Medieval Slavic Lives of Saints and Princes

Marvin Kantor







The advent of Christianity ushered in a new biographical hero, the saint, as classical secular biography yielded to hagiography. This form of life-writing arose in connection with the persecution of Christians; the first stories were those of martyrs. The earliest examples were simple, unembellished dialogues between the accused and their judges. In time, however, as Christianity became the primary religion in Europe, many “Lives” were produced; a large number of them were based on legends which had grown up around martyr-saints. As the persecution of Christians abated, new saintly heroes appeared: ascetics, church-builders, monks, orators, and so on. But many of their Lives had as little basis in fact as did the passions of their predecessors. Hagiography in time had become a highly conventionalized and stylized kind of biography. It abounded in repetitious themes, commonplaces, and supernatural elements. All of these features combined to produce a work which some critics have viewed as essentially a type of “anti-biography,” [1] inasmuch as all the basic tenets of historical biography are violated. As a result, the hero of the Life lost his individuality and became a generalized type. Nevertheless, the saint remained virtually the only acceptable subject for life-writing until the time when the prestige of secular rulers began to rival that of Church dignitaries. This was the ninth century, which marked the beginning of an era that once again would appreciate secular achievements and virtues, which in turn would lead to a revival of secular biography and a new phenomenon—biographies that combined elements from the latter and hagiography.


It is perhaps not surprising that the first secular biographies of the age of Christianity had as their subjects the secular luminaries Charlemagne in the West (Einhards’ Life of Charlemagne) and Basil I (the Macedonian) in the East (Life of Basil by Constantine Porphyrogenitus), and that their Lives were based as much on classical models as they were on the rhetoric of hagiography. The revival of secular learning in the ninth century affected many fields including hagiography, where it also found







some expression. New features now began to appear in hagiographical literature. In his discussion of Byzantine literature, Paul J. Alexander notes, for instance, that the Life of Nicephorus did not contain a single miracle performed by the saint; that many Lives written during this period record that the saint was instructed in secular knowledge; and that there appeared a biographical encomium with a secular hero. [2] Thus, works like these provided the links between hagiography and secular biography which would result in a series of literary productions of mixed genre.


With regard to Medieval Slavic literature, it can be said that at its very inception a secular trend asserted itself in biographical writing. The dawn of Slavic literacy occured in the ninth century, and Slavic biography from the outset fell under the influence of the general intellectual and cultural climate of that era. In the words of Harold Nicolson, “No branch of literature has been more senstive than biography to the ‘spirit of the age.’” [3] Clear evidence of this “spirit” is to be found in the first biographical works written in Slavic, the Pannonian Lives of Constantine the Philosopher and his brother Methodius. Though the Life of Constantine is clearly modeled on Byzantine saints’ Lives and contains much of the attendant rhetoric of hagiography, the hero is a “philosopher” who had studied “all the Hellenic arts,” and an emissary extraordinaire for the Byzantine Empire. The Life of Methodius informs us that the hero was for many years the governor (archon) of a Slavic province. Subsequently the brothers were indeed canonized and immortalized as the Apostles to the Slavs. However, from a literary point of view their Lives are not conventional hagiographies, nor are they pure secular biographies; they fall between the two, and are works of a mixed genre which, in my opinion, can be considered semi-secular biography.


It is obvious from the foregoing that a “semi-secular biography” is understood here as a mixed genre falling between the traditional genres of hagiography and secular biography. In the simplest of terms, a work can be considered in part secular if at least some emphasis is placed on the hero’s worldly achievements. A biography can be viewed as the “history” of a man’s life with the focus on the individual. If the individual is not the focal point, the work ceases to be biography and becomes history. Hagiography, on the other hand, might well focus on the individual, but it purposely ignores his worldly aspect. Since its primary aim is edification within a religious frame of reference, the “individual” it depicts becomes less an individual





and more the abstract embodiment of Christian virtues. In addition, one of the primary essentials of biography is historical truth, a notion which most often is alien to hagiography. Whereas fairly clear distinctions can be drawn among such classical literary forms as biography, hagiography, and historiography, the distinctions between biographies and encomia (panegyrics) are not always as clear. It is true that their structures are different: biography normally is a chronological narrative, encomium, an enumeration of qualities arranged in categories of virtues. [4] Also, biography tends to present an integrated story, to relate a curriculum vitae; encomium tends to be fragmentary, presenting often rhetorical flourishes on certain features of the hero’s character. However, both do treat individuals and do utilize many of the same commonplaces. Moreover, if encomium is expanded to include narrative, it begins to border on biography. Hence it is again possible to find works that fall between distinct genres, which as such constitute a mixed genre that can, on the basis of its emphasis, be characterized as predominantly biographical or predominantly encomiastic. Therefore, since the above-mentioned works mix elements from various genres and contain secular aspects, I have suggested the classification semi-secular biography, which calls attention to this mixture of features. Of course the extent to which particular works fit into this classification may vary; one may be more or less secular or conventionally hagiographical, or purely biographical and so on, than another.


The ninth century was an especially significant era for the Slavs, for during this period Christianity began to penetrate the immense tracts of land occupied by them. A concerted effort to proselytize these pagan inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe was undertaken in the East and West, as Byzantine and Frankish missionaries began to vie for converts. As a result of this activity the princes of the Moravians, Bohemians, Bulgars, Serbs, Pannonian Croats and Dalmatian Croats were baptized. But the single most important event of this century for the Slavs as a whole was the mission of Constantine-Cyril and Methodius to Moravia in 862/63, the preparation for which brought about the creation of an alphabet for the “Slavic tongue.” And the creative use of the written tradition that was originated by its ingenious founders led to the composition of the Pannonian Lives. These served as a model for the other works contained herein, the first Slavic Lives: the earliest attempts among individual Slavic nations at biographical writing.


