Hagiography

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'''Hagiography''' is the study of [[saint]]s. It comes from the Greek words ''agios''and ''graphos'' = "holy writing" or "writing about the holy (ones)".
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'''Hagiography''' is the writing of [[saint]]s' lives. It comes from the Greek words ''αγιος'' and ''γραφη'' = "holy writing" or "writing about the holy (ones)."
  
*A ''hagiography'' refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy persons; and specifically, the [[biography]] of [[ecclesiastic]]al and [[secular]] leaders, [[canonize]]d by the [[Christian Church]].  
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*''Hagiography'' refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy persons; specifically, the biographies of persons publicly [[Glorification|glorified]] (canonized) by the Church.  
  
 
*''Hagiology'', by contrast, is the study of saints collectively, without focusing on the life of an individual saint.
 
*''Hagiology'', by contrast, is the study of saints collectively, without focusing on the life of an individual saint.
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 +
==Hagiography as a form of biography==
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Hagiography is unlike other forms of biography in that it does not necessarily attempt to give a full, historical account of the life of an individual saint.  Rather, the purpose of hagiography is [[soteriology|soteriological]]—that is, the life of the saint is written so that it might have a salvific effect on those who encounter it.
 +
 +
As such, hagiography often fails to include details which are standard for most biographical works, such as birthdate, childhood, career, and so forth.  Rather, the details included are those which pertain to the saint's life as an [[icon]] of Christ, as one who points us to the abundant life available from our Lord.
 +
 +
The secondary purpose of hagiography is to glorify persons in whom Christ has powerfully worked.  Therefore, one often can notice a dearth of mention of the saint's sins in this life.  Sometimes, those sins are mentioned (as with St. [[Mary of Egypt]] or the Prophet King [[David]]) so that their great repentance can be demonstrated, but other times, hagiography includes no mention of the saint's sins at all.  This character of the genre should not be understood as propaganda—after all, it is axiomatic that only Christ is without sin—but rather that such details are not germane to the purpose of hagiography.
  
 
==Development of hagiography==
 
==Development of hagiography==
 +
Hagiography comprised an important literary genre in the early millennia of the Church, providing informational history as well as inspirational stories and legends. A hagiographic account of an individual saint is often referred to as a ''vita'' or ''life''. 
 +
 +
The genre of lives of the [[saint]]s first came into being in the [[Roman Empire]] as collections of traditional accounts of Christian [[martyr]]s, called [[martyrologies]]. In the 4th century, there were 3 main types of catalogues of lives of the saints:
 +
 +
*''Menaion'', an annual calendar catalogue (in Greek, ''menaios'' means "month") (biographies of the saints to be read at [[sermon]]s)
 +
*''Synaxarion'', or a short version of lives of the saints, arranged by dates
 +
*''Paterikon'' (in Greek, ''pater'' means "father"), or biography of the specific saints, chosen by the catalogue compiler
  
Hagiography comprised an important [[literature|literary]] [[genre]] in the early millennia of the [[Christianity|Christian]] [[church]], providing informational [[history]] as well as inspirational stories and [[legend]]s. A hagiographic account of an individual saint can comprise a [[vita]].   
+
In Western Europe hagiography was one of the more important areas in the study of history during the Middle Ages. The ''Golden Legend'' of Jacob de Voragine compiled a great deal of mediæval hagiographic material, with a strong emphasis on miracle tales.   
  
The [[genre]] of lives of the [[saint]]s first came into being in the [[Roman Empire]] as [[legend]]s about [[Christian]] [[martyr]]s and were called [[martyrologies]]. In the [[4th century]], there were 3 main types of [[catalog]]s of lives of the saints:
+
In the 10th century, the work of St. [[Simeon Metaphrastes]]—an Orthodox [[monk]] who had been a secretary of state—marked a major development and codification of the genre. His ''Menologion'' (catalogue of lives of the saints), compiled at the request of Emperor [[Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus]] while Simeon was still a civil servant, became the standard for all of the Western and Eastern hagiographers.  Over the years, hagiography as a genre absorbed a number of narrative plots and poetic images (often of pre-Christian origin, such as dragon fighting etc.), mediaeval [[parable]]s, short stories and anecdotes.  Simeon's contribution was to collect these saints' lives from written and oral traditions, copying directly from some sources and reworking others, then arranging them in order of the saints' feast days.
  
