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The Origins and Evolution of the Byzantine Rite for the Consecration of Churches

Vitalijs Permjakovs, University of Notre Dame, Junior Fellow 2008/09

In the course of my Junior Fellowship in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks I was working on a project investigating the evolution for the Byzantine rite of the dedication of churches (encaenia) from its origins in the Late Antiquity until the emergence of dedication rites in the 8th–12th century euchologia. As a result of my research, it was possible to investigate the complex origins of early Christian practices of dedication, especially with respect to the apparent appropriation of Roman traditions of dedicatio/consecratio of a new temple. I have examined the Christian sources from 4th to 6th centuries, reflecting the varied customs for the inauguration of a new church building in different urban centers of Eastern Roman empire with special focus on Jerusalem and Constantinople. As part of my work for this project I have prepared the translation of liturgical hymns pertaining to the annual feast of Dedication of the church of the Holy Anastasis in Jerusalem, which survived as part of the "Old iadgari" (Georgian translation of the 5th–8th century Jerusalem Tropologion). Also, using the resources at Dumbarton Oaks and the microfilm collection of the Library of Congress, I have translated and collated the texts pertaining to the annual festival of dedication from two unpublished Georgian manuscripts, Sinai iber. 12 (11th c.) and Sinai iber. 54 (10th c.), both of which appear to reflect the liturgical rite of Jerusalem at the end of the first millennium. At the same time, it was crucial to survey all the available (published and unpublished) manuscript sources for the Byzantine rite euchologion in order to observe the evolution of the rite of consecration of an altar and of the dedication of the church from the 8th to 13th century (ms. Grottaferrata G. b. I was the latest I studied), as well as the variety of other rites used for similar purposes in the Byzantine tradition (e.g. consecration of an antimension). Comparison with the rites for consecrating an altar in the West Syriac, Armenian and Coptic traditions has shown some significant parallels with similar texts of the Byzantine tradition which can indicate a common, possibly Palestinian, origin for this ritual, first attested in the euchologion Barberini gr. 336 at the end of the 8th century CE.

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