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A Monastic Mother of God? The Development of the Cult of the Virgin Mary as a Model for Monks

Jaakko Olkinuora, University of Eastern Finland, Summer Fellow 2016–2017

I began working on my research project on Byzantine devotion to the Virgin Mary as a model of ascetic life. This is an important part of the cult of the Theotokos, recognized in recent Marian scholarship, but usually discussed only alongside more prominent aspects of Marian devotion. The scope of this literary study goes from the fourth to the fourteenth century, when this “cult” reached its peak in the work of Gregory Palamas. I worked on the first chapter, which discusses the first appearance of Marian asceticism in the fourth century, particularly in the works of Athanasius of Alexandria. After an examination of primary sources, I constructed a more detailed reception history of these ideas in different geographical areas, including Egypt, Cappadocia, Syria, and Rome.