In preparing the present volume, the primary consideration





was to translate this body of work from Old Church Slavic/Slavonic (henceforth OCS) into English. Though all of these works have been classified as legends and/or hagiographies—given the fact that all the protagonists were eventually canonized—they are nevertheless more correctly considered semi-secular biographies. For while the protagonists are the subjects of panegyrics and are illuminated by saintly archetypes, they are also secular personalities, and a wealth of factual, historical information is presented. And this is perhaps best exemplified by the Pannonian Lives, the Life of Constantine and the Life of Methodius (hereafter LC and LM), which highlight the cultural and religious activity of the brothers and mark the creation of Slavic literature.


The works now known as the Pannonian Lives were once also known as the “Pannonian Legends” and were so considered for a long time. In fact the Polish Slavist Alexander Bruckner found them so fanciful that he consigned their historical worth to the rubbish heap. Although the term “legend” is this context should be viewed technically, indicating the Life of a saint, it nevertheless seemed to imply the presence of fiction and fantasy—a most unfortunate and misleading suggestion considering the exceptional historical value of these biographies. For despite the initial scepticism and negative evaluation of their trustworthiness, LC and LM have been vindicated as accurate testimonials of Slavic history, and their authenticity and historical reliability—owing primarily to the pioneering work of Professor Francis Dvornik—are no longer questioned by the vast majority of scholars.


The biographies of Constantine-Cyril and Methodius serve as the basic sources for studying the Cyrillo-Methodian era — a crucial period in the rise of Slavic culture and literature. The brothers were born in Thessalonica, where their father served as a high military official. It is not entirely correct to assert that they were Greeks, as has been done in the past. Their parents are more precisely described as Byzantines, since it is difficult to determine the extent to which Thessalonica, a part of the Byzantine Empire, had been Hellenized in the ninth century. Moreover, there are scholars who maintain that their mother was a Slav. What is clear is that the brothers were bilingual, as the Emperor’s words to the brothers in LM testify: “You are both Thessalonians and all Thessalonians speak pure Slavic.” Constantine displayed extraordinary intellectual powers from childhood: while not yet fifteen, still a pupil in Thessalonica, he was able lo read the most thoughtful of the Church Fathers. Word of his gifts reached Constantinople, and he was called to





the imperial court to study under the guidance of the best mentors of that day. Methodius, as already indicated, became the governor of a Slavic province, the location of which has been placed in Macedonia around the Strymon River. After forsaking his secular career, he took monastic vows on Mount Olympus.


Weak in health, full of religious enthusiasm and love of learning, Constantine was made deacon and became the Patriarch’s librarian. His profound erudition allowed him to engage and defeat the iconoclast Patriarch John VII (John Grammaticus) in a debate on the veneration of icons. In the latter part of 850 he assumed the chair of philosophy at the Imperial University and received the title “Philosopher,” which was to remain with him down through history.


When in the following year Byzantium sent a delegation to the reigning Caliph, Al-Mutawakkil, to discuss peace and mitigate the persecution of Christians in the Arab Empire, the Emperor and Patriarch chose Constantine to accompany it. In the ensuing debates with the Arabs on religious questions, he upheld the sublimity of Christian truth and demonstrated the emptiness of Mohammedan doctrine, which, as we read in LC, resulted in an attempt to poison him.


After several years spent with his brother Methodius in a monastery on Mount Olympus, in 860 Constantine received a new commission from the Emperor: to travel with an embassy, together with Methodius, to the Khazars, whose Kagan had requested a theologian capable of explaining Christian doctrine. The road to the Khazar Empire lay through Kherson, where the missionaries stopped for the winter and used the time to study Hebrew and the Old Testament, and where they made two discoveries—the Gospels and Psalter written in “Russian letters” and the relics of St. Clement, Pope of Rome—both of which have caused controversies in various places at different times. [5]


The Byzantine embassy was well received by the Khazar Kagan and discussions followed, touching upon, among other things, the Trinity and the Incarnation, which Constantine defended by quoting passages from the Old Testament.


In 863 the main work of the brothers began. It was then that they were sent, at the request of the Moravian Prince Rostislav (Rastislav), to Moravia in order to give religious instruction to the local Slavic population in their own language. Christianity had already been brought to Moravia and Pannonia by Latin missionaries from among the Franks. However, they





celebrated the liturgy in Latin and the teachings of the Church were poorly understood. Because of the task that awaited them in Moravia, Constantine was prompted to invent an alphabet for Slavic, and to translate Scripture into Slavic. It seems that he conceived of the whole mission not only in diplomatic terms, but also as an opportunity to spread Christianity in the Slavic language. No one before Constantine had thought to give the Slavs an alphabet and a literary language, and then to teach them to write it by setting an example with the first translations from the Bible. To paraphrase Dostal, [6] by doing this Constantine laid the foundation for the litarary activity of the Slavs in the world at large. Adopting the Bulgaro-Macedonain dialect for this purpose, he modeled this literary language on Byzantine Greek syntax and word-formation, using it for the enrichment of vocabulary, and religious and legal terminology. However, his alphabet, Glagolitic (not Cyrillic, which bears his name), was an entirely new invention and showed his keen ability to distinguish and represent the phonological structure of the Slavic language very precisely. He was not only a faithful translator of the Gospels, but a literary artist, and the language (which came to be known as OCS) of his translations was poetic and at times more vivid and plastic than the neutral Greek original. What an incredibly powerful effect it must have had on the Slavs of Moravia when from the East these two missionaries came to them bearing books written in Slavic, and in such an impressive style!


