Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Menologion for December

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, probably produced during the 11th century, is a <i>Menologion for December</i>, a liturgical book containing the hagiographical texts to be read in church during that month, including Lives of Saints, martyrdom narratives and accounts regarding relics and posthumous miracles.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The texts in this volume are the work of Symeon Metaphrastes, or Symeon the Metaphrast, a 10th-century Byzantine civil official and later a monk. He rewrote numerous existing hagiographical texts in a more accessible style and compiled these into a new <i>menologion</i>. The term Metaphrast refers to this practice of rewriting. Symeon's versions of these stories became the most widely used, superseding those read previously.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>At a later date, probably in the 12th century, four new quires were added to replace original folios which had been lost, one in the middle of the manuscript and the rest at the end (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(60);return false;'>58-65</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(115);return false;'>113-136</a>). These are composed of parchment originally from other manuscripts, reused in palimpsest by erasing and overwriting their former text. Remaining traces indicate that at least some of this material came from Latin musical manuscripts, as indicated by the red horizontal lines of musical staves. Some of these folios have previously been identified as having been reused from Greek manuscripts (Tchernetska, p. 734), but the shadowy Greek minuscule script visible here appears to be text showing through from the opposite face of the folio.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The replacement quires at the end of the manuscript are followed by two more folios originally from a Latin manuscript, probably a missal, rewritten in palimpsest with a new Greek text, probably in the 13th century. However, they appear not to have been rewritten for this manuscript but for another, and to have been later reused in this manuscript as endleaves (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(139);return false;'>ff. 137r-138v</a>). Their text does not belong to the Menologion but to another type liturgical book, a Menaion, containing various hymns, prayers and readings particular to individual days of the church calendar. They also appear to have been bound into this manuscript upside-down at some point prior to its most recent rebinding, as indicated by the placement of their early modern folio numbers, treatment which would accord with their use as endleaves rather than an intended part of the manuscript's content. Thus they seem to have formed part of at least three different manuscripts in the course of their history, and to have served different purposes in each.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The reuse of parchment from Latin manuscripts in a Greek volume suggests that at the time the manuscript may have been in use in a region where both literary cultures were present, such as southern Italy. This possibility is reinforced by the fact that the Latin undertext of the endleaves had been written in the distinctive Beneventan style of script, suggesting that the manuscript from which they came had been produced in southern Italy, possibly in the 11th century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A sequence of quire signatures in Greek numerals survives from an occasion when the manuscript was rebound, including the number ten marked on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(76);return false;'>f. 73v</a>, at the end of a quire. The Greek numeral used for this number is the letter <i>iota</i>, which as a single vertical stroke resembles the Arabic numeral 1, and what appears to be a zero has been written alongside it, to create the Arabic number 10. However, the number at the beginning of the same quire is in the normal Greek form. The form of the signature at the end of the quire could reflect rebinding in an environment where both systems of numerals were in use, leading the binder either to use one rather than the other out of absent-mindedness or to change systems here deliberately in order to avoid mistakenly reading the Greek number ten as an Arabic number one.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>If the manuscript did spend time in Italy, it was subsequently taken to Greece, as it came into the possession of the Monastery of the Pantokrator on Mount Athos, as indicated by a note on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(3);return false;'>f. 1r</a>. It was bought from the monastery, along with many other manuscripts, by the classicist Richard Bentley (1662-1742), Master of Trinity College.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>


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