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7-08-2015, 20:01

Church history

The Byzantine church’s history has been expounded by scholars in connection with ideology, political affairs and relationships with other churches, the church being considered as administrative institution and more generally, as element in urban and rural society.1 Likewise monasteries great and small, together with monks as individuals and as groups, have been studied from numerous angles: as property-owners, spiritual oases in provincial and Constantinopolitan society, sober counsellors or individual troublemakers. Besides the useful general introductions to the editions of documents from the archives of Mount Athos, collections of studies on Athos, saints and individual monasteries have been published; and monographs have been dedicated to holy fools and to the relationship between monks and laymen.2 The broader spectrum of eastern Christian belief, worship, everyday experience and expectations is also receiving scholarly attention, and contributions relating to the Byzantine world feature in volumes dedicated to medieval Christianity in general.3 An entire volume of the Cambridge history of Christianity is dedicated to eastern Christianity after c. 1050.4 Congregational worship, priest-led ways of communicating with God, entering into His presence and gaining the intercession of the saints, were of vital concern to the Byzantines, from emperors to provincial peasants, and there are authoritative guides to the liturgy and church services.5 But individuals – whether monks or laypersons – also sought immediacy with the holy for themselves, and relics and icons offered access: pilgrimages to shrines were a feature of Byzantine life, and relics and relic-containers of one sort or another were prized in the imperial palace and at grass-roots, whether to bring spiritual fulfilment, physical salvation or simply material wellbeing.