In Moravia Constantine and Methodius found immediate support from the people and their prince, but were met with unconcealed hostility on the part of the Frankish Catholic clergy. Despite this, they persisted in their work, built churches and established schools, preaching and teaching the liturgy and theology entirely in Slavic. While still in Constantinople, Constantine translated the Gospels and the other books necessary for the Divine Liturgy—the Psalter, Acts, and the Epistles. Translation activity continued in Moravia, where the brothers translated the entire Calendar, including the Morning Service, daily Hours, Vespers and Compline, which they taught to the fifty disciples entrusted to them. But it was not long before the Latin clergy leveled the charge of “trilingual heresy” against them and were busily lodging complaints with Pope Nicholas I. After forty months of intensive work, the brothers set off for Rome in order to resolve several important questions: (1) the establishment of an independent hierarchy for Moravia and Pannonia; (2) the ordination of their disciples; and





(3) the approval of the Slavic liturgy in the Latin Rite. In Rome the Pope was presented with the Slavic translation of the Gospels and other books. As a sign of his approval of the brothers’ work, the new Pope, Hadrian, had several of the Slavic disciples ordained, placed the Slavic books on the altar of the Church of St. Mary and had the liturgy celebrated with them—using the Latin Rite.


Toward the end of 868 Constantine’s health was declining rapidly. Realizing that his death was near, he decided to die as a monk and upon initiation into monastic orders took the name Cyril. On the 14th of February 869 he died in Rome and was buried in the Church of St. Clement.


Constantine’s premature death at the age of forty-two was a near catastrophe for the Byzantine mission to Moravia and Pannonia. All decisions on such important matters as the appointment of a bishop for Moravia and Pannonia were postponed. However, the situation was saved by Kocel, the Prince of Pannonia, who had manifested an interest in the Slavic liturgy and letters and asked the Pope to send back Methodius, “our teacher.” The opportunity had now presented itself to the Papacy to regain Pannonia. And they decided to send Methodius to the Slavic princes—Kocel of Pannonia, Rostislav of Moravia, and Svatopluk of Nitra (Slovakia)—to explain Rome’s plan to renew papal jurisdiction over these lands and planned recognition of the Slavic liturgy and letters. With Kocel’s approval in hand, he was soon on his way back to Rome, where he was ordained Archbishop of Pannonia and Moravia. In order to forestall protests on the part of the Frankish hierarchy, the Pope restored the ancient see of Sirmium, which had formally embraced these territories, and Methodius returned to Pannonia toward the end of 869 as Archbishop of Sirmium and Papal Legate.


The displeasure of the Frankish bishops—who for the past seventy-five years had been working at the conversion of the Slavs—was felt immediately. They set the Frankish Emperor Louis the German against Methodius. With the political situation in Moravia in their favor the following year as a result of Svatopluk’s treachery vis-a-vis his uncle Rostislav, Methodius, in Moravia on an official visit, was arrested by Hermanrich, Bishop of Passau, and treated tyrannically. In November 870, the Frankish bishops assembled in Regensburg, formed a synod, and condemned Methodius. He was exiled to Swabia, where he was imprisoned at the Monastery of Ellwangen for two and one-half years.





In May 873, through the personal intervention of the new Pope John VIII, Methodius was again granted freedom. He was escorted to Moravia by a Papal Legate and installed in his office, an act which confirmed Rome’s support of the apostolate of Methodius. But though he was received with honor by Svatopulk upon his arrival in Moravia, the relations between them were not at all as cordial as those which Methodius had enjoyed with Rostislav and Kocel; and it was not long before new accusations arose against him. It seems that Svatopluk, who had surrounded himself with Frankish priests, was not sympathetic toward the Slavic liturgy or letters and himself had initiated complaints to the Pope against Methodius. As a result, Methodius once again was summoned to Rome to answer charges of (1) using a forbidden, barbaric tongue to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, and (2) unorthodox teachings, for example, the hyiopateric heresy. Appearing before the Pope and the assembled bishops in 880, Methodius vindicated himself of all the accusations. The outcome of the investigation of him was a weighty Papal Bull, Industriae Tuae, which, in summary, assured Methodius’ orthodoxy, confirmed his appointment as Archbishop of Moravia, and approved (without great enthusiasm) the use of the Slavic liturgy, with the stipulation that the Gospel at Mass first be read in Latin. For all this, the adversaries of the Slavic liturgy nevertheless had their satisfaction: the Bull ended by saying (to paraphrase), if Svatopluk and his nobles preferred to hear the Mass in Latin, the Pope commanded that the Mass be offered in Latin.


Certain that Methodius would be condemned, Svatopluk’s candidate for the bishopric, Wiching, hastened to Rome to receive his appointment. But it was not to be. And though he managed to be consecrated Bishop of Nitra, he remained antagonistic to the arrangement and began immediately to foment trouble. It seems Wiching hurried back to Moravia (Methodius had taken the longer route from Rome so as to avoid Bavarian territory) and, in an attempt to get Svatopluk to reject Methodius, spread the rumor that the Pope had condemned and deposed him, and that he had been appointed in his place. The proof he offered was a forged Papal Bull. When Methodius returned to Moravia, he presented the authentic Bull and, upon learning of Wiching’s deception, dispatched a letter to John VIII. The Pope’s reply, dated 23 March 881, once again affirmed Methodius’ position. Unfortunately, the actual outcome of this controversy is not known because the records have not been preserved. But on the basis of the following line from LM,





“cutting off all accusations on all sides and stopping the mouths of the garrulous,” some researchers have concluded that Methodius excommunicated his adversaries, including Wiching.


Late in 881, Methodius, on the invitation of Emperor Basil I and Patriarch Photius, journeyed to Constantinople, where a warm reception awaited him. They were especially interested to learn of his missionary practices and expressed a lively interest in the Slavic liturgy and letters in view of its success and their desire to convert other Slavs, in particular, the Bulgarians and the Serbs. On his return trip in spring 882, Methodius was accorded an escort of honor to the borders of Moravia. He now set to work on his last great task—a translation of all the Scriptures. Previously Methodius had translated the Nomokanon (best preserved in a thirteenth-century Russian manuscript, Ustjužnaja Kormčaja) and Books of the Fathers (a form of the Paterikon).


