As components of the church ceremonial, liturgical hymns were an integral part of the spiritual, intellectual, and aesthetic experience of the Byzantines. However, both their theological contents and linguistic expression could raise problems of understanding, which led to the rise of scholarly texts meant to interpret them, in the form of lexica, paraphrases, scholia, and proper commentaries. These could serve either private study, or institutionalized forms of learning. The present project will focus on the three treatises on liturgical hymns composed by the prolific Late Byzantine author Nikephoros Kallistou Xanthopoulos (d. ca. 1335), best known as the author of an Ecclesiastical History.
The project aims to address Xanthopoulos’ treatises on hymns especially as witnesses to aspects of education and scholarship in Byzantium, and thus to unlock for the first time in a comprehensive case-study the potential of such commentaries for a better understanding of Byzantine contexts of transmission of knowledge. In this sense, the project will focus on: a) the author at work: his complex use of sources, his exegetical methods and literary-critical terminology; his voice as a commentator and relation to his audience; b) the texts within the literary genre of commentary in Byzantium; c) the manuscripts transmitting Xanthopoulos’ treatises as complex sociocultural objects, revealing information on how the texts circulated, and were read and studied by generations of users.
Maria-Lucia Goiana (Project leader)
Claudia Rapp (Project mentor)