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New Medieval Books: Kassia the Nun in Context

Kassia the Nun in Context: The Religious Thought of a Ninth-Century Byzantine Monastic

By Kurt Sherry

Gorgias Press
ISBN: 978-1-61143-969-4

This book profiles the life of Kassia, a ninth-century Byzantine aristocrat who spurned an emperor and became a nun and abbess. Her story tells us much about being a woman and a religious leader in Byzantium.


This work centers on three essential themes in Kassia’s life and writings: iconoclasm, feminism, and monasticism. One of the difficulties lies in treating each theme separately from the others. In the ninth century, male and female monastics were allied with laywomen in opposition to Iconoclast policies. Indeed, for Byzantine women, both the pursuit of the monastic life and also the ownership and domestic veneration of icons represented important avenues of empowerment. Kassia herself was an Iconophile partisan, a feminist philosopher, and a monastic: all three identities blend together seamlessly in her personality and her writings. By providing a brief historical overview of each of these areas (Iconoclasm, the status of Byzantine women, and monasticism), my goal is to provide readers largely unfamiliar with this period of Byzantine history with sufficient context to appreciate the nuances of Kassia’s life and thought.


Who is this book for?

While this is not a particularly new book, it is the best biography we have of Kassia, an interesting personality. Those interested in Byzantine history, female monastics or aspects of Christianity will want to consider reading this book.

A couple of other works about Kassia can also be found online: the article “Illuminating the Incarnation: The Life and Work of the Ninth Century Hymnographer Kassia” and the PhD dissertation Kasia the Melodist. And the Making of a Byzantine Hymnographer.


The author

Kurt Sherry is a High School history teacher in Kansas.

You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website

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