Svatopluk’s political power had by now grown considerably. In 883 he invaded Pannonia and later cemented friendly relations with Bohemia. This opened the way for Methodius and his disciples for new religious “conquests,” and led to the spread of Christianity beyond the borders of Moravia and Nitra to Bohemia, Silesia, and Poland.


Methodius performed his last function on Palm Sunday in the year 885. He died three days later, as he himself had foretold, on the morning of the 6th of April, leaving his disciple Gorazd as his successor and some two hundred Slavic presbyters whom he had trained.


The need of the newly-emerging Slavic Christian states to record the Lives of the individuals who initially determined the character of their Christianity and succeeded, directly or indirectly, in inspiring a sense of national self-awareness led to the creation of national literatures. And these came into being with the Lives of Wenceslas, Prince of the Czechs, Boris and Gleb, Princes of the Russians, and Stephen Nemanja, Prince of the Serbs.


The OCS literary tradition, originally centered in the Slavic West—in Moravia, Pannonia, and virtually without interruption until the twelfth century in Bohemia—moved to the Slavic South where it spread to the territories of Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia. From Bohemia and from Bulgaria OCS writing radiated into the Slavic East, to Kievan Russia. This interaction is especially well demonstrated by the specific works chosen for translation, which at the same time are representative of the cross-fertilization of a biographical genre that emanated from





the OCS prototype—the aforementioned Pannonian Lives.


It would be difficult to overstate the contribution Constantine-Cyril and Methodius made to Slavic culture. During the ninth century the various Slavic dialects had not as yet diversified to the extent of mutual incomprehensibility. It was not difficult for any Slav to understand the work of the brothers from Thessalonica though presented in a Southern Slavic form. But it is to their credit that they recognized the universality of the Slavic language at that time and intended their work to be utilized in all Slavic-speaking regions. This common Slavic literary language, OCS, justifies calling the literature in this language a common Slavic written tradition. In its earliest stage of development OCS remained relatively free of the influences of the developing national secular languages, at times so much so that it is hard to localize the language of certain OCS texts. As a result of this intermixture, the cross-pollination of Slavic cultural sources was great.


The Cyrillo-Methodian tradition not only tied the Slavs together with a common literary language and literature, it also left an ideological legacy. The Moravian Mission of Constantine-Cyril and Methodius, as Jakobson has stated, professed the equal rights of all peoples and the equal rights of their languages. Since the liturgy symbolized the summit of medieval values, the right to use the native language symbolized the culture’s right to all other values as well. [7] The outcome of this precious heritage was that whole cultures became nationalized. The Cyrillo-Methodian ideology granted the emerging Slavic cultures and literatures the right to continue in every sphere of activity. Thus, while this tradition created a common written language and literature for the Slavs which fostered unity, it also contained the potential to allow for the development of separate national cultures and languages.


There is hardly any doubt that Bohemia received as much, if not more, of its Christianity in Cyrillo-Methodian form as it did in Latin. Indeed, according to Czech tradition, Prince Borivoj of Prague—the first of the ruling family to become a Christian—was alleged to have been baptized by Methodius himself. Under the protection of his wife Ludmila and grandson Wenceslas, the Slavic liturgy flourished as Slavic priests consolidated their work among the Czech populace. Yet the Cyrillo-Methodian tradition was not destined to survive in Bohemia. Forming, as it were, a scissors, Bavarians on the one edge and Saxons on the other, the cord that tied Bohemia to its common Slavic written tradition was cut. Bohemia was set adrift in





the midst of a hostile sea, battered on all sides and finally engulfed. The rights granted by its invaluable legacy were abrogated after some two centuries of life. By 1100 the Slavic Church ceased to exist, and Bohemia became a Latin preserve. The triumph of the German-Latin Church was so complete that hardly any Slavic manuscripts survived in Bohemia proper. Those that did survive—mostly fragments—are eloquent testimony, considering the chances of survival, of the popularity of the works and the extent to which the common Slavic written tradition had penetrated Bohemian life. The actual preservation of the Slavic texts, however, was largely due to their having made their way eastward to Russia and southward to the Dalmatian coast. And a prime example of this is the manuscript of the so-called First OCS Life of Saint Wenceslas.


Shortly after he was murdered by his brother Boleslav in 929, Wenceslas began to be venerated as a saint and martyr. Thus he and his grandmother Ludmila (who had been murdered some nine years earlier) were accorded the unique dignity of becoming the first Christian martyrs among the Slavs. The cult of St. Wenceslas soon spread beyond the borders of Bohemia and, after the translation of his relics (932), quickly received ecclesiastical approval. As a result Wenceslas also became the first Slavic sovereign to be canonized. By the close of the tenth century Latin Lives of St. Wenceslas were written in Bavaria, Mantua, and Montecassino. Moreover, a tale of Wenceslas’ martyrdom was also written in OCS in Bohemia. The anonymous author of this tale is assumed to have been a Slavic priest trained in the Cyrillo-Methodian tradition who was an eyewitness to the events. His work lies at the base of the extant Russian and Croatian copies of it that are known as the First OCS Life of Saint Wenceslas, a work widely recognized as the oldest source of Bohemian history.


It is generally believed that this first “biography” of Wenceslas—dated around 940—recorded, in a relatively abbreviated form, the principal events of Wenceslas’ youth and reign, concentrating on his violent death, the persecution of his followers, the miracle of his blood, and the repentance of his assassin. But the original tenth-century manuscript, which, judging by the evidence of the extant versions, was written in the Glagolitic script, has not been preserved. What we know of it is derived principally from the fourteenth- and fifteen-century Croatian versions, and the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Russian ones.


