Lives of the Saints
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Lives of the Saints
biographies of clerical and lay persons canonized by the Christian church. Such works began to be written in the Roman Empire as stories about Christian martyrs (martyrology).
Beginning with the fourth century, the three basic types of collections of lives began to appear: minei, lives arranged in a calendar fashion, of an extended length suitable for reading in religious services; sinaksari, shorter lives, also arranged in calendar fashion; andpateriki, collections of lives selected by their compilers. The Byzantine writer Simeon Metaphrastes reworked many of the lives in the tenth century, giving them a didactic and panegyric character. His collection served as a model for both eastern and western hagiographers. Creating idealized saints, they moved farther and farther away from the real circumstances of their lives and wrote stylized biographies. At the same time, the works absorbed a number of literary subjects and poetic images, many of them preChristian (myths about battles against dragons, for example), as well as medieval parables, short stories, and anecdotes.
The lives of the saints first came to Old Rus’ after the introduction of writing and were transmitted by way of the South Slavs or in translations from Greek. However, in the llth century, the lives of the first Russian saints, Boris and Gleb and Feodosii Pecherskii, were written down firsthand. In the 16th century, Metropolitan Makarii greatly expanded the number of Russian saints and directed the compilation of their biographies, which were collected in the so-called Velikie Chet’ i-Minei (12 vols.).
The lives of,the saints served, and in some cases, continue to serve, the purposes of religious and political propaganda. To a degree this type of literature has value as a historical source. It is particularly suited for the study of the history of culture, reflecting as it does the various social ideas and aesthetic standards of its day. The subjects of some lives have been reworked by later writers—for example, A. I. Herzen’s Legend, written in 1835, is based on the Life of St. Theodore.
REFERENCESKliuchevskii, V. O. Drevnerusskie zhitiia sviatykh kak istoricheskii istochnik. Moscow, 1871.
Serebrianskii, N. Drevnerusskie kniazheskie zhitiia. (Obzor redaktsii i teksty.) Moscow, 1915.
Likhachev, D. S. Chelovek v literature drevneiRusi. Moscow, 1970.
Ranovich, A. Kak sozdavalis’ zhitiia sviatykh. Moscow, 1961.
A. N. ROBINSON