Medieval Slavic Manuscripts and Culture

Tag: St. Catherine’s Monastery

Menaia and Tropologia from St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai


Aleksandra IUr’evna Nikiforova’s book, Iz istorii Minei v Vizantii: Gimnograficheskie pamiatniki VIII-XIi vv. iz sobraniia monastyria sviatoi Ekateriny na Sinae, focuses on the history of the Menaion liturgical book in Byzantium, specifically the hymnographical texts of the 8th-12th centuries from the manuscript collection of St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai.

Image of the front cover the book which is a photograph of the Mt Sinai with photo inset over the horizon of the monastery itself. Above the inset image, in top right is the title of the book in Russian, with the author's name at the very top.

Moscow 2012


Nikiforova examines the Sinai Greek Tropologia and Menaia from the 8th-16th century, housed in both St. Catherine’s and in Moscow’s State Historical Museum and Russian State Library. Manuscripts from other Russian repositories, the Austrian National Library (Vienna) were also consulted, as were microfilms held in the Patristic Greek Institute (Vlatadon) in Thessaloniki of manuscripts from Philotheos Monastery on Mt. Athos.

Nikiforova’s book includes a preface, three chapters (“Menaia before Menaia: the Tropologia”; “The Birth of the Menaia: Sinaiticus gr. 607, 9th-10th cent.”;
“Menaia 9th-12th centuries”), and extensive appendices, such as a description of one of the early Greek Tropologia, the hymnographical texts found in a daily readings from a Menaion, and calendars of saints with information about the authors and hymnographers of Menaion texts.

Research Query: Sinai Greek Manuscripts


Several recent inquiries have referenced Greek manuscripts of the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai. In 1950 the Library of Congress co-sponsored an expedition to St. Catherine’s to microfilm manuscripts in the monastery’s library: 1,687 of the 3,300 manuscripts and 1,742 firmans were filmed. The microfilms of Sinai manuscripts held by the Library of Congress are enumerated in the Checklist of Manuscripts in St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, edited by Kenneth W. Clark.

Image of the front cover of Clark's checklist of manuscripts - beige paper cover, with title in blue over the seal of The Library of Congress

In 1970 Murad Kamil published a Catalogue of all manuscripts in the Monastery of St. Catharine on Mount Sinai. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. Kamil (1) describes the collection as containing “3329 manuscripts in twelve languages and a collection of Arabic and Turkish scrolls, totaling 1742.” Kamil organizes the manuscripts in his catalog first according to language and then by genre, with the Arabic and Turkish scrolls listed at the end. A brief description precedes each section, and it is here in the description of the Greek Collection that Kamil notes (61), “The [American Foundation Mt. Sinai] Expedition microfilmed 1083 codices, 400 of which were of Biblical texts, out of 2319 Greek manuscripts.”Image of the front cover of Kamil's catalog of Sinai manuscripts - a dull blue/gray paper cover with the author, title, and publisher i

In May 1975 additional manuscripts leaves and fragments were discovered in a tower of the monastery. The “New Finds” have been described in various publications, e.g. The New Discoveries in St. Catherine’s Monastery: A Preliminary Report on the Manuscripts by James H. Charlesworth and George Zervos (Cambridge, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research; Winona Lake, IN: Distributed by Eisenbrauns, 1981) and Ioannis C. Tarnanides, The Slavonic Manuscripts Discovered in 1975 at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.



Colophon: Monk Iov, fl. 1360-1390


In 1990 Lucija Cernić published her article on the “circle” of a scribe Iov (Їωвь) who worked on manuscripts over a thirty-year period in the 14th century: “Круг писара Јова,” Arheografski prilozi 12 (1990): 129-180. Famous for her ability to recognize scribal hands, Cernić listed twenty different manuscripts that had been written solely or partially by Iov – eight of which were attributed to Iov as a result of her research. Ten of the manuscripts remain in the collection of Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos; others are found in the collections of St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, the Vatican, Dečani Monastery, Krk Monastery, and in Sofia, Novosibirsk, and Vienna.

The images below are of the scribal colophon in HM.SMS.392, a miscellany of homilies (“Zlatoust”) for the Lenten cycle, circa 1385, which forms a set with HM.SMS.388 and HM.SMS.389, two volumes of a “Zlatoust” miscellany for the Festal cycle of services, which are also attributed to Iov and circa 1385.

Image of leaf 521 verso of Hilandar Monastery Slavic manuscript no. 392

HM.SMS.392, f. 521v
Circa 1385

Image of leaf 521 recto of Hilandar Monastery Slavic Manuscript no. 392, the colophon of the scribe Iov

HM.SMS.392, f. 521r
Circa 1385













Iov mentions that when he began writing this book, Grigorii was hegumen, but when he ended the book, the head of the monastery was Hieromonk Iosif (last two lines on f. 521r). Iov’s name appears on the first line of f. 521v: Писавшааго сию книгоу, таха їωва монаха….


Image source: HM.SMS.392, f. 521r-v – from microfilm in the HRL.


Marginalia: Seven Stages of Intoxication


Different types of inscriptions are found in medieval manuscripts – Slavic and otherwise. The scribal colophon (the who-what-where-when and sometimes why or for whom) is usually located at the end of the manuscript in the hand of a scribe who copied the main text. It is often somehow set apart from the main text – perhaps physically on a separate page or written in smaller letters. It may be written in the scribe’s colloquial language, which also serves to distinguish it from the text. In the margins of manuscripts one may find glosses, corrections, rubrics, pen testings, communicative inscriptions (i.e., meaningful statements unrelated to the main text), penmanship exercises, and cryptograms.

Slavic manuscript No. 34 of St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai, is a 13th-century collection of patristic homilies, sayings, and lives of the holy fathers. There are pen testings, for example, on the inside back cover, and a Greek inscription on folia 42v-43r. On f. 36v is a later (communicative) inscription that describes the seven stages of intoxication:


black and white mage of the inscription in the margin on folio 36 verso of Sinai Slavic manuscript number 36


Translation: “Digion says: When a man sits down at a feast, he drinks a cup to health, and a second to merriment, and a third to repletion, and fourth to madness, and a fifth to a demonic state, and a sixth to a bitter death, and a seventh to eternal torture that will not end.”

Image source: Sinai.34, f. 36v – from microfilm in the HRL.