After completing his BA (First Class Honours) in German Studies and Classics (minor in Sanskrit) at McGill University (Montréal) in 2003 (Classics thesis: “Emperor Irene: A Look at Politics and Political Language in Byzantium, 780–802” ; German thesis: “‘Gemalt hätt ich dich: Ikonen- und Gedichtenproblematik im ersten Buch des Rilke’schen Stundenbuches” ), Christopher Sprecher spent several years in monastic life before completing a Master of Divinity (2011) and Master of Theology coursework at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Yonkers, NY). He spent three years in active parish ministry and military chaplaincy before working in several start-up and financial tech firms in New York City before moving to Germany in 2017. In 2020, he completed his MA in Cultural Studies of the Middle Ages on relics and ninth-century politics in Byzantium at the University of Regensburg, and is currently a doctoral candidate there under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Jörg Oberste and Prof. Dr. Leslie Brubaker (University of Birmingham, UK).
Ancient: Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Biblical Hebrew, Church Slavonic, Old English
Modern: English (native); German and French (full proficiency [Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom awarded in 2012]); Spanish, Italian, Modern Greek, Finnish, Central Alaskan Yup’ik (reading and basic speaking); Arabic (beginner)
- History of Eastern Orthodox liturgy and hymnography
- Appropriation and continuation of Classical culture throughout the Late Antique period and beyond;
- Interaction of civic law and values with canon law and religious mores;
- Influence and development of monastic networks in both urban and rural contexts
- Constantinople as east-west hub between medieval Western Europe and the Caucasus/Arab/Persian worlds
“Come, behold now my crown”: palatine relics and the sacralisation of imperial power in Constantinople, 944–1204
This dissertation intends to take a new interdisciplinary look at the interaction of sacred objects and the figure of the Byzantine empire in the Middle Byzantine period via the collection of relics deposited in the chapel of the Mother of God of the Lighthouse (Pharos) within the Great Palace of Constantinople. To this end, I will first examine sanctoral commemorations and iconographic images from the mid-ninth century, which serve as a prelude to the main period under investigation (944–1204): namely, feasts of translation of episcopal relics to Constantinople (those of Nikephoros I [†828] and John Chrysostom [†407], depictions of relics and emperors in iconography and manuscripts, and scholarly thought on the sacred character of the emperor in the period before and after the iconoclastic struggles. In this first section, I will be building on the work completed in my MA thesis completed at the University of Regensburg in 2020.
The second part of the thesis will then look past the hermeneutical foundation of the imperial figure provided by the feasts and commemorations instituted in the ninth century and move forward to look at the relics translated or brought to Constantinople and deposited in the palatine Pharos chapel from 944 (during the reign of Constantine VI Porphyrogennetos) to 1204 (the fall of Constantinople to Westerners during the Fourth Crusade), when most of the palatine relics were taken as booty and relocated to Western Europe. In this part, the staging of Constantinople as a New Jerusalem will be discussed. Many scholars have already worked on this topic and developed the thought of the Byzantine capital as a new centre of holiness. However, the specific function and performance of the relics in the exclusive palatine Pharos chapel and their interaction with the Byzantine emperor have not been studied in detail. In my dissertation, a close reading of court ceremonial texts, liturgical texts, homilies, poems, and chronicle excerpts will endeavour to show how the emperor, via the presence of specific relics in his palace, comes to be seen not only as a sacred figure, but also as a figure embodying the sacred, even as a living relic. In such readings, recourse will be taken to important recent tools from the traditions of philosophical and art-historical hermeneutics (Gadamer, Agamben, Bredekamp), while studies in the performativity of literature (cf. Derrida and Pentcheva) will also find use in clarifying the combined function of text, object, and performance in these sacred and secular texts with regard to the imperial figure and its perceived sanctity.
Following the concluding remarks, the dissertation will also include as a supplement an edition and translation of the ninth-century liturgical service for the translation of the relics of Patriarch Nikephoros, as well as first-ever English-language translations of several liturgical texts examined in the thesis: homilies on the translation of discussed relics and their concomitant liturgical services.
- Jörg Oberste, The Birth of A Metropolis: Civic Space and Social Practice in Medieval Paris. C. Sprecher, trans. (in progress, projected for Spring 2019).
- Christopher Sprecher, “From Noregur to Nea Rhōmē: The Cult of Saint Olaf in Byzantium and Metropolitanism,” Studia Patristica (forthcoming 2021).
- Georges Florovsky, “Revelation, Philosophy and Theology” and “Western Influences in Russian Theology,” C. Sprecher (trans.), forthcoming in a volume of collected works published by T&T Clark (2018).
- Christos Yannaras, “Church and Sexuality,” C. Sprecher (trans.). The Wheel 13–14 (2018): 72–82.
- Pantelis Kalaitzidis, “‘To Coin New Names’: The Imperative of Reform and the Danger of Marginalization,” C. Sprecher (trans.). The Wheel 8 (2017): 39–43.
- Christopher Sprecher, “Tanqilria Tanqilrianun / Holy Things for the Holy: Society and Sanctity among the Yup’ik People.” The Wheel 7 (2016): 17–22.
- Address of His Beatitude, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, to the Holy and Great Council, 2016. C. Sprecher (trans.). The Wheel 6 (2016): 5–9.
- Jean-Claude Larchet, Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses. C. Sprecher (trans.). Montréal: Alexander Press, 2012.