By the end of the eleventh century the cult of St. Wenceslas





penetrated into Russia, where Russian ecclesiastical manuscripts recorded a liturgical office for the celebration of the feast of St. Wenceslas (1095), while Russian scribes copied the original Bohemian Life. By this time the cult of St. Wenceslas and the Life had also found their way to the Croatian Glagolites on the Dalmatian coast and islands, who used OCS in the liturgy—a rite similar to that used in Bohemia—and transcribed the Life in their breviaries. Thus was one of the oldest original works of Czech literature preserved.


Since in the First OCS Life Wenceslas was referred to as “Prince” or, more commendably, as “the good and just, God-worshiping, Christ-loving ruler,” it is obvious that this biography was written not only before his canonization but also before the original Latin Life of St. Wenceslas by Gumpold (the Bishop of Mantua), the fate of which was in many ways similar to that of this work. Gumpold’s Life of St. Wenceslas provided the model for an OCS translation by an anonymous author, copies of which came to be known as the Second OCS Life of Saint Wenceslas. This work will be treated in detail in a forthcoming book on Bohemian spirituality.


Whereas the First OCS Life is written in a sober, simple style through which the hero is characterized realistically, by direct quotations and virtually without any improvisation, the Second OCS Life has an extraordinarily ornate and complex style, its sentence structure complicated in the extreme, its narrative animated, and its characterization highly improvised. And the influence of the latter work in particular is clearly discernable in the Narrative and Passion and Encomium of the Holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb, whose martyrdom is explicitly compared with St. Wenceslas. The Cyrillo-Methodian written tradition had by now taken root in Russia, another outgrowth from the shoots that had spread from Bulgaria which were now being further nourished by Bohemia.


It would be fallacious to attribute any profound ecclesiastical and/or linguistic significance to Western Cyrillo-Methodian use in Kievan Russia, for, before the cult of St. Wenceslas reached here, the general character of Kievan Christianity had already been shaped under the influence of Byzantium, and Russia had already been exposed to OCS in its Southern Bulgarian form. This South Slavic written language was so thoroughly to penetrate Russian culture that it would leave an indelible imprint not only on the literary language within and outside of the ecclesiastical field but on spoken and written Russian itself. Yet it would be idle to deny the lively cultural intercourse





between Bohemia and Kievan Russia that resulted from the impact of Czech biography on Old Russian writings.


Western, in particular Latin literature, rarely reached Kiev without first undergoing Slavic translation in Bohemia. [8] And it was the period of activity of the Sázava  Monastery (1032—1096/97) that witnessed the main influx of Bohemian material into Russia, and the translation to Sázava  of part of the relics of SS. Boris and Gleb. However, it was the Lives of St. Ludmila and particularly St. Wenceslas that achieved some popularity, owing in large measure to the parallelism historically between them and St. Olga and SS. Boris and Gleb. Indeed the coincidence of Russian ruler-saints, grandmother and grandson, and the tragedy of Boris and Gleb is striking.


The death of Russia’s first Christian prince, Vladimir, in 1015 resulted in a struggle for power among his many sons. Goaded by ambition similar to that of Boleslav, Svjatopolk, in an attempt to wrest control of his father’s princedom from his rivals, had his brothers Boris and Gleb assassinated. Soon after their death in 1015, the brothers began to be worshiped as saints and passion-sufferers. Around 1072 they gained formal recognition by the Greek Church and thereby became the first Russians to be canonized. And it was with the names of Boris and Gleb that the most popular and oldest East Slavic biography is connected.


Although the author of the Narrative remains unknown, one can assume that he was acquainted with at least one of the works dealing with St. Wenceslas and, perhaps, with other West Slavic biographical writings. It is not inconceivable that such works as the Lives of St. Ludmila and SS. Constantine-Cyril and Methodius were familiar to the Kievan bookman who composed the work on Boris and Gleb. That a Life of St. Wenceslas was known is confirmed by the direct reference to Wenceslas in the Narrative, and further supported by the striking parallels in theme regarding the miraculous liberation of prisoners. [9] However, the theme of miraculously freeing prisoners is not only found in the literary tradition of the Czech saint but also in LC, where it was associated with Christ and St. Clement. [10] It is of interest to note that liberating prisoners was not one of the miraculous services of either Christ or the Apostles, though in Acts divine aid did come to some of the imprisoned Apostles themselves (cf. Acts 5:18-19; 12:4-10; 16:23-26). Of course it is possible that these passages served as the source for subsequent liberation miracles in Christian legends in general. Yet the parallel between the prisoner miracles





of St. Wenceslas and SS. Boris and Gleb cannot be explained by this common New Testament source alone.


Given the absence of either attested sources, one can only hypothesize about the origin of this theme. Therefore, perhaps it traces its origin to an original OCS composition on St. Wenceslas which in turn drew its inspiration from LC and was known in Kiev. The model for this theme could not have been solely provided either by Acts, the First or Second OCS Life, nor is it very likely that Kievan men of letters were able to utilize the Latin sources—Crescente fide, Christian, Oriente iam sole — which have been given credit for originating this theme. The only other source would be either an OCS translation of another Latin work or an original OCS composition which was later reworked in Latin. I, for one, favor the latter hypothesis. [11]


The literary production of the Moravian Mission, perpetuated in Bohemia and Bulgaria, was destined for dissemination throughout the Slavic East and South. As a result, all Slavic literary activity during the period under discussion can be considered a continuation of the tradition begun by Constantine-Cyril and Methodius and their disciples and followers. Therefore, it is not surprising to find, among other things, a considerable amount of stylistic uniformity and motifs that originate in the earliest monuments and then reappear in later works. And this situation would last as long as OCS prevailed in the literature of the Slavs, for there were no inter-Slavic literary barriers. OCS was the thread binding them with each other and their common heritage, and it remained unbroken virtually up to the twelfth century. Afterwards, OCS gradually yielded to a far less unified Middle Church Slavic. However the unifying role of the OCS tradition would continue to link the Orthodox Slavs. An important and interesting example of this linkage is provided by the last work chosen for translation, St. Sava’s Life of Stephen Nemanja (St. Simeon).


