Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond

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There are saints in Orthodox Christian culture who overturn the conventional concept of sainthood. Their conduct may be unruly and salacious, they may blaspheme and even kill—yet, mysteriously, those around them treat them with even more reverence. Such saints are called "holy fools." In this pioneering study Sergey A. Ivanov examines the phenomenon of holy foolery from a cultural standpoint. He identifies its prerequisites and its development in religious thought, and traces the emergence of the first hagiographic texts describing these paradoxical saints. He describes the beginnings of holy foolery in Egyptian monasteries of the fifth century, followed by its high point in the cities of Byzantium, with an eventual decline in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. He also compares the important Russian tradition of holy fools, which in some form has survived to this day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A book of impressive scocpe and erudition."—Claudia Rapp, American Historical Review

"The author's erudition is as amazing as the fascinating 'story' he tells, and we should appreciate the great efforts of the translator."—Ludwig Steindorff, The Russian Review

"Ivanov gives an impressionistic overview of similar forms of religious foolery in Islamic culture and in medieval Western Christianity. Ivanov's study presents a very broad and in-depth examination of the unique tradition of holy foolery in Byzantium and Russia, which mkaes it a must-read for anyone interested in this phenomenon and in the broader historical scope of Byzantine and Russian Orthodox religion and culture." —Slavic and East European Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199272518
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2006
  • Series: Oxford Studies in Byzantium Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Russian Academy of Sciences

Clare College, Cambridge University

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Table of Contents

1. The Precursors and Emergence of Holy Foolery
2. Early Holy Foolery
3. The Golden Age of Holy Foolery
4. The Decline of Byzantine Holy Foolery
5. Holy Foolery's Eastern Periphery
6. Holy Foolery's Western Periphery
7. Old Russian Iurodstvo
8. The Iurodivyi and the Tsar
9. Iurodstvo in Transition
10. Iurodstvo Meets Modernity

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