K. Chryssochoïdis, Changes in the formation of the Athonite libraries: Donations and reproductions (15th – 17th c.)

Thursday, October the 15th

16:45-17:30 Kriton Chryssochoïdis (National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens)  Changes in the formation of the Athonite libraries:  Donations and reproductions (15th – 17th c.)

The paper aims at giving an outline of the libraries of Mount Athos during the three first post-Byzantine centuries, focusing on the changes taking place in them that are due mostly to two main factors: local book production and donations.

The priorities of the Athonites in the first century of Ottoman rule (15th c.) are mostly to ensure the survival of their monasteries, and this does not comprise the upkeep – let alone the increase – of their book collections. The sense of immobility and abandonment in the libraries of this era can be seen from the scarce and occasional local production of manuscripts.

The general recovery of Athonite monasticism from the beginning of the 16th century marks an essential change in the enrichment and maintenance of the libraries. An impressively large number of manuscripts is produced in almost all monasteries either as work by copyists-monks of the monastery, or by hired professional copyists. It is quite often that we come across the recovery and preservation of older timeworn manuscripts.

The enrichment of the libraries with donations of single manuscripts, but also with the donations of entire personal collections, is witnessed mostly from the beginning of the 16th century. A plethora of dedicatory and ownership notes on single books or on groups of books constitutes a highly interesting network of donors: patriarchs and bishops, in many cases former monks of a monastery, monks permanently or temporarily dwelling in the monastery for some time, even pilgrims or famous or humble laymen.

The donations make a contrasting difference in the image of the Athonite libraries, since they hold a great number of both luxurious Byzantine and lower quality manuscripts, which are as important none the less. The donated personal collections, in terms of content, do not necessarily cover the necessities of the monastic community, rather they reflect the personal interest and spiritual anxieties of their former owners.


Matthieu Cassin

Chargé de recherche à la section grecque et de l’Orient chrétien de l’Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (CNRS, UPR 841).

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