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Dr. Sean D. Griffin (Dartmouth College): "God and Governance. Byzantine Liturgical Technologies in Early Rus"

Mittwoch 23. Oktober 2019, 16:15 Uhr – 17:45 Uhr

Forschungskolloquium GRK 2337 "Metropolität in der Vormoderne"

Weitere Informationen unter www.metropolitaet.ur.de

Der Eintritt ist frei.

Alle Interessierten sind herzlich willkommen.

In the early middle ages, the Byzantine Empire possessed a technology of immense political value. It offered protection from invasion and inspired wonder and admiration among foreigners. Highly trained specialists, sequestered in secluded compounds, oversaw its execution and made vows never to speak of its secrets to the enemy. The technology was widely believed to be an invincible weapon and the Romans often turned to it in times of war. Those who beheld it in action marveled at the beauty but feared they might be ‘consumed like wax or grass.’ Contemporaries were in awe of this ‘fire that burned the unworthy,’ but it was not the famous ‘Greek fire,’ nor were the specialists who guarded it soldiers. The experts were priests and monks, and the political technology they safeguarded was the divine liturgy of the Byzantine church.

Consider the list of items that were imported into the land of Rus after the conversion to Christianity at the end of the tenth century: churches, monasteries, a professional clergy, church books, icons, relics. Precisely the things required for performing the liturgy.

The princes in Rus spent vast sums to install a very real, very material imperial Roman technology throughout their realm. But what, exactly, was the purpose of this technology? What did the rites actually do that made these rulers willing to invest and keep investing in them?

Were they strictly a means of communicating with God and the saints, via the intercessions of the clergy? Or was something else, far more mundane and subversive, also taking place when early medieval men and women attended the divine services?

In this talk, I shall argue that the rites of the church were in fact powerful ideological tools, forms of mass propaganda, which gave rulers control over their subjects by giving them control over the sacred past. Early medievalists are by now aware that the past, and narrative history of any sort, is a construction.

They are perhaps less aware that on the Byzantine periphery it was liturgy largely doing the constructing. Indeed, I am persuaded that it was liturgy, more than any other medium, which created a perception of the sacred past and which instilled that perception in the minds of the people.

Every day of every year, for centuries without ceasing, the church rites broadcast an imaginary sacred past throughout the lands of eastern Christendom. We can be quite certain that this broadcast was concerned with more than the salvation of souls.


Universität Regensburg, Gebäudeteil Philosophie/Theologie, Sitzungssaal Theologie PT 4.1.63


Universität Regensburg
GRK 2337 "Metropolität in der Vormoderne"
Kathrin Pindl M.A. (Wissenschaftliche Koordination)
Telefon +49 941 943-3597
E-Mail kathrin.pindl@ur.de

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