Medieval Slavic Manuscripts and Culture

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Women in the Royal Book of Degrees

A recent acquisition to the Hilandar Research Library’s holdings of secondary literature includes Set Me as a Seal upon Thy Heart: Constructions of Female Sanctity in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern Period, edited by Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky (Budapest: Trivent Publishing, 2018). Of particular note for Slavicists is the first article by Rosie Finlinson (MSSI 2015), who examines royal women in the Muscovite dynastic structure of the Stepennaia kniga or ‘Royal Book of Degrees.’

Manuscript page of black ink cursive and red cinnabar headings of texts about Princess Olga. Brown water stain on upper right and lower left corners of the page.

The baptism of Princess Olga from a Stepennaia kniga, SPEC.OSU.HRL.SMS.18, f. 13r

Table of Contents

Gerhard Jaritz, Preface [Foreword], 1
Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky, Introduction, 3-4

Part I
Women (Re)constructed

Rosie Finlinson (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom), “Bricks to Bones: Royal Women and the Construction of Holy Place in the Stepennaia Kniga,” 7-28
Andra Jugǎnaru (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), “Macrina and Melanie the Elder: Painting the Portraits of Holy Learned Women in the Fourth-Century Roman Empire,” 29-41
Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Universität Salzburg), “The Apocyphal Geography of Virgin Mary in Hagiographic Collections: Dissemination and Liturgy,” 43-65

Part II
Power and Martyrdom

Francesco Calò (Università degli studi di Bari, Italy), “Devozione privata e ostentazione politica: Ruggero I il Gran Conte e la diffusione del culto di santa Lucia tra Sicilia e Meridione d’Italia,” 69-103
Cǎtǎlina-Tatiana Covaciu (“Babeş Bolyai” University, Romania), “Beyond a Hagiographic Cliché. On the Supernatural Sustenance of Saint Catherine of Siena,” 105-134
Silvia Marin Barutcieff (University of Bucharest, Romania), “Between Similarity and Distinction: Notes on the Iconography of Saint Wilgefortis in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods,” 135-156.

Manuscript page of black ink cursive and red cinnabar headings of texts about Princess Olga

About Princess Olga’s arrival in Constantinople, her baptism, and about Tsar John Tzimiskes [sic], from a Stepennaia kniga, SPEC.OSU.HRL.SMS.18, f. 12r

Season’s Greetings from the Hilandar Research Library and the Resource Center for Medieval Slavic Studies!

Pimen Sofronov’s Work at St. Anthony’s in Bergenfield, NJ

The Very Rev. John H. Erickson, the Peter N. Gramowich Professor Emeritus of Church History at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, is the author of the children’s book, Orthodox Christians in America (1999), which is part of the Religion in American Life series of Oxford University Press. The book is recommended for grades 7 and up or ages 12 and above.

In Chapter 5 “The Quest for Unity,” Erickson focuses on “The Birth of a Pan-Orthodox Mission Parish,” in Bergen County, New Jersey, i.e., St. Anthony Orthodox Church:

“‘To establish a multiethnic parish in Bergen Country, N.J., and to adopt English for use in the services’ was the goal of seven Arab-American Orthodox families when they asked the late Metropolitan Antony Bashir for his archpastoral blessing in April 1956….

“In 1958 Gabriel Ashie was ordained a priest and assigned to the new parish by Metropolitan Antony. Within a few years a beautiful church was built in Bergenfield, bordering on Englewood and Tenafly. Pimen Sofronov, the most famous iconographer in this hemisphere, painted the icons for the iconostasis. By that point, the congregation was more than 100 families–30 percent Slavs, 30 percent Arabs, 30 percent Greeks, and 10 percent converts. The phenomenon of the pan-ethnic parish in suburban New Jersey was realized!” (Erickson 1999: 106-107; bold is added for this blog post).

St. Anthony’s has some beautiful photos on its website of the icons and stained glass in its church in a Google Photos folder labeled St. Anthony’s At a Glance (accessed August 31, 2018).