*[[annual]] [[calendar]] catalog, or ''menaion'' (in [[Greek]], "menaios" means "month") (biographies of the saints to be read at [[sermon]]s);
+
The genre of lives of the saints was brought to Russia by the South Slavs together with writing and also in translations from the Greek language. In the 11th century, the Russians began to compile the original life stories of the first Russian saints. In the 16th century, Metropolitan Macarius expanded the list of the Russian saints and supervised the compilation of their life stories. They would all be compiled in the so called ''Velikiye chet'yi-minei'' catalogue (Великие Четьи-Минеи, or "Grand monthly readings"), consisting of 12 volumes in accordance with each month of the year.
*''synaxarion'', or a short [[version]] of lives of the saints, arranged by dates;
+
*''paterikon'' (in Greek, "pater" means "father"), or biography of the specific saints, chosen by the catalog compiler.  
+
  
In [[Western Europe]] hagiography was one of the more important areas in the study of history during the [[Middle Ages]]. The ''[[Golden Legend]]'' of [[Jacob de Voragine]] compiled a great deal of mediæval hagiographic material, with a strong emphasis on [[miracle]] tales. 
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==Usefulness==
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Even though some of the writings seem to contain embellishments, as one may assume when reading of the life of St. [[Nicholas of Myra]], they are still quite useful. In the words of Fr. [[Thomas Hopko]]
  
The [[Bollandists|Bollandist]] tradition continues the study, academic assembly, appraisal and publication of materials relating to the [[personal life|lives]] of Christian saints. (See ''[[Acta Sanctorum]]''.)
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:''They may be used very fruitfully for the discovery of the meaning of the Christian faith and life. In these "lives" the Christian vision of God, man, and the world stands out very clearly. Because these volumes were written down in times quite different from our own, it is necessary to read them carefully to distinguish the essential points from the artificial and sometimes even fanciful embellishments which are often contained in them. In the Middle Ages, for instance, it was customary to pattern the lives of saints after literary works of previous times and even to dress up the lives of the lesser known saints after the manner of earlier saints of the same type. It also was the custom to add many elements, particularly supernatural and miraculous events of the most extraordinary sort, to confirm the true holiness of the saint, to gain strength for his spiritual goodness and truth, and to foster imitation of his virtues in the lives of the hearers and readers. In many cases the miraculous is added to stress the ethical righteousness and innocence of the saint in the face of his detractors.  
  
In the [[10th century]], a [[Byzantine]] [[monk]] [[Simeon Metaphrastes]] was the first one to change the genre of lives of the saints into something different, giving it a moralizing and [[panegyric]]al character. His catalog of lives of the saints became the [[standard]] for all of the [[Western]] and [[Eastern]] [[hagiographer]]s, who would create relative biographies and images of the ideal saints by gradually departing from the real facts of their lives. Over the years, the genre of lives of the saints had absorbed a number of narrative plots and poetic images (often, of pre-Christian origin, such as [[dragon]] fighting etc.), [[mediaeval]] [[parable]]s, short stories and [[anecdote]]s.
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:''Generally speaking, it does not take much effort to distinguish the sound kernel of truth in the lives of the saints from the additions made in the spirit of piety and enthusiasm of the later periods; and the effort should be made to see the essential truth which the lives contain. Also, the fact that elements of a miraculous nature were added to the lives of saints during medieval times for the purposes of edification, entertainment, and even amusement should not lead to the conclusion that all things miraculous in the lives of the saints are invented for literary or moralizing purposes. Again, a careful reading of the lives of the saints will almost always reveal what is authentic and true in the realm of the miraculous. Also, the point has been rightly made that men can learn almost as much about the real meaning of Christianity from the legends of the saints produced within the tradition of the Church as from the authentic lives themselves.'' <sup>[http://www.oca.org/OCchapter.asp?ID=7]</sup>
  
The genre of lives of the saints was brought to [[Russia]] by the [[South Slavs]] together with [[writing]] and also in [[translation]]s from the [[Greek language]]. In the [[11th century]], the [[Russians]] began to compile the original life stories of the first Russian "saints", e.g. [[Boris and Gleb]], [[Theodosius Pechersky]] etc. In the [[16th century]], [[Metropolitan Macarius]] expanded the list of the Russian "saints" and supervised the compiling process of their life stories. They would all be compiled in the so called ''Velikiye chet’yi-minei'' catalog (&#1042;&#1077;&#1083;&#1080;&#1082;&#1080;&#1077; &#1063;&#1077;&#1090;&#1100;&#1080;-&#1052;&#1080;&#1085;&#1077;&#1080;, or Grand monthly readings), consisting of 12 [[volume]]s in accordance with each month of the year.
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==Sources==
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*''Article adapted from [[Wikipedia:Hagiography]]''
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*''The Orthodox Faith'' Written by the V. Rev. Thomas Hopko ([http://www.oca.org/OCchapter.asp?ID=7 OCA web site])
  
The genre of lives of the saints was often used as an ecclesiastic and [[political]] [[propaganda]]. Today, the works in this genre represent a valuable historical source and reflection of different social ideas, world outlook and [[aesthetic]] [[concept]]s of the past.
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==External links==
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*[http://www.chrysostompress.org/lives-of-the-saints The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints] English translation of the work by Saint Demetrius of Rostov from Chrysostom Press
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*[http://www.holyapostlesconvent.org/hac-products.shtml Great Synaxaristes - Lives of Saints] English translation from Greek from Holy Apostles Convent and Dormition Skete
  
* ''Article adapted from [[Wikipedia:Hagiography|Wikipedia]]'' (Do we have a Wikipedia Template?)
 
