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Late Byzantine Narthexes (litai) on Mount Athos: Architecture, Liturgy, and Patronage

Nebojša Stanković, Princeton University, Junior Fellow 2011–2012

At Dumbarton Oaks, I conducted research for my dissertation entitled “Transformed Architecture for the Reformed Monastic Ritual: Late Byzantine Narthexes (litai) on Mount Athos.” The dissertation examines the relationship between patronage and monastic rites performed in the narthex on the one hand and architectural form and functional organization of this part of the church on the other. While at Dumbarton Oaks, I pursued an in-depth study of the historical context in which late Byzantine Athonite katholika were built. I was particularly interested in liturgical practices established during the fourteenth century by the introduction of the Jerusalem typikon (the Neo-Sabbaite liturgical reform), aspects of patronage, and the role of the rising Hesychast movement. In addition to the service of litē, which lent its name to this type of narthex, I examined diaklysmos and other segments of the All-Night Vigil (agrypnia), the most distinct feature of the reformed liturgical rule. In this pursuit, I enjoyed the invaluable assistance of Daniel Galadza. I also sought better understanding of contemporaneous developments in Athonite monasticism—idiorrhythmic tendencies, in particular—as well as the impact of the patronage of secular authorities and the leadership of religious figures. Although I did not succeed in accomplishing the main goal I had set—to have my dissertation completed by the end of the fellowship—I was able to develop existing ideas and arrive at new ones, and to reaffirm and strengthen my arguments and interpretations.