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Kassia: A female hymnographer of the 9th century

Kassia: A female hymnographer of the 9th century

By Spyros Panagopoulos

Proceedings of the 1st International Conference of the ASBMH, Athens (2007)

The Byzantine emperor Theophilos chooses Theodora as his empress over Kassia in a bride show.

Introduction: For
 over 
1,000
 years 
many 
men 
and 
a 
few
 women 
wrote
 hymns 
in Byzantium.
 Their 
contribution 
to 
world 
literature 
and
 to 
Greek 
letters
 constitutes 
a 
vast 
and
 priceless 
treasure 
of 
sacred 
poetry.
 It’s 
impossible 
to 
exaggerate 
the
 value 
of 
this
 hymnography, 
since
 it 
expresses, 
as 
nothing 
else 
can,
 the 
spiritual 
riches, 
faith 
and
 beauty 
of 
Eastern 
Christendom. 
Some
 of 
these
 hymns 
are
 still
 chanted 
today 
in
 many
languages 
in
 Orthodox
 Churches 
in 
every 
part 
of 
the
 world.
 Others 
remain
 unknown.
 Hidden 
in 
manuscripts 
stored
 in 
monastic 
libraries, 
they 
wait 
to 
be
 discovered
 and
 to 
be 
edited.

It’s obvious that the Byzantine female hymnography was not flourished especially in Byzantium. We have the names of hundreds male hymnodists who came from all parts of the oikoumene, from Greece, Italy, Palestine, and Syria, as well as from the islands of Cyprus, Crete and Sicily. These hymnodists came of all classes of Byzantine society, from the obscure man who signed his hymn ὁ ἀμαρτωλός (the sinner) to the Emperor Justinian (527‑565), who wrote in imperial red ink the troparion ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, and then ordered its insertion into the Divine Liturgy.


Despite the great number of male hymnodists, we know only six feminine names that composed hymns: Γρηγορίς, Μάρθα, Θεοδοσία79 , Θέκλα80 , Κασσία and Παλαιολογίνα.  The fame of Kassia
the Melodist outshines by far all other women writers in both medieval and Modern Greek writers.

Click here to read this article from the Proceedings of the 1st International Conference of the ASBMH

 

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