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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Byzantine theological treatises by Anastasios of Sinai and Georgios Moschampar

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, part of which was completed in 1336 and the remainder copied around that time, contains two <i>Byzantine theological treatises by Anastasios of Sinai and Georgios Moschampar</i>. These had been written about six centuries apart in response to major religious disputes of their respective eras. It is unusually constructed of quires combining paper with parchment.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>One of the texts is the <i>Viae dux</i> of Anastasios of Sinai, a 7th-century monk who became abbot of the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai during the decades following the Islamic conquest. This text argues for the orthodoxy prevailing in Byzantine and western European Christianity against various views deemed heretical, but primarily against the Monophysite doctrine regarding the relationship between the human and the divine in Christ, which had been rejected at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 but remained dominant in much of the Middle East, including Egypt.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The other text is a treatise by the 13th-century theologian and teacher Georgios Moschampar on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the key theological issue of contention between Eastern and Western Churches. It was composed in 1281 and denounces the Western position and its acceptance by the Byzantine hierarchy under the Union of Lyon, the agreement of 1274 which had officially ended the schism between East and West, orchestrated by the Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (c. 1224-1282) and the Patriarch of Constantinople Ioannes Bekkos (c. 1235-1297). Moschampar, at that time a teacher of theology at the patriarchal school in Constantinople, prudently disseminated this and other similar works anonymously, but reissued them under his own name following the death of the emperor in 1282, as his successor Andronikos II (c. 1260-1332) reversed his father's policy, ousting Bekkos from the patriarchate and repudiating the Lyon settlement.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Evidently the manuscript originally contained other texts as well, since its quire signatures indicate that 16 more quires preceded those that survive, only a small part of which would have been occupied by the lost portion of the work of Moschampar, which appears first in the manuscript. There have also been losses at the end.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript was copied by a number of different hands, but the bulk of it was written by a scribe named Nikolaos, who added a colophon at the end of the text of Moschampar, dating its completion to 26 April 1336. This suggests the possibility of some interruption in the process of production at this point, but the text of Anastasios evidently belonged to the same project of production, since Nikolaos remained the principal scribe and there is no break in the physical structure of the manuscript: the end of the first work and beginning of the second appear within the same quire.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Nikolaos identifies himself as the son of a cleric named Gregorios and as a native of the town of Klarentza in the north-western Peloponnese, though he does not specify where he did this work. Klarentza was the principal port of the Principality of Achaia, one of the Latin lordships established from the conquests of the Fourth Crusade, at this time controlled by the French Angevin dynasty who ruled southern Italy. The manuscript displays indications of influence from the south Italian tradition of Greek manuscript production. Nikolaos's script has features often associated with southern Italy, including the addition of a vertical line doubling the left-hand curve of larger majuscule <i>epsilon</i>, while the wording of his colophon contains terminology typical of such notes originating from that region (Turyn, <i>Dated Greek manuscripts</i>, pp. 101-102).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Rather than being composed entirely of either parchment or paper, each of the manuscript's quires is a combination of the two, the innermost and outermost bifolios being parchment and the intervening two being paper. The purpose was perhaps to provide greater structural strength through the use of parchment, while saving money by using the cheaper paper for half of the folios. The parchment is itself of conspicuously poor quality, though this is not unusual at this date, especially away from metropolitan centres. This mixed construction is an extremely unusual feature among Greek manuscripts. It is substantially more common in Latin ones, but seems to have become widespread only in the late 14th century (Bianchi, 'Cahiers mixtes', pp. 259-260, 265-266), so it cannot be concluded with confidence that this is evidence of Latin influence.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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