  
== External links ==
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[[Category:Saints]]
  
*[http://www.kbr.be/~socboll/ Societ&eacute; des Bollandistes]
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[[ro:Hagiografie]]

Latest revision as of 15:41, December 7, 2009

Hagiography is the writing of saints' lives. It comes from the Greek words αγιος and γραφη = "holy writing" or "writing about the holy (ones)."

  • Hagiography refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy persons; specifically, the biographies of persons publicly glorified (canonized) by the Church.
  • Hagiology, by contrast, is the study of saints collectively, without focusing on the life of an individual saint.

Contents

Hagiography as a form of biography

Hagiography is unlike other forms of biography in that it does not necessarily attempt to give a full, historical account of the life of an individual saint. Rather, the purpose of hagiography is soteriological—that is, the life of the saint is written so that it might have a salvific effect on those who encounter it.

As such, hagiography often fails to include details which are standard for most biographical works, such as birthdate, childhood, career, and so forth. Rather, the details included are those which pertain to the saint's life as an icon of Christ, as one who points us to the abundant life available from our Lord.

The secondary purpose of hagiography is to glorify persons in whom Christ has powerfully worked. Therefore, one often can notice a dearth of mention of the saint's sins in this life. Sometimes, those sins are mentioned (as with St. Mary of Egypt or the Prophet King David) so that their great repentance can be demonstrated, but other times, hagiography includes no mention of the saint's sins at all. This character of the genre should not be understood as propaganda—after all, it is axiomatic that only Christ is without sin—but rather that such details are not germane to the purpose of hagiography.

Development of hagiography

Hagiography comprised an important literary genre in the early millennia of the Church, providing informational history as well as inspirational stories and legends. A hagiographic account of an individual saint is often referred to as a vita or life.

The genre of lives of the saints first came into being in the Roman Empire as collections of traditional accounts of Christian martyrs, called martyrologies. In the 4th century, there were 3 main types of catalogues of lives of the saints:

  • Menaion, an annual calendar catalogue (in Greek, menaios means "month") (biographies of the saints to be read at sermons)
  • Synaxarion, or a short version of lives of the saints, arranged by dates
  • Paterikon (in Greek, pater means "father"), or biography of the specific saints, chosen by the catalogue compiler

In Western Europe hagiography was one of the more important areas in the study of history during the Middle Ages. The Golden Legend of Jacob de Voragine compiled a great deal of mediæval hagiographic material, with a strong emphasis on miracle tales.

In the 10th century, the work of St. Simeon Metaphrastes—an Orthodox monk who had been a secretary of state—marked a major development and codification of the genre. His Menologion (catalogue of lives of the saints), compiled at the request of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus while Simeon was still a civil servant, became the standard for all of the Western and Eastern hagiographers. Over the years, hagiography as a genre absorbed a number of narrative plots and poetic images (often of pre-Christian origin, such as dragon fighting etc.), mediaeval parables, short stories and anecdotes. Simeon's contribution was to collect these saints' lives from written and oral traditions, copying directly from some sources and reworking others, then arranging them in order of the saints' feast days.

The genre of lives of the saints was brought to Russia by the South Slavs together with writing and also in translations from the Greek language. In the 11th century, the Russians began to compile the original life stories of the first Russian saints. In the 16th century, Metropolitan Macarius expanded the list of the Russian saints and supervised the compilation of their life stories. They would all be compiled in the so called Velikiye chet'yi-minei catalogue (Великие Четьи-Минеи, or "Grand monthly readings"), consisting of 12 volumes in accordance with each month of the year.

Usefulness

Even though some of the writings seem to contain embellishments, as one may assume when reading of the life of St. Nicholas of Myra, they are still quite useful. In the words of Fr. Thomas Hopko:

They may be used very fruitfully for the discovery of the meaning of the Christian faith and life. In these "lives" the Christian vision of God, man, and the world stands out very clearly. Because these volumes were written down in times quite different from our own, it is necessary to read them carefully to distinguish the essential points from the artificial and sometimes even fanciful embellishments which are often contained in them. In the Middle Ages, for instance, it was customary to pattern the lives of saints after literary works of previous times and even to dress up the lives of the lesser known saints after the manner of earlier saints of the same type. It also was the custom to add many elements, particularly supernatural and miraculous events of the most extraordinary sort, to confirm the true holiness of the saint, to gain strength for his spiritual goodness and truth, and to foster imitation of his virtues in the lives of the hearers and readers. In many cases the miraculous is added to stress the ethical righteousness and innocence of the saint in the face of his detractors.
Generally speaking, it does not take much effort to distinguish the sound kernel of truth in the lives of the saints from the additions made in the spirit of piety and enthusiasm of the later periods; and the effort should be made to see the essential truth which the lives contain. Also, the fact that elements of a miraculous nature were added to the lives of saints during medieval times for the purposes of edification, entertainment, and even amusement should not lead to the conclusion that all things miraculous in the lives of the saints are invented for literary or moralizing purposes. Again, a careful reading of the lives of the saints will almost always reveal what is authentic and true in the realm of the miraculous. Also, the point has been rightly made that men can learn almost as much about the real meaning of Christianity from the legends of the saints produced within the tradition of the Church as from the authentic lives themselves. [1]

Sources

External links

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