Byzantine Hagiography and Sex in the Fifth to Twelfth Centuries / Σεξ και Βυζαντινές αγιογραφίες από τον 5ο έως τον 12ο αιώνα
ALEXANDER KAZHDAN / Ο Αλέξανδρος Καζντάν (Александр Петрович Каждан) είναι ένας από τους διασημότερους Ρώσους Βυζαντινολόγους του 20ού αιώνα.
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Ηagiography and sexuality-can two notions be more contrasted, more incompatible? Hagiographical works present the entire life or an episode in the life of a holy man or woman or a group of men and women, or posthumous mira- cles at their tombs or shrines, in order to provide the reader with a moral paragon and instruction on how to devote one’s whole life to God. Hagio- graphical works present, usually in a sequence of episodes, the system of Christian values, among which chastity naturally holds a place of honor. The gist of the hagiographical message is that the body and its “impure” desires should be sup- pressed and the sexual drive eliminated.The hero has to forget, in his or her claim to holiness, what sex he or she was given. A hermit in the desert is deprived, for a casual observer, of any marks of his sex, and a woman in disguise enters a male mon- astery and bravely exercises her piety among the representatives of another sex.’ Angels had no sex; in visionary dreams they resemble eunuchs. And the monastic community, an ideal of hagiog- raphy, was an angelic, that is, epicene society.2 But in the paradoxical, ambivalent world of By- zantium the most edifying genre of literature was, at the same time, the most entertaining one.