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Discovering the Hagiography of St. Sophia: The Byzantine Diegesis and Encaenia of the Constantinopolitan Church

Kateryna Kovalchuk, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, Fellow 2011/12

During the academic year at Dumbarton Oaks, I have been working on two strands of research. First, I have been revising my PhD thesis in order to prepare it for publication. I have been studying and reconsidering several aspects of the Byzantine narrative about the foundation of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. To develop and corroborate my argument that this story was initially composed as a “hagiographical” (or one might call it “paraliturgical”) text for celebrating the encaenia feast of the Constantinopolitan Great Church, I have examined the extensive manuscript tradition (consisting of more than eighty Byzantine and post-Byzantine manuscripts), considered the problem of the dating, and undertaken the study of the topoi and the language of the narrative with special attention to the vocabulary and style of the composition. The importance of such an analysis of the language and style of the narrative, though not intended initially, has become clear to me after fruitful discussions with my colleagues, senior and visiting fellows. Indeed, what was formerly considered lowbrow vernacular language I propose now to reconsider as a “learned koine,” which is exemplified by several linguistic features similar to literary texts attributed to Constantine Porphyrogennetos. This conclusion, along with several other considerations, affects also the issue of the dating: the anonymous narrative—conventionally dated to the ninth century—appears to be a somewhat later composition, more likely to be dated to the tenth century. In addition to the study of the narrative, I have also started working on the edition of the text from a manuscript that I was fortunate enough to locate in Dumbarton Oaks’s collection of microfilms; I plan to include in my future monograph the edition of what I consider to be the earliest version of the text available to us. Second, I have been taking my scholarly interest further into a cluster of Byzantine narratives about the foundation of churches and monasteries. I intend to present the results of my research into these foundation stories in an article.

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