Anthology of Old Russian Literature

By Adolf Stender-Petersen | Go to book overview
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HAGIOGRAPHY
Whereas Old Kievan hagiography, in the main, preserved the simple and pragmatic style of its classical Old Byzantine models, Muscovite hagiographical literature developed in other directions, which can best be designated as popular and official hagiography. Both of these deviated from their Old Kievan predecessor, the former in respect to theme, the latter in form.Popular hagiography had its roots in the Old Kievan tradition of simplicity and factuality, but acquired a very distinct novelistic trait in placing the main emphasis upon action and plot, frequently of folk origin; it was a specifically narrative genre.Official hagiography, on the other hand, was derived from the New Byzantine style and its South Slavic branch. During the fourteenth century Byzantine and South Slavic hagiography had passed through the new school of rhetorical and lyrical methods in which emphasis was placed on the panegyrical glorification of the heroes of the Church rather than on the factual data concerning their lives. This new approach soon became the distinguishing mark of all Muscovite literature and was intended as a literary symbol of the grandeur of the tsardom of Muscovia. It completely overshadowed popular hagiography which only later influenced the novelistic art of New Muscovite hagiography.The following texts are illustrative of both genres:
Popular hagiography:
The anonymous Life of St. Mercurius of Smolensk
The anonymous Life of Peter, Prince of Murom, and His Wife Fevronia.
Official hagiography:
The Life of Peter, First Metropolitan of Moscow by Metropolitan Cyprian
The Life of St. Stefan of Perm' by Epiphanius the Sage
The Life of St. Sergius of Radoneǩ1 by Epiphanius the Sage
The Life and Death of Dimitrij, Tsar of Russia, whose author, generally regarded as unknown, was in all likelihood also Epiphanius the Sage.

THE LIFE OF ST. MERCURIUS OF SMOLENSK

The sainthood of Mercurius was not recognized officially in Smolensk before the end of the fifteenth century. On the occasion of his canonization, his legendary

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