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Hagiography

 

The hagiographical works of the latter half of the fifteenth century are closely linked with those of the preceding period. The traditions of Epiphanius the Most Wise were continued by hagiographers throughout the century; one of the most important representatives of this tradition, Pachomius the Logothete, con­tinued to write until the end of the century. The latter half of the fifteenth century, however, is marked by certain new features in hagiographical literature not found in the preceding period.

In the latter half of the fifteenth century we find, on the one hand, “unadorned” vitae that appear to have been written by people who actually witnessed the lives of eminent churchmen, as material for hagiography, and, on the other hand, vitae-cum-tales that are based on the stories and legends of the oral tradition.

The record of the last days of Paphnutius, abbot of the Borovsk Monastery, written by his servant Innocentius, is an example of the first type.

It is an ingenious, lively, authentic account of the sickness and death of the founder and abbot of a large monastery closely connected with the grand prince. Wordly concerns have not entirely left this powerful and active old man, but he already senses that ahead lies “another matter … that brooks no delay”, the destruction of the union of body and soul. People still come to see him on business; he already has no desire to receive visitors, but the humble Innocentius is

intimidated by the influential personages and keeps bothering the old man with their requests. “What are you thinking of?” Paphnutius exclaims irritatedly and not at all “meekly” (as befitted a saint). “You won’t give me a single hour’s rest from this world!” For sixty years, Paphnutius says, he has tried to please “the world and worldly folk, the princes and the boyars”, “interfering” in their affairs. “And to what avail I do not know. Now I have understood that all this is of no avail to me!” 16

This figure of the dying old man has the authenticity of a “human document” created by someone who is undoubtedly a gifted writer, but does not observe the hagiographical canons. Innocentius’ ability to discern and record lively details and speech was most important for the literature of later periods, not only hagiographical, but also historical and narrative.

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