Though a product of the thirteenth century, St. Sava, as Hafner has noted, [12] drew on the Pannonian Lives, when introducing his own work, for God’s plan of salvation for mankind. Moreover, this was by no means the only way in which the beginnings of Serbian letters touched base, in a manner of speaking, not only with the beginnings of Slavic literacy but also with the other works discussed above. For example, the translatio account of the remains of St. Clement in LC, echoed in a similar account in the work dealing with Boris and Gleb, seems to have exerted influence on St. Sava’s treatment of the relics of Stephen Nemanja. Furthermore, it is possible to view





the political motif found in the Life of Stephen Nemanja as proceeding from the Slavic biographies of Wenceslas via the works on Boris and Gleb where it appeared as a leitmotif. And this particular drift caused all the biographies under discussion to combine ecclesiastic and secular elements, that is, to mix purely hagiographic material with a political message.


As opposed to Wenceslas and Boris and Gleb, Nemanja lived long enough to designate his successor, abdicate voluntarily, and withdraw at a ripe age into monastic life (1195—1197). As the monk Simeon, he together with his son Rastko (St. Sava) founded the Serbian monastery of Hilandar at Mt. Athos where he died in the year 1200. From the time his relics were brought back to Serbia, to the Studenica Monastery (1207/08), they were reputed to have miracle-working powers, and shortly thereafter he was canonized. Thus he became the first saint in the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church when it was established in 1219. And it was the realization of an autocephalous church that precipitated the emergence of original Serbian literature.


Just as the introduction of the cult of SS. Boris and Gleb was a precursor to the ecclesiastical independence of the Russian Orthodox Church, so did the promotion of the cult of St. Simeon precede the ecclesiastical independence of the Serbian Orthodox Church. And the medium which was utilized for this purpose was biography. By infusing his hero with attributes that would complement his religious aspirations and political interests, St. Sava’s biography of his father blended into an integrated whole elements from the conventional genre of hagiography with those of historiography, monastic legend, family tradition, and so on, and thus gave rise to a type of life-writing the development of which was unique in Church Slavic literature. For whereas life-writing was a sporadic phenomenon among the Moravians, Czechs, and Russians, among the Serbs it developed into a separate, unified literary genre which gradually took on an even more secular orientation. Indeed, it was in this area, in the genre of biography, that Serbia made its outstanding contribution to Medieval Slavic literature. As Birnbaum aptly observed, one can hardly speak of an autonomous genre of secular biography independent of hagiography in Old Russian literature. Also in medieval Bohemia life-writing was practiced far too short a time to yield a new genre of biography by blending hagiographic and historiographic elements. The elaboration of this integrated literary genre was accomplished only in Serbia. [13] Thus, St. Sava’s Life of Stephen Nemanja





was followed by two more Lives of Nemanja which in turn were followed by a series of Lives of St. Sava, and they by the Lives of Serbian kings.


Through a quirk of history, it was the suppression of the OCS liturgy in one region of Slavdom that led to its spread to and establishment in other Slavic regions. After the expulsion of the Slavic clergy from Moravia and Pannonia, the disciples and followers of the Apostles to the Slavs were forced to seek refuge elsewhere. They found it in Bulgaria and Bohemia, where fertile ground was provided for the transplantation of this liturgy and the growth of letters. Here they flourished and yielded a harvest that nurtured Russia and Serbia, where the OCS tradition was completely absorbed. Thus, OCS created a literary-linguistic cohesiveness among the Slavs that would never again recur. And, ironically, perhaps it was the very liturgy that was suppressed, the liturgy in the vernacular—the artistically uncreative use of OCS—more than any other single factor that prolonged Slavic linguistic unity. For there was no dissolution of linguistic unity; it has survived among the Orthodox Slavs and in the Glagolitic liturgical texts of the Croats, despite subsequent incursions by Tatar, Turk, and Teuton, even to this day. However, the end of the OCS period—that is, the end of the artistically creative use of OCS—coincides with the beginning of the end of Slavic linguistic unity in the broader sense of the term. It was about the time of the First Crusade. The Slavic Church, as mentioned above, and OCS literature disappeared in the Slavic West. Just as previously this literature had come to an abrupt end in Moravia and Pannonia, so it did now in Bohemia. It fell to the Slavic East and South to maintain linguistic unity and the OCS tradition. This was accomplished by the Orthodox Slavs, who would remain linked for many centuries by the Church Slavic literary language in spite of the process which gradually changed the various Slavic dialects into separate languages. Therefore, it is difficult to establish the terminal point of this unity. Whereas the beginning of OCS literature dates from the Moravian Mission, and the beginning of the dissolution of “Pan”-Slavic unity dates from the time this literature ceased to be productive in the Slavic West, no such specific event marks the end of the Church Slavic literary tradition among the Slavic Orthodox. Generally speaking, however, the work of Constantine-Cyril and Methodius was continued for over eight centuries, for the Church Slavic literary tradition in the Slavic Orthodox world was still productive at the end of the seventeenth century.





And in many ways the overall contribution of Constantine-Cyril and Methodius to Slavic culture in general remains influential even down to the present day.





The present translation of LC and LM is my revised version of these works, which were previously translated by Dr. Richard S. White and myself, and published as a separate volume entitled The Vita of Constantine and The Vita of Methodius, Michigan Slavic Materials no. 13 (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Dept, of Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1976). This book contained an Introduction written by Antonin Dostal. In undertaking the revision, my first concern was to correct errors and shortcomings which I myself had noticed and those which were brought to my attention by colleagues and critics. To date most of the criticism has been favorable, indeed much more so than I dared to hope. For this reason the current version does not differ substantially from the original one. However, it does take into account criticism and recent research in the area, and thus profits greatly therefrom. At least some of the more painful lapses have been rectified. I do regret that my close friend and collaborator Dr. White was unable to work with me on this occasion.


