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Sacred Landscapes in Late Byzantium

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SLLB (Sacred Landscapes in Late Byzantium)

Período documentado: 2018-02-01 hasta 2020-01-31

This project investigated a little-studied corpus of saints’ lives composed by the late-Byzantine man of letters Philotheos Kokkinos (ca. 1300–1378), with a threefold focus on: 1) the literary creation of sacred space in fourteenth-century Byzantium; 2) Kokkinos’ attitude(s) towards and representation(s) of women in his hagiographic works; and 3) the textual transmission of his saints’ lives. Additionally, the project included the preparation of critical editions for two hitherto unedited hagiographic texts composed by Kokkinos, namely his discourse (logos) on All the Saints (BHG 1617g) and his discourse (logos) on the Twelve Apostles (BHG 160h). Kokkinos was instrumental in the breakthrough of the contemporary theology of hesychasm, which distinguished between God’s inaccessible essence and His divine activities. While previous research has mainly focused on his activity as patriarch and analysed fragments of his hagiographic work, especially the Life he composed for Gregory Palamas (BHG 718), this research project has aimed to contribute to a better understanding of his hagiographic corpus, as well as to research on spatial paradigms and practices in late Byzantium.
The project began with an analysis of the mobility and spatiality embedded by Kokkinos in the vitae he composed for five contemporaneous figures: Nikodemos the Younger (BHG 2307), Sabas the Younger (BHG 1606), Isidore I Boucheir (BHG 962), Germanos Maroules (BHG 2164), and Gregory Palamas (BHG 718). Based on a close reading of the source material, digital maps of the holy men’s mobility within and beyond Byzantium were created. These served the purpose of charting the coordinates of Kokkinos’ sacred landscape or hagio-geography and the extent to which it overlapped with or extended beyond the political borders of the fourteenth-century shrunken Byzantium. Moreover, the project explored the spatial background of hesychast experiences, looking at the ways in which space was perceived, experienced and how it amplified, hindered or otherwise influenced hesychast spiritual practice and experience. Results indicate that late-Byzantine holy men achieved hesychia not only in solitude, but also as part of a monastic community, both in an urban environment and outside of it, apparently free of the constraints of a specific type of natural or social setting. As part of this line of inquiry, the researcher created maps of the locations in which holy men practiced hesychia, thus identifying several “heated” areas of hesychast practice: Mount Athos, especially its southern tip, the Holy Land and the urban centres of Constantinople and Thessalonike, as well as their outskirts. This spatial diversity has significant implications for the relevance and wider diffusion of hesychasm, a doctrine which has remained at the core of the Greek orthodox faith to the present day. To facilitate research and exchange on the themes of mobility, space and spiritual experience in Byzantium, the researcher organized two academic events under the auspices of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University: an international workshop on Holiness on the Move: Travelling Saints in Byzantium (February 22, 2019, and a two-day international conference on Sacred Space in Byzantium: Construction, Experience and Representation (September 20–21, 2019,

The second line of inquiry of the project focused on Kokkinos’ attitude(s) towards and representation(s) of women, adding a gender dimension to the investigation of his hagiographic works. Although women often appear in hagiography as miracle beneficiaries, family members or other characters, the way in which they are depicted and their roles in the narrative have been understudied. Kokkinos’ vitae offer a wealth of detail regarding female characters which is worthy of investigation. In particular, the miracle accounts embedded in the vitae reveal a gendered pattern of emotional response to sickness and death, which varies in range, depth and variety according to the gender of the character.

Finally, the third line of inquiry traced the active involvement of Kokkinos in the process of copying and publishing his writings, as well as his habits of reading, editing and annotating his ‘author’s editions’ and other collections of patristic texts. The results indicate that Kokkinos deployed and collaborated closely with a number of prolific scribes in order to copy his works in manuscripts and ensure their transmission to posterity. The analysis carried out and the autopsy of a number of manuscripts carrying his works, as well as texts of Church fathers housed in research libraries throughout Europe, helped the researcher advance the knowledge on Kokkinos’ library, habits of reading, commenting and textual criticism of patristic texts. Moreover, it brought to light novel identifications of Kokkinos’ hand in several Byzantine codices. Additionally, this research project provided the framework for the preparation of critical editions for two of Kokkinos’ hagiographic texts, which have remained among his last hitherto unedited works: the discourse (logos) on All the Saints (BHG 1617g) and the discourse (logos) on the Twelve Apostles (BHG 160h).
This project aimed to contribute to research on spatial paradigms and practices in late Byzantium and advance the state of research on the production, experience and representation of sacred space in Byzantium and the wider Mediterranean. To this end, the researcher organized two events targeted at the academic community specialized in researching space and mobility in the Byzantine world. The international workshop Holiness on the Move: Travelling Saints in Byzantium (February 22, 2019) and the two-day international conference Sacred Space in Byzantium: Construction, Experience and Representation organized within the framework of the research project have fostered collaboration and exchange between Newcastle University faculty and international scholars working in different subfields of Byzantine studies and promoted excellence in research by gathering world class experts at Newcastle University from leading universities in the field of Byzantine studies across Europe and North America. Moreover, the events will result in the production of two high-quality academic publications in the form of two edited volumes to be published with prestigious university presses. The results of the research conducted as part of this project and the insights gained were communicated to specialized audiences in the UK, Europe and the United States through conference presentations, invited talks and seminar papers.