reader the great questions underlying monasticism in any age. As Dr. Chitty writes in his prologue, ‘This making a City of the Wilderness was no mere flight…it was rooted in a stark realism of faith in God and acceptance of the battle which is not against flesh and blood… Has it not its challenge for today?’”

This issue of “Eastern Churches Review” also contains a paper by Chitty: “The Books of the Old Men” (a study of the sayings of the Desert Fathers); and several other fascinating papers: Jean-Claude Guy “Educational Innovation in the Desert Fathers”, and Antoine Guillaumont “The Jesus Prayer Among the Monks of Egypt”


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