There are approximately thirty extant manuscripts of LC which can be divided into two groups, one South Slavic and the other East Slavic. The one chosen for translation is from the former group and is known as the Vladislav Grammaticus manuscript, dated 1469. It was chosen because it is preserved in remarkably complete form and thus avoids the problems connected with recensions. LM has come down to us in only eight manuscripts, all of which are of East Slavic origin. The manuscript found in the Uspenskij sbornik, which dates from the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, was utilized in this translation. Most scholars agree that both Lives were written in Moravia [14] shortly after the death of their respective protagonists, but the individual authorships still remain an open question. LC has been attributed now to Methodius, now to Clement, LM has been credited now to one of their disciples, now to Naum specifically. One thing is clear: the Lives are the work of at least two different Slavic authors. And what is most remarkable, whoever the authors, is the high quality of their literary output in a language that was formed in a short period





of time primarily in the process of translating the Bible from Byzantine Greek. Perhaps this is why the stylistic model for these works appears to be the New Testament, in particular the Gospels, which are also laconic and at times elliptical. Yet it is nevertheless a paradox, as Ševčenko has noted, that the peak achievements of OCS literature stand at its difficult beginnings and not at the end of a leisurely development. [15]


The First OCS Life of Saint Wenceslas, the original Czech copy of which is no longer extant, was written, as indicated above, during the tenth century. However, because of the popularity of the saint, copies of his Life were made in the eleventh century by both Russian and Croatian clerics. As a result there exist two Russian copies representing one common archetype, and three Croatian copies, which also represent a common archetype. Despite this, reconstruction of the original text would have been exceedingly difficult were it not for the existence of a fragmentary version of the original Life, found in the Russian calendar of martyrs—or the Prologue—which had an entry describing the translation of St. Wenceslas’ relics. This version facilitated the task of reconstruction, which was most recently accomplished by the eminent Slavist Roman Jakobson. [16] His study showed conclusively that the Prologue used “long and for the most part literal quotations” from the original Czech Life of Saint Wenceslas, and that it developed independently from the other Russian versions and, perhaps, even directly from the Czech original. Jakobson now compared the extant copies of the Life with his reconstructed text and noted the number of deviations shown in each of the variants. Thus, he found that one of the Russian copies, the so-called Vostokov Variant of the First OCS Life of Saint Wenceslas, least deviated syntactically, grammatically, and semantically from his posited original. Therefore, I have chosen this particular variant for translation because, as Jakobson has demonstrated, it is essentially a Cyrillic copy of the original Glagolitic Czech Life with only minor stylistic changes.


For the sake of objectivity, it should be noted that Milos Weingart also made an extensive study of the various manuscripts of the First OCS Life of Saint Wenceslas and obtained completely different results. He concluded that the text found in the Croatian Glagolitic breviaries was the one that most resembled the lost tenth-century original. [17]


There is a rather lengthy and to date unresolved controversy as to which of the works dealing with Boris and Gleb, the Narrative and Passion and Encomium of the Holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb,





the Lection on the Life and Assassination of the Blessed Passion-Sufferers Boris and Gleb or the account in the Russian Primary Chronicle, served as the basic source for the others. Summarized briefly, the theories and/or hypotheses are as follows. The majority of scholars who have worked on this problem believe that the account in the Primary Chronicle (Povest ’ vremennykh let) underlies both the Narrative (Skazanie) and the Lection (Čtenie). However, there is a hypothesis according to which the Narrative predates the account in the Primary Chronicle. As concerns the relation between the Narrative and the Lection, there are also basically differing points of view. On the one hand there are those who believe that the Narrative was written by an anonymous author in the mid-eleventh century—during the last years in the reign of Jaroslav the Wise (1036—1054)—and that the enumeration of miracles was appended at a later date, around 1089—1115. On the other hand there is the view that the Lection, including the miracles, was written by Nestor—a monk from the Caves Monastery in Kiev—sometime between 1080—1090, and that it as well as the Primary Chronicle served as the sources for the Narrative, which was written sometime after 1115.


Given the number of extant manuscripts, the work which apparently appealed most to the ancient Russian reading public was the Narrative, the oldest copy of which was preserved in the Uspenskij sbornik. Compared to the Lection, the Narrative is not nearly as conventionally hagiographic and for this reason does not contain many of the traditional motifs and commonplaces of this genre. On the contrary, it is quite dramatic, and in the depiction of the emotional experiences of the heroes conveys a great deal of pathos. It is this manuscript, with the exception of two sections enclosed in brackets, that was chosen for translation.


With regard to the Life of Stephen Nemanja, it is interesting that Sava refers to his hero as “venerable” and not as “saint” as does his older brother Stephen the First-Crowned, in his Life of his father written around 1216. This would seem to indicate that Sava’s Life, dated around 1208, was written before Nemanja’s (Simeon’s) canonization, and would fix the date of his canonization sometime between 1208—1216. And this would also seem perfectly reasonable, since it would set his canonization between the time that his relics were translated to Studenica in 1207/08 —where, according to tradition, they soon began to work miracles (a prelude to sainthood)—and Stephen’s coronation in 1217, by which time Simeon, again according to





tradition, was regarded a national saint. However, according to early sources, the works of the monks Domentian and Theodosius, Simeon’s canonization took place on the 13th of February 1201, one year to the day after his death. And to make matters even more complicated, more recent studies have set the date of his canonization in 1219. [18] Therefore, the precise date of Simeon’s canonization in the Serbian Orthodox church is still a matter of speculation.


