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Hagiography

 

One of the main types of literature in the sixteenth century was still hagiography, the vitae. The sixteenth century saw the canonisation by the RussianChurch of many persons who had formerly been worshipped only in certain areas and principalities, and also a number of churchmen of the recent past.

The sixteenth-century vitae have survived in separate texts, in miscellanies and, most characteristic of this period, in large compilations—paterica and The Great Menology. Many of the vitae in this period were about the founders of monasteries in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Many sixteenth-century hagiographical works are linked with the Volokolamsk Monastery, the founder of which, Joseph of Volokolamsk, was the main “denouncer” of Novgorodian and Muscovite heresy. The Volokolamsk vitae were assembled in a special compilation of “tales of the former fathers” of the Borovsk and Volokolamsk monasteries, known as The Volokolamsk Patericon.

It was compiled by Joseph of Volokolamsk’s nephew and supporter, the writer and icon-painter Dositheos Toporkov.8

The hagiographical traditions of the Josephites, Joseph of Volokolamsk’s followers, were continued by Metropolitan Macarius. Macarius was originally a monk in the Borovsk Monastery where Joseph also began his activity. The Great Menology, compiled under his guidance, as we already know, was intended to encompass the whole range of people’s reading in the sixteenth century, but it was based on vitae. Moreover, in spite of its size The Great Menology by no means included all the vitae known in Russian literature up to the sixteenth century. The compilers of The Great Menology clearly gave preference to “ornate” Lives, such as those written in the fifteenth century by Pachomius the Logothete. The fifteenth-century Life of St Michael of Klopsk, written in a style uncommon in hagiography, was considerably revised by one of the redactors of The Great Menology, Vasily Tuchkov; its unexpected beginning was replaced by the traditional hagiographical introduction, etc.9

Apart from the vitae included in The Volokolamsk Patericon and The Great Menology, others continued to be created and transcribed separately. Thus, separate miscellanies have preserved The Life of Peter of the Horde, radically revised in The Great Menology. It was in the sixteenth century that the extant redaction of such a fine work of Old Russian literature as the Life of SS Peter and Febronia was made.

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