Presbyters on the next year conferences

Next year our team-members will present the results of their research (and of course, the database!) on several important academic meetings. In March 2019, Robert Wiśniewski and Stanisław Adamiak will represent the project and the University of Warsaw at the biennial meeting “Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity” which will take place in Claremont, California. The full schedule can be consulted HERE.

In May, Jerzy Szafranowski will also speak on a session “Episcopal Things & Ecclesiastical Spaces II: Old Clerics, New Tricks: Bishops, Secular Clergy, & New Methodology” organized by EPISCOPUS.

In July, Marta Szada will talk about the database in the context of relationships research at IMC Leeds in 2019. Also, the Presbyters Project will be at Oxford Patristics in August 2019 with a session “From Elders to Priests”.


Robert Wiśniewski’s Book on the Origin of Cult of Relics is out!

Long awaited Robert Wiśniewski’s book on the beginning of the cult of relics in Christianity has been just published by Oxford University Press. It investigates how Christians started to venerate remains of martyrs and associate them with miraculous power offering a fresh and groundbreaking approach to this complex, cross-cultural phonomenon of the late antique world.


To purchase a copy visit:


Arik Avdokhin on Byzantine Liturgy

On 13 December, Arik Avdokhin from Higher School of Economics in Moscow presented a paper Liturgy as social criticism: St Auxentius of Troparia, papyri hymns,and urban monasticism in fifth-century Constantinople at prof. Ewa Wipszycka’s late antique seminar.


The abstract:

The earliest version of the Life of St Auxentius (BHG 199) written in the late 5th century is a rare insight into a barely institutionalized ascetic community of the 5thcentury Constantinople with less than conventional founder and leader Auxentius. While Auxentius himself had faced charges of heresy at the Council of Chalcedon, his congregation is described as equally welcoming both elite married females and its male members and pressing the issue of “social responsibility” of the rich. All these features are tantalizingly paralleled in the profile of a presumably non-Chalcedonian monastic movement of the capital, the so-called ‘Macedonians’ (Sozomen HE 9.2).

In this talk, I will look at the role of hymns in this ‘non-orthodox’ community, an aspect not studied before. The detailed account of the hymnic practices which Auxentius established for his congregations is a narrative climax of his Life. In it, the saint is said to introduce ‘sweet and edifying τροπάριαwith a simplest and most discreet sentiment’; then the hagiographer goes on to provide the actual texts of theτροπάρια.The hymns are described as publicly performed by both rich and poor, men and women all together. These were the central social aspects of the “Macedonian heresy” –the equality of sexes and social classes.

However, the hymns themselves can be seen as another facet of the socially aware rhetoric of the text. They are emphatically simple texts of no more than 6 lines each made up of doxologies and litanies with almost no narrative passages or theological formulas. This early evidence of hymnic practices can best be contextualized in the corpus of early Byzantine hymns from papyri, for this is the biggest securely dated early corpus of Christian hymns. Surprisingly enough, a substantial part of papyri hymns are more sophisticated than Auxentius’ τροπάρια featuring extended acrostic composition and an elaborate syntax and vocabulary (cf. e.g. P.Heid.IV294). A large proportion of hymnic texts are concerned with specific liturgical feasts and have  narrative parts as well as a developed composition and style (cf. e.g. P.Berol.8687 with a Nativity hymn or P.Berol.1163 with a Baptism hymn)in stark contrast to Auxentius’ hymns. His is aprimitive and most ancient kind of hymn of the type ofΦῶςἱλαρὸνor the one found in P.Fay.21 124   (4thcentury AD).

By stressing the importance of the unassuming τροπάριαin the context of other socially provocative aspects of Auxentius’ community, the hagiographer must have put to use the stylistic conflict between these simple forms of worship with more elaborate ones. In the wake of the Council of Chalcedon and its regularizing arrangements for the dissident monastic movements, the ‘Macedonian’ community of Auxentius could have built its religious and social identity in part by resorting to the “simple τροπάρια”, which were a stylistically and, thus, a socially marked option in the wider range of hymns available.