Iconostasis at St. Anthony Orthodox Church (Bergenfield, NJ)

Not all of the work depicted in the online photo gallery of St. Anthony’s interior was done by Pimen Sofronov, but the icon of St. Sophia with her daughters Faith, Hope and Charity, is immediately recognizable and familiar from an icon and fresco at the Three Saints Church in Ansonia, Connecticut.

In the Pimen M. Sofronov Collection at the Hilandar Research Library, we have several of Sofronov’s working drawings of St. Sofia with Vera (‘Faith’), Liubov’ (‘Love”), and Nadezhda (‘Hope’).

St. Sophia with her daughters Faith, Hope and Charity at St. Anthony Orthodox Church (Bergenfield NJ)




Welcome to the Hilandar Research Library & the Resource Center for Medieval Slavic Studies at The Ohio State University

To welcome new visitors and patrons, we summarize here some resources to explain to the uninitiated about the Hilandar Research Library (HRL) and the Resource Center for Medieval Slavic Studies (RCMSS).

Note that the photo of the HRL/RCMSS in the video (see below) shows one of the two rooms we inhabited before the renovation of the William Oxley Thompson Library.

Hilandar Research Library, 225 Main Library, circa 1992

Former location of the Hilandar Research Library, circa 1992

Here’s where we are currently located, sharing  space since 2009 with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library and the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute in the Jack and Jan Creighton Special Collections Reading Room (Thompson Library 105):

 Jack and Jan Creighton Special Collections Reading Room (THO 105)

The Jack and Jan Creighton Special Collections Reading Room (THO 105)

















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Pimen M. Sofronov in America

To date, there is no comprehensive and definitive list of the works created by the Russian Old Believer iconographer, Pimen M. Sofronov (1898-1973).  After immigrating to the United States in 1947, he created frescoes and icons for numerous churches and individuals, and taught iconography in various places.

*Note that the names of churches in America below are linked to current websites.

“A Brief Biography” is provided in a program for Sofronov’s “Exhibition of Icons” sponsored by The Russian Orthodox Icon Society at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco, California, March 5-21, 1966.

Born 1898.

Began to study iconography 1910.

Taught courses in icon painting:

  • Riga, 1930
  • Paris, 1933 (10 months)
  • Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1934 (3 months)
  • Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1935-38

1939, went to Italy, where, at the request of the Vatican, he painted 56 icons for the projected World Exhibition of Religious Art.

1941, held exhibition of his iconographic work in Rome.

1947, came to America at the invitation of Russian Orthodox Archbp. Vitaly of N. Y. to paint icons in various churches.

1953-55, painted walls of Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Syracuse, N. Y.

1955-57, painted walls and iconostas of St. Vladimir Church, Trenton, N. J.

1958-60, painted walls in Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, N. Y.

1960, became American citizen.

1961, celebrated 50th anniversary jubilee of icon painting.

1960-62, painted frescoes and icons on iconostas in Three Hierarchs Church in Ansonia, Conn.

1965, came to San Francisco at invitation of Russian Orthodox Icon Society to teach courses in icon painting.

From Pattern to Painting: The Religious Iconography of Pimen Sofronov

The Hilandar Research Library exhibit about the life and work of the Russian Old Believer iconographer Pimen Maksimovich Sofronov (1898-1973) is open to the public in the Thompson Library Exhibit Gallery (1st floor), The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, May 31-September 16, 2018.










Photos of Sofronov’s working drawing or “cartoon” of the Old Testament Holy Trinity and Sofronov’s icon of the Holy Trinity from the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Brooklyn, New York, by M.A. Johnson, Curator of Slavic Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, Hilandar Research Library

Concept and execution of the graphic mash-up of Sofronov’s drawing and photo of Sofronov’s icon by Ken Aschliman, University Libraries Exhibitions Coordinator

Layout and design of the promotional flyer by Pam McClung, University Libraries Graphic Designer.

Thompson Library Special Collections Welcomes Mary P. Key Resident

Guest blog post by Nena Couch, Head of the Special Collections in Thompson.

