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Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond

Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond
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The image of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square is a familar Russian landmark. Yet few people know what made Basil so famous. He was a saint who wandered about naked, bullied passers-by, brawled in the market-place, and once even smashed a revered icon. Saints such as Basil overturn the conventional concept of sainthood - what, we may ask, is saintly about them? This book aims to solve the mystery by exploring the figure of the holy fool in Byzantium and in later Russian

history. - ;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. - ;Ivanov shows himself to be keenly attuned to all the main questions presented by the phenomenon of holy folly, as well as thedecisive role of the hagiographer...he always manages to add something new, to say something fresh...Still, this book is a gift. Throughly researched, well documented, chock-full of insights- and, one should add, exquisitely translated-it is the best exsisting monograph on the subject. - Peter C. Bouteneff Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies;A rich and fascinating book - Averil Cameron, Journal of Ecclesiastical History;Ivanov's volume remains indispensible - Philip Gorski, Sobornost;...fascinating historical study. - Hugh Wybrew, TLS

Oxford University Press, UK; April 2006
492 pages; ISBN 9780191515149
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