Euchologia-Project: Byzantine Prayer Books as Sources for Social History

(FWF Project P 28219-G25)


Codex Scylitzes Matritensis, BNE, Vitr. 26-2, f. 85r (detail): Adelphopoiesis, use of an euchologion
(Facsimile edition. Scientific consultant: Agamemnon Tselikas. Athens: Militos 2000)

The “small prayers” contained in Byzantine euchologia address the private life and concerns of all levels of society, regardless of social and economic status and also regardless of gender.

Several individual research projects demonstrate the potential of this source material, especially when used in conjunction with other normative or prescriptive texts, such as canon and imperial law, or when juxtaposed to narrative texts such as hagiography and historiography: prayers for specific historical situations (E. Schiffer), the organization of education within an ecclesiastical framework (I. Nesseris), the experience of women in pregnancy and childbirth (E. Afentoulidou), the formation of social relations through a shared spiritual purpose (C. Rapp). A further project engages with issue of how the manuscript transmission of euchologia reflects the textual, regional communities they serve (G. Rossetto, uni:docs funding).

Database of Prayer Books

The project will generate the first-ever database of prayer books in manuscript form until ca. 1650, in a fully searchable, open access format. Since the material is largely unedited, it is essential to engage in extensive manuscript studies in order the lay the foundation for a classification of prayer texts and prayer purposes.

The database is designed to facilitate potential future research in other areas as well, such as liturgical studies. All prayers receive tags (in English), noting their purpose and intent, in order to allow specific searches.

The foundation for the database has already been laid, with the entry of over 500 euchologia manuscripts as of spring 2017. For many of them not only the date, but also the place of copying and the location history is known. This list is continually expanded with the aim of creating a geographical and chronological matrix upon which the euchologia of unknown provenance and date can be grafted