The new year brings the happy addition of Kapil Vasudev to Thompson Library Special Collections as the Mary P. Key Resident for Cultural Diversity Inquiry.  Kapil comes to us from Davidson College in North Carolina where, as a Library Collections Assistant, he facilitated the acquisition, description, and preservation of library collections, including the processing of oral histories of the African American community in North Mecklenburg County. In his previous roles at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, he worked with diverse communities and participated in a system-wide effort to increase cultural inclusivity of library programs.  He was a teaching assistant for North Carolina State University’s Department of History, and earned his MLIS at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Working as part of the Thompson Special Collections team with Rare Books and Manuscripts, the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, and the Hilandar Research Library, Kapil will connect our distinctive collections to curricular opportunities where special collections can enlighten and inspire a deep understanding of diversity.

OSU Libraries’ two-year Mary P. Key Diversity Residency Program provides professional development and mentorship for a successful transition from academic training to research librarianship, provides hands-on exposure in many areas of the University Libraries, and contributes to advancing diversity initiatives for both the academic librarianship profession and The Ohio State University Libraries.   Before retiring from the Agriculture Library in 1998, Mary P. Key served as the first chair of the Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which has served an important role in advising our diversity residency program. She was the second African American librarian to head a department at the OSU Libraries.

49th Annual Convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)

November 9-12, 2017, the 49th Annual ASEEES Convention was held in the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile Hotel on Michigan Avenue. The convention theme “Transgressions” was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

As usual, one had to weigh the merits of the panels and roundtables in each session, considering both the known and unknown participants, the provocative titles that may or may not live up to their titles, and the wide array of fascinating topics before making one’s selection of which panels and/or individual papers to attend.

Two medieval Slavic-themed panels were scheduled during the opening session on Thursday afternoon (1pm-2:45pm) as was the first Slavic librarian panel:

Session 1-36: Transgressions in Translation Panel 1: Transgressive Translations in the Slavic Middle Ages – “Navy Pier” Room, 10th floor
Chair: David J. Birnbaum, U of Pittsburgh
Papers: Robert Romanchuk, Florida State U, “The Slavic Digenis Akritis: Translation out of Greek vs. Translation into Slavic”;
Moshe Taube, Hebrew U of Jerusalem (Israel), “Subversive Translations from Hebrew in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in Muscovy”;
Discussant: Julia Verkholantsev, U of Pennsylvania.

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Old Russian Birchbark Letters: A Pragmatic Approach

Simeon Dekker, PhD Slavic Studies, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, who attended the 2017 Medieval Slavic Summer Institute (June 19-July 14), presented the Hilandar Research Library with a bound copy of his dissertation, Old Russian Birchbark Letters: A Pragmatic Approach.

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Transylvanian Review / Revue de Transylvanie

The OSU Libraries East European and Slavic Studies department recently received copies of the most recent six issues of Revue de TransylvanieTransylvanian Review, volumes 24.3-4 (2015) and  25 (2016), from the Biblioteca Centrală Universitară “Lucian Blaga” Cluj-Napoca. The journal is published by the Center for Transylvanian Studies of the Romanian Academy, and is indexed in the Web of Science Database.

The journal includes book reviews, essays, and articles on healthcare, history, literature linguistics, minorities, music (especially Jazz), religion, and other topics in the humanities and the social sciences ranging from medieval times to contemporary life. There are several articles that may be of interest specifically to ScriptoriaSlavica readers:

Simona Gabriela Bungău and Viorel-Cristian Popa, “Between Religion and Science: Some Aspects Concerning Illness and Healing in Antiquity,” Transylvanian Review 24.3 (Autumn 2015): 3-18.

Florian Dumitru Soporan and Liana Lăpădatu, “La révolution hussite et l’affirmation du voïvodat de Transylvanie dans le contexte de la croisade tardive: Tangences et spécificités,” Transylvanian Review 24.3 (Autumn 2015): 98-112.

Keywords: Hussite revolution, Voivodship of Transylvania, Late Crusade

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