Sava’s Life of Saint Simeon, as this work came to be known, was not per se a separate work; rather it made up the first three chapters of the Studenica Typicon. The manuscript I utilized for my translation was published in Prague in 1870 by Pavel Šafařík and entitled Život Sv. Symeona od Sv. Sávy. It is a copy of a seventeenth-century manuscript that appeared in a collection of South Slavic literary monuments under the title Památky Dřevního Písemnictví Jihoslovanův, and was published by Šafařík in Prague in 1873. The seventeenth-century copy of the Life by St. Sava is now the only extant one. The Lives of Stephen Nemanja by his sons, Sava and Stephen, display an interesting contrast in that the latter’s Life, in keeping with the development of Serbian letters toward a more secular orientation, is much more political than the former’s.


In translating the preceding works, I have tried to maintain certain standards. In the first place, I was concerned with accuracy and have striven to translate as precisely as possible everything that was written in the texts regardless of how obscure and/or elliptic the passage(s) might have been. When necessary I consulted other manuscripts, and have discussed difficulties with colleagues. A second goal was to capture the essence of the originals—without sounding too archaic—by suggesting its tone and mood insofar as modem English prose and syntax will allow. Hopefully I have not taken too many liberties with any of the manuscripts and/or committed an inordinate number of lapses. The solutions I offer on the following pages are my own and I accept full responsibility for them.


For the translation of biblical allusions, paraphrases, and quotations I have utilized the King James Version of the Bible. It was chosen in order to render, particularly for the English reader, the flavor of medieval texts which abound in biblical allusions, paraphrases, and quotations. To have rendered such passages in a more modem English version of the Bible would have, to be sure, avoided certain archaisms but at the expense of the texts’ medieval essence. In so doing, however, I realize that such a distinction in style cannot be discerned in the original manuscripts. Since the vernacular was never admitted into





the literary language, and the literary language (OCS) of the first millennium was yet to develop a stylistically archaic—as opposed to “modern”—level of language, the sacred and the profane, that is, biblical quotations and literary narrative, had to receive uniform treatment. As a result, the translation does indeed create an artificial distinction in style. This course was pursued in order to avoid the two extremes—a translation into a language and style that is completely archaic or completely modern.


It should be further noted that all verbatim or near-verbatim biblical quotations are indicated in the right-hand margins, where chapter and verse are cited. References to allusions and paraphrases are confined to the Notes. Also, the transliteration of Slavic letters is handled according to the norms of the international scholarly system.


Finally, I should like to thank my colleagues, Professors Carol Avins and Henry R. Cooper Jr., for reading and commenting on my manuscript, and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs of Northwestern University for providing funds for typing the manuscript and purchasing the facsimilies used in this work. Also, I wish to extend an especial word of thanks to my good friend, Dr. Paul F. Bakalar, for the role he played in the preparation of my work.




Notes to the Introduction


1. Norman W. Ingham, “The Limits of Secular Biography in Medieval Slavic Literature, Particularly Old Russian,” American Contributions to the Sixth International Congress of Slavists, Vol. II (The Hague: Mouton, 1968), p. 182.


2. Paul J. Alexander, “Secular Biography at Byzantium,” Speculum, XV (1940), pp. 204-205.


3. Harold Nicolson, The Development of English Biography (London, 1927), p. 135.


4. Ingham, p. 189.


5. See notes 33 and 34 to The Life of Constantine.


6. The Vita of Constantine and The Vita of Methodius, trans. and commentaries by Marvin Kantor and Richard S. White, Intro, by Antonin Dostal, Michigan Slavic Materials no. 13 (Ann Arbor: Dept, of Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1976), pp. x-xi.


7. Roman Jakobson, “The Kernal of Comparative Slavic Literature,” Harvard Slavic Studies, I (1953), p. 52.


8. It should be noted that no doctrinal works reached Russia since none





were apparently sought. The Latin Fathers were virtually unknown in Kiev. However, such Latin works in Slavic form as the Life of St. Benedict of Nursia, the Life of St. Conrad, the Life of St. Julian of Le Mans, the Life of Pope Stephen, and the Martyrdom of St. Appolinarius were transmitted.


9. For a discussion of this see Norman W. Ingham, “Czech Hagiography in Kiev: The Prisoner Miracles of Boris and Gleb,” Die Welt der Slaven, 10, no. 2 (July, 1965), pp. 166-82. See also D. Čyževskyj, “Anklänge an die Gumpoldslegende des hl. Vaclav in der altrussischen Legende des hl. Feodosij und das Problem der Originalitat der slavischen mittelalterlichen Werke,” WslJ, I (1950), pp. 71-86.


10. Constantine-Cyril himself was never party to any such miracle. However, we do find in his Life what can be viewed as a variation on this theme. On several occasions in lieu of accepting rewards for his services, he asks that prisoners be freed. He asks this of the Khazar Kagan (Chap. 11), and of Prince Rostislav and Kocel (Chap. 15).


11. Though not connected, it is interesting to note that the oldest Life of St. Ludmila was reworked from OCS in Latin.


12. Stanislaus Hafner, Serbisches Mittelalter (Graz, 1962), I, p. 340.


13. Henrik Birnbaum, “Byzantine Tradition Transformed: The Old Serbian Vita,” On Medieval and Renaissance Slavic Writing (The Hague: Mouton, 1974), p. 340.


14. The traditional epithet for these Lives, “Pannonian,” came about because of a mistaken nineteenth-century theory that OCS was a Pannonian dialect.


15. Ihor Ševčenko, “Three Paradoxes of the Cyrillo-Methodian Mission,” Slavic Review, XXIII, no. 2 (June, 1964), p. 231.


16. See Roman Jakobson, “Some Russian Echoes of the Czech Hagiography,” Annuaire dl’Institut de Philologie et d’Histoire Orientate et Slaves, VII (New York, 1944), pp. 155-68.


17. See Milos Weingart, “První česko-církvenéslovanská legenda o svatém Václavu,” Svatováclavsky Sbornik, I (Prague, 1934), pp. 863-1088.


18. See Svetosavski zbornik, I (Belgrad, 1936), pp. 131-209.



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