For past and future events, see the seminar’s website:

Presbyters in the Late Antique West Conference in April 2019

Zrzut ekranu 2018-12-17 16.58.04

The concluding conference of the “Presbyters in the Late Antique West” project will take place in Warsaw, on 26-27 April 2019. At the conferene titled “Clerics in Church and Society up to AD 700” we will take a broader look at the clergy – not only presbyters but also bishops and lower clerics – in the Late Antique West in order to see how ecclesiastical, economic, and social activities of clerics of various ranks were shaping and influencing societies in Late Roman and post-Roman world. Among confirmed speakers are: Geoffrey Dunn, Uta Heil, David Hunter, Dominic Moreau, David Natal and Eric Rebillard. The conference will be another occasion to present and promote the database created by the PLAW team-members. The database is already on-line and freely accessible here:

Marijana Vuković on Jesus’ Childhood

On 6 December, Marijana Vuković from the Cult of Saints project presented a paper: Jesus’ Childhood in the Medieval West: Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and the development of a more human and child-like side of Jesus.


The abstract of the paper:

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a second-century apocryphal Christian story, which describes the childhood of Jesus Christ from his age of five until he was twelve. It consists of a number of episodes that sequence the miraculous and supernatural, but also the “terrible” actions of the boy Jesus. The Latin version of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which is the subject of this talk, was widespread in the medieval West, possibly appearing in over 200 manuscripts from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries. As an accessible read, this text tackled medieval minds, influenced the way people see Jesus, and had an impact on a large number of his medieval visual representations. Its popularity shows that Christian Apocrypha directly influenced the Christian piety in the West during the high and late Middle Ages. Particularly the later Latin version of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which was a translation from Greek, influenced the development of new modes of piety in the medieval West, which fostered the expansion of the more human and child-like side of Jesus.

For past and future events see the seminar’s website:

Rutger Kramer on Bishops

On 8 November, Rutger Kramer from Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Vienna presented at the Late Antique Seminar of prof. Ewa Wipszycka a paper “Bishops teaching bishops. Rethinking the Institutio Canonicorum (818)”.


The abstract of the paper:

Composed in the wake of the research councils held at Aachen from 816 to 819, the text known as the Institutio Canonicorum has long been regarded as the culmination of the attempts at church reform undertaken by the Frankish emperor Charlemagne and his son, Louis the Pious. While its scope and impact (also visible in the extensive manuscript transmission) indeed attest to its importance, it is also a text that is easily misunderstood, as both the title and the most accessible edition in the MGH make it appear more limited than it was actually intended to be. As this paper will argue, the Institutio Canonicorum, long thought to be the acts of a single council aimed at defining the elusive order of clerici canonici, should be read as the result of a lengthy series of negotiations between bishops, abbots and the laity about the role of the priesthood in the Carolingian church. In a long patristic florilegium, those in a position of authority are reminded of their responsibilities for the well-being of the Christians under their care, while the rules appended at the end have as much to do with the clergy around a cathedral as with the definition and categorisation of religious communities throughout the ecclesia. By taking a holistic approach to a seemingly long text with a seemingly limited scope, this paper will show a snapshot of the Carolingian church in action, from emperors and archbishops to local priests and monks.

See the website of the seminar for the past and future events:


Lajos Berkes on Greek language in Islamic Egypt

On 11 October, Lajos Berkes presented a paper on prof. Ewa Wipszycka’s late antique seminar: Greek Was Now a Doomed Language’: How and Why Did Greek Documents Disappear in Islamic Egypt?


The abstract of the paper:

After the Arab conquest of Egypt in 642, Greek continued to be used for writing documents up to the late 8th, perhaps even early 9th century. Even though its usage became gradually restricted to fiscal contexts, new vocabulary and terminology still show up in the 8th century. At the same time, Coptic and Arabic became step by step more and more important for both the official and the private sphere. In this paper, I will give an overview of the Greek documentation of 7-8th century Egypt with a special focus on the last documents from the Abbasid period. Who were the scribes of the last Greek documents of Islamic Egypt and from which cultural milieu did they come? Why did Greek disappear as an administrative language in Abbasid Egypt?

See the website of the seminar for past and future events: