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The Light of Letters (or the Gospel Parable of the Sower in the Context of the 21st C.) Axinia D탑urova, Vasya Velinova

Bulgaria, Moravia and the Byzantine Empire in the 9th c.

There is a span of eleven centuries and a half since the creation of the Slavonic Alphabet. In the middle of the 9th century the author of the new alphabet, Constantine – Cyril the Philosopher († 869), articulated the emblematic phrase “Without books all nations are bare”. With these words he expressed his deep conviction of the need of spiritual enlightenment and the significance of written texts for the survival of the various ethnic groups in the world cultural history. And although in the medieval world the ideas of the Slavic First Teacher were expressed in the context of the Christian doctrine of the meaning of human existence, they go far beyond the specific historic period and address a number of issues to be solved in our technological, virtual, globalizing and almost deprived of spiritual experience dynamic stereotype of life.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (3) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

A x i n i a D 탑 u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (4) The Light of Letters

The Abecedar of Munich with Cyrillic and Glagolitic letters from 12th c.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (5) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

Constantine – Cyril the Philosopher from the perspective of time It is hardly likely that in the time of invention of the alphabet its author was fully aware of the historic consequences of his work . On the basis of the sources which have reached to our time only fragmentary facts about his personal life choices have been preserved (i.e. about his dedication to wisdom and to the knowledge of God, as well as to his missionary work). Brought up and educated in the best traditions of the Byzantine aristocracy, Constantine – Cyril, called the Philosopher because of his phenomenal wisdom, was a typical representative of Byzantine humanism, influenced by Patriarch Photius (810–893) and his circle of intellectuals. The future enlightener of the Slavs gave his personal contribution to two successful Byzantine missions at the highest political level: to the Saracens (Arabs) and to the Khazars of a Byzantine colony, Chersonesus. When he came back from the second mission he triumphantly brought the relics of St. Clement of Rome († about 99) to the capital city and years later this fact would guarantee him cordial reception in the very heart of Rome. Combining the ideas of Byzantine universalism with humanism and the affinity to the only possible philosophical knowledge of the 9th century, i.e. the knowledge of God and having cultivated his tolerance to the culture of various peoples as a result of his long journeys in the vast provinces of the Empire, as if Constantine – Cyril embodied the idealized image of a Byzantine intellectual – citizen of the world. May be this was the adequate spiritual attitude, which preconditioned and made possible the most famous and most valuable deed of his life, i.e. creation of the Glagolitic Alphabet.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (6) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

In search of the image of Europe in the 9th century In the middle of the 9th century in the heart of the Byzantine Empire – the city of Constantinople one of the most ambitious and largest scale missionary projects of the history of Europe was designed and implemented, i.e. the Slavs were provided with an alphabet with a view to integrate them with the East Orthodox Christian Denomination of Constantinople in order to achieve religious unity and cultural homogeneity of the continent. The ultimate aim was to guarantee the prestige and the supremacy of Byzantium. Thus, in the context of their geopolitical interests the objective of the Byzantine Empire was to reshape the cultural map of Europe in their favour via the Cross and the Logos. The 9th century of the European history was characterized by active missionary activities of the two big churches on the continent, i.e. the Roman Catholic Church and the East Orthodox Church of Constantinople. Most intensive were the missions oriented to the Slavonic tribes. On the other hand, the German Kingdom provoked serious tensions in the territories of Middle and Eastern Europe which resulted in complex political combinations and unstable in time military alliances. As a result the struggle between the two Churches for domination over the Slavonic communities (which were in a process of Christianization or not converted yet) was intensified and took the form of undisguised rivalry. In 843 in Verdun a convention was signed to impose the rule of Louis “the German” (about 806–876) (grandson of Charlemagne, 748–814) in the states on the territory of future Germany. This threatened the positions of Great Moravia, which turned for help to neighbouring Byzantium. The situation was further aggravated by the claims of Pope Nicholas I for domination of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) over the entire Christian world. His ambition was so great that he refused to recognize the election of Fotius as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (7) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

Great Moravia – the Beginning In this unfavourable political context in 863 Knyaz (Prince) Rostislav († about 870) addressed Byzantine Emperor Michail III († 867) with the request for missionaries to be sent to his country who would preach the teaching of Christ in the language his people could understand. The Slavonic ruler hoped that in this way he could neutralize both the Latin claims and the aspirations of the German clergy to assimilate and subjugate his subjects. In response to the request of Knyaz Rostislav the Emperor of Byzantium sent Constantine the Philosopher and his brother Methodius, who had already devised a Slavic alphabet, to Moravia. They had not only to translate the teaching of Christ into the native spoken Slavic language, but also to use it (at least partially) in liturgical services. For the first time the alphabet created by the two enlighteners was materialized via translation of the Holy Writ of Christianity into the language of the Slavs: e.g. Gospel Lectionary, Apostle, Psalm Book , and a selection of liturgies. For Byzantium this was an opportunity to join the great political game and to consolidate the positions of the Empire in Middle Europe and for the Constantine the Philosopher and his brother Methodius, coming from a city of mixed Greek and Slavonic population, this was a chance to demonstrate the power of spiritual enlightenment and to show Slavs the way to spiritual unity and historic immortality. The Creation of the Slavonic Alphabet by Cyril and Methodius. A Miniature in the Radzivil Chronicle, 15th c.

The Translation of the Slavonic Books, made by Methodius. A Miniature in the Radzivil Chronicle, 15th c.

A x i n i a D Ĺž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (8) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

Against the tri-lingual dogma This strategic objective will make them go first to Great Moravia and then to Rome where they presented their mission and obtained the blessing of the Pope for the translations of the holy Christian books into Slavonic language. During their stay in the principality of Rostislav the two brothers and their followers were confronted with the tri-lingual dogma, which was the main hindrance in the way of developing the Slavic alphabet and translating the holy books. The courage and resolution of Cyril and Methodius were exceptional. They openly opposed the attempts at isolation of the Slavic language justifying their actions with the divine gift to understand unfamiliar languages given to the Apostles on Pentecost of the Holy Spirit. Those blessed could convert the barbarians into Christians and translate the Gospel and other holy texts. In the aura of this sacred spiritual act the Slavonic enlighteners preached that all peoples are equally deserving of receiving the gifts of the Holy Word thus making a decisive and irreversible break-through with regards to the tri-lingual dogma, favoured and supported by the Church of Rome. In its place they formulated the idea of cultural equality. Or, in the words of Constantine the Philosopher in his Proclamation of the Holy Gospels, the true salvation of peoples is the conscious affiliation to the written texts: ‘Open the gates of reason with perseverance, Now that you have accepted the true weapon, Being hammered by the Books of the Lord...’

The Ordainment of Methodius as an Archbishop. A Miniature in the Radzivil Chronicle, 15th c.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (9) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

These words also reveal the whole meaning of the mission of Cyril and Methodius expressed in the cultural language of their time. As if they contain the appeal to preserve cultural diversity and national identity. And what is more, in the modern world of substituted or totally eliminated spiritual values these words have the power of a moral imperative concerning the priority of the humanistic principles over the dictates of mass culture and the over-exposed market oriented world deprived of morality. In the long martyrdom of his apostle mission Constantine–Cyril had to disprove what was written by Bishop Isidore of Seville (570–636) in his Etimologiae (Book IX), i.e. “Three are the holy languages – Jewish, Greek and Latin, which illuminate the whole world. In these three languages Pontius Pilatus ordered the inscription on the Holy Cross”. A traditional stereotype had to be overcome, which imposed Christian liturgies should be held only in these three languages usurping the statute of being holy. Syrians, Copts, Armenians, Georgians had created their script and literature before the 6th century, when the ideas of Isidore of Seville were adopted as an inviolable postulate and a firm dogma of the Church of Rome. In fact the change of this status quo is an expression of the most significant dimension of the deed of Cyril – the formulated by him idea of equality of the Slavs with the rest of the nations and their right to praise the Lord in their native language. His words according to the sources on the dispute, Cyril had with the supporters of the tri-lingual dogma in Venice on his way to Rome, are still valid today: “And you are not ashamed to decree only three languages deciding that all other peoples and races shall remain blind and deaf!” And he added: ... the teaching of St. Paul says: “When I address the Lord with my prayer I would prefer to say five words, but which can be understood by everybody else, rather than a thousand unintelligible words.” The victory of the Slavic enlighteners over the tri-lingual dogma found an expression in consecration of the Slavonic books and ordainment of their disciples in priesthood by Pope Adrian in Rome. Constantine’s brother Methodius took holy orders as an Archbishop of Great Moravia. This act was solemnly performed in the Church of Santa Maria Majore where liturgies in Latin, Greek and Slavonic were held. The road was opened to creation of the fourth classical language in Europe in the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century which, in the words of R. Picchio, would perform the functions of a supranational language of all Slav peoples. In 869 Constantine died in Rome having assumed the monastic name of Cyril. His brother Methodius returned to Moravia to continue the great mission.

A x i n i a D 탑 u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (10) The Light of Letters

Assemani Gospel. Glagolitic Calligraphy. Author: Krassimir Andreev.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (11) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

Great Moravia – end of the mission The start of all these processes was in 1150. Then the state of Great Moravia was the first Slavonic country where the native language acquired the statute of a literary language and the Slavonic alphabet became legitimate. At that time the process of reshaping the cultural map of Europe began – a process to go on developing for more than a century until the consolidation of the community of Slavia Orthodoxia (R. Picchio). With a great degree of certainty we could assert that the authors of the alphabet and Slavonic First teachers were fully aware of the open nature of their work and its potential to become an instrument of consolidation of the Slavs. Because integration means common cultural space, exchange of ideas, intellectual and material resources – an integration which has always been perceived with criticism and suspicion. Regardless of this the first and most significant step was made. The Mission in Moravia, according to Professor Heinz Miklas, is “the main chapter of the first expansion of Europe and the role of Byzantium in this process is exceptional”. But should we stop at this stage? What would the face of Europe be if the work of Cyril Methodius was limited only to realization of this initial Byzantine project? The fate of Slavonic Archbishop Methodius and his followers in Great Moravia was far from being easy. They had to go through severe trials when Prince Svatopluk (about 830–894), who was connected with the interests of the Bavarian diocese, came to the throne in 870. After the death of Methodius in 885 the Slavonic men-of-letters were banished from the country.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (12) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

Bulgaria – the salvation In the course of history the work of the two brothers, continued by their disciples, found its long-term realization not in Great Moravia it was designated for, but in Bulgaria where the seed fell in fertile soil and among those who hear the Word to yield good harvest, if we interpret the Gospel proverb of the Sower. Because, if today in 2013 we commemorate the authors of the alphabet and their probably first mission among the Slavs, the merits of preservation of the historic memory and development of the ideas of Constantine the Philosopher (Cyril) and his brother Methodius go to the Bulgarian Kingdom and its sovereign who converted the Bulgarian people to Christianity, i.e. Knyaz Boris-Michail of Bulgaria. However, this fact should not be considered as a dividing line – in time and in space – separating the Slavs. On the contrary, it shall only demonstrate how much stronger was the feeling of national identity in the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century, the feeling of belonging to a community and the awareness of a historic choice and historic responsibility before the future generations. With his audacity, foresight, perseverance and diplomatic experience the Bulgarian monarch highly estimated work commenced by Moravian Knyaz Rostislav and in 885 he gladly welcomed the banished disciples of Archbishop Methodius in his capital city of Pliska after his death. The salvaged letters (alphabet) and books found their true mother country where they would stay through the ages and from where they would find their way to other Slavonic countries as archetypes of the holy Slavonic books. The situation in the First Bulgarian Kingdom in the end of the 9th century was a specific reflection of the complex relations between the ‘great powers’ of the time in Europe. Under the reign of Knyaz Boris († 907) the Bulgarian Kingdom expanded its boundaries and as a result the state found itself between two big dioceses – Rome and Constantinople. The Bulgarian sovereign managed to take advantage of their rivalry and obtained the right to an independent and autonomous (autocephalous) status of the newly established Bulgarian Church via consecutive negotiations with the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome. For this reason an envoy mission of Rome (866–869) headed by Cardinal Fromosa of Portugal (who was later elected as Pope John VIII) was sent to Bulgaria. However, this mission was doomed to fail due to the policies of the Church of Rome to reject independence of the regional churches and the goal of Knyaz Boris was a state of an independent church after the nation was converted to Christianity. When he was promised religious independence by the Patriarch of Constantinople, he chose Orthodoxy.

A x i n i a D 탑 u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (13) The Light of Letters

The Manasses Chronicle. Cyrillic Calligraphy, Uncial Script. Author: Krassimir Andreev.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (14) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

But having been converted to Christianity in 863/4 the Bulgarian state faced a great challenge. The Greek language, used by Greek clergymen for liturgical purposes, was unintelligible for the people and it turned into an instrument for foreign influence. Similar was the situation with the Latin texts used for liturgies by the prelates sent by Rome. To a certain extent, Christianity became the cause for disintegration of the nation, rather than integration. The need to use the native language in religious practices was becoming clearer and clearer and this required the relevant alphabet and translated liturgical texts. For this reason Byzantine writer Theophylact of Ohrid (Archbishop of Ohrid from 1084 to 1107) wrote about the fate of the banished from Moravia disciples of Cyril and Methodius: “They were received in Bulgaria with peace because the monarch yearned for men like them…” Welcoming cordially the followers of the Slavonic First Teachers in the 9th century Bulgaria continued their cause and became the new motherland of the Slavonic literature. Similar development of the events, but on a smaller scale, was also observed in Croatia where the first Slavonic alphabet, i.e. the Glagolitic alphabet, was preserved for a longer period as an instrument of preservation of their ethnic identity and neutralization of the attempts at ‘Latinization’ of local Slavs. Cyril and Methodius devised the Glagolitic alphabet charged with specific symbolism and it was radically different graphically from the Greek and Latin scripts used on the territory of Bulgaria. In the search of original literary identity of the Slavs they codified a graphic system, which was relevant to the phonetic composition and structure of the language to a maximum extent. Being a brilliant philologist, Constantine the Philosopher formed an aura of holiness around his work in order to provide for the unhindered development of the literary and spiritual life of the Slavs. Testimonial of this idea is his poetic work Proclamation of the Holy Gospels, where he addresses the Slavonic peoples as one community and presents the alphabet as a gift from the Lord: Listen now with all your reason (mind). Listen all you Slavonic people, Listen to the Word, because it has come from the Lord! St. Cyril and St. Methodius with their Disciples.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (15) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

The new literary centers The Glagolitic alphabet created by Constantine – Cyril, Methodius and their followers was used in the Bulgarian territories to the end of the 12th century and this was richly documented in the preserved epigraphic and manuscript monuments, i.e. the Zograph Gospel, the Assemany Gospel, the Mariinsko Gospel, the Sinai Euchologion, the Rila Glagolitic Folia – all of them produced in the period of 10th–11th C. The first literary centers were established on the territory of the First Bulgarian Kingdom (the oldest was in Pliska, the first capital city of Bulgaria) where, parallel with the disciples of Cyril and Methodius, the first generation of Old Bulgarian literary men worked. The activities of Constantine of Preslav, Chernorizets Hrabar, Joan Exarch, etc. are associated with the new Christian capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom – the city of Preslav where intensive translation and editorial work began to restore and supplement the translation made by the First Teachers. The first original texts in Old Bulgaria were created, i.e. liturgical chants, sermons. Works of history and theological treatises were also translated. With the highly active support of Knyaz Boris, Clement of Ohrid was sent to Ohrid where he established a great school. There dozens of young men were trained to perform divine services in Bulgarian language. Clement himself translated significant liturgical texts, wrote original poetic and prose works and became the model of whole generations of Slavonic men-of-letters. Being the founder of the Great School of Ohrid his name was for ever associated with the place and he remained in the history of Bulgaria as Clement of Ohrid, the first bishop in the Bulgarian language, as written in his hagiology by the Greek author, Theophylact.

A x i n i a D 탑 u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (16) The Light of Letters

The London Gospel of Tsar Ivan Alexander. Cyrillic Calligraphy, Uncial Script. Author: Krassimir Andreev.

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (17) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

The new Bulgarian alphabet, i.e. the Cyrillic Alphabet, which is in its essence an adaptation of the Greek uncial, appeared in Bulgaria most probably in Preslav on the divide of 9th and 10th C. It is a combination of the letter inventory of the Greek alphabet and signs for the specific Old Bulgarian phonemes, to which a number of Glagolitic letters were added (compare: Gospel Cod. gr. 387 and the Preslav ceramic tiles of 9th–10th C or the Suprasalski Miscellany of the Greek Gospels № 1 and 2 of 9th–10th C). Thus continuity was guaranteed with regards to the Greek uncial alphabet, which had already been disseminated on the territory of Bulgaria and used for administrative purposes by the Bulgarian Royal court, as well as for the manuscripts used for liturgical purposes by the Christian population inhabiting the Bulgarian lands. The earliest Bulgarian Cyrillic monuments are epigraphic and they are referred to the 10th century (the inscriptions of the village of Krepcha, 921 and the epitaphs of 931 found in Preslav. As far as manuscripts are concerned we could mention the Suprasalski Miscellany of the second half of the 10th century, the Cyrillic layer of the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century found in the Vatican Palimpsest, the Enina Lectionary Apostle of the 11th century, the Bitolya Triodion of the 12th century, the Kyustendil Palimpsest of the 12th century and the Slepchenski Apostle of the 12th century. Of the later Cyrillic manuscripts the following works are remarkable: The Rila Gospel of the 13th century, the Dobreisho Gospel of the 13th century, the Draganov Menologion of the 13th century, the Psalm Book of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander of 1337, the Manasses Chronicle of 1344–45, the Gospel of Tsar Ivan Alexander of 1356, the Tomich’s Psalter of about 1360, the Tetraevangelion of the Metropolita of Serres, Jacob of the 14th century, the Serbian Psalter of Munich of the end of the 14th century, the Kiev Psalter of the end of the 14th century etc. Thus the reason for replacement of the Glagolitic script by the Cyrillic alphabet in the Preslav literary center was due to the existing long-standing tradition to use the Greek uncial script for state-administrative, religious and cultural purposes in the capital city of the First Bulgarian Kingdom which is proved by the Old Bulgarian inscriptions. From East Bulgaria only the Cyrillic script penetrated the lands of Serbia and Russia almost without exception (see for instance the Ostomir Gospel of the 1056–1057, the Msistlav Gospel of the 1113–1117, the Izbornik of Prince Sviatoslav from 1073, as well as the Serbian Miroslav Gospel of the 12th c). All these facts indicate Preslav as the center where the Cyrillic Alphabet was devised and formed. This was probably about 893 when in Preslav the Slavonic language was officially introduced for liturgical purposes at an ecumenical council and the esoteric Glagolitic script resembling, for instance, the Ethiopic script type, was gradually replaced. However, this process went on for several centuries. Generations of

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (18) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

Bulgarian literary men were trained to use equally well the two alphabets, as seen from certain manuscripts, e.g. the Bitolya Triodion in the Archive of the Bulgarian Academy of Science or the colophons in the margins of the Assemani Gospel. The Christian literature model, created in Bulgaria, was adopted and adapted by Serbians and Russians and finally the Orthodox Slavonic civilization became a fact. It is not by chance that the Great Russian humanist and erudite, expert in Slavic medieval literature, Dmitrii Sergeevich Lihachov, has underlined many times that owing to the policies of the Bulgarian monarchs the First Bulgarian Kingdom was transformed into a “state of the spirit”. In this way in Pliska, Preslav and Ohrid ended the long journey to salvation of the Slavonic Alphabet which had begun in Constantinople and continued through Great Moravia, Venice and Rome (i.e. crossing almost the entire territory of Christian Europe of the end of the 9th century). After the failure of the mission in Great Moravia the language of the Slavs had not become an ‘apostle dialect’ yet. Only in Bulgaria under the reign of Knyaz Boris and later of his son Tsar Simeon (864–927) it became the third liturgical language on the Christian continent. This was due to the audacity, the foresight, and the respect to the Word and enlightenment of the two Bulgarian sovereigns who could be rightfully considered ‘Saviors of the Alphabet’. Without their explicit and decisive involvement the cultural map of Europe would be quite different today.

Modern interpretation of the historic facts All these facts should not be interpreted as an attempt at division – the mission of Cyril and Methodius was a mission of unity and integration. Their work integrated the Slavs, although stage by stage and to a various extent, with the culture of Christian Europe. This fact was especially clearly emphasized in the studies of Professor Ricardo Picchio. The modern European society is not the product only of the Latin-Germanic West or the cultures along Mare Nostrum. A significant contribution to the cultural diversity of the European spiritual world has been made by the culture of the Orthodox Slavdom and owing to this fact today the European Union has three officially recognized alphabets, i.e. Latin, Greek and Cyrillic. The Cyrillic alphabet brings to us the remote memory of the events, which took place 1150 ago – a period during which not only the alphabet was put to trial, but also the identity of the Slav peoples. The key to their historic survival was made and generously bestowed by the Thessaloniki enlighteners, Cyril and Methodius – the

A x i n i a D ž u r o v a , V a s y a V e l i n o v a (19) T h e L i g h t o f L e t t e r s

sowers of the seeds fallen on good earth. According to Professor Antoan-Emil Tachiaos, Cyril and Methodius are perceived as “symbols of Orthodox Christianity, fathers of the spiritual life of the Slavs. They are at the beginning of the Slavonic literary culture”. Even more explicit is the opinion of Arnold Toynbee who defines the creation of an alphabet and literature in the native language of Bulgaria as a “lucid moment of the creative genius of the Orthodox community” and Bulgaria is defined as the “second center” (after Byzantium) of the Orthodox civilization. Francis Dvornik writes about Bulgaria as the “cradle of Slavonic culture”, because Knyaz Boris of Bulgaria managed to achieve internal unity of the state based on the tight link between language and faith. As a result of the policies of encouragement of literary work conducted by Bulgarian Tsar Simeon, French historian Alfred Rambaud compares him to Charles the Great (Charlemagne) saying that “Simeon was Bulgaria’s Charles the Great – more educated than our Charles the Great and much happier than him because he laid the foundations of a national literature”. And in the end, let us remember that in his Encyclical of October 31, 1980 Pope John Paul II proclaimed the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius as holy co-patrons of Europe. By this act they became intransient symbols of a common spiritual tradition on the continent. What are our responsibilities to preserve the deed of the First Teachers and our legacy for the coming generations today? What sowers shall we be in the 21st century and shall we find the good earth to yield good harvest? Can we preserve the respect to books and knowledge, tolerance to other people, our ability for selfreflection, self-assessment and self-criticism, our spirituality, which can rescue us from the temptations of consumer attitudes, the lack of faith, the apathy and the lack of taboos in the deprived of miracles world of the post-modern society? The answers are difficult, the temptations and the hindrances are plenty. Reverting to the wisdom and the insight of the First Teachers who bequeathed to us that “More than anything else in this world, an illiterate soul appears dead among people” with this exhibition we would like to present to your attention some of the most valuable Glagolitic and Cyrillic manuscripts related to the cultural history of Bulgaria.


T h e L i gh t o f L e t t e r s Catalog

Taffel 1

Taffel 2

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Panel 3

Autoren: Prof. A x i n i a D ž u r o v a Doz. V a s s y a V e l i n o v a Fotograf: I v o H a d z h i m i s h e v

The conversion of the Bulgarians to Christianity in 864 was the result of the far-sighted policies of Prince Boris (852–889) and, later, of his son – Tsar Simeon (893–927). Prior to this act of crucial significance for the Bulgarian state the two brothers from Thessalonica – Cyril and Methodius – had devised the Slavonic alphabet in Constantinople for the purposes of the missionary work of the Byzantine Empire among the West Slavs (Great Moravia – 862/863). The new alphabet, which violated the established trilingual tradition of Hebrew, Latin and Greek , was an entirely original alphabet. It is called “Glagolitic” and consists of 38 letters reflecting most precisely the phonetic specifics of the Slavs from Thessalonica in the middle of the 9th century. The first translations of the liturgical books were produced in Constantinople, and later in Moravia and Pannonia. Having been granted sanctity by Curia Romana in 866, after the death of Cyril in Rome in 869 and the death of Methodius in Great Moravia in 885, their closest disciples – Clement, Naum, Sava, Gorazd, and Angelarii – were invited by Prince Boris of Bulgaria to Pliska, the capital city of the country, where the conversion of the Bulgarians had taken place as early as in 864 and where the first literary centre on the territory of Bulgaria was established. 1) F. 163 – a miniature from the Manasses Chronicle (1344–1345) depicting the conversion of the Bulgarians. The manuscript is preserved in the Vatican Apostle Library, Vat. Slavo 2

Panel 2 1) Icon of Saints Cyril and Methodius, 19th Century, Samokov 2) Icon of Saints Cyril and Methodius and their Disciples, 19th Century, Samokov 3) Rilski Panegyric (A miscellanea with vitae of the saints and eulogies for their church fests), Rila, 4/8, 1479 f. 571v: Copy of the Vita of Saint Cyril the Philosopher

2) A miniature of Prince Boris in a Didactic Gospel of 11th–12th century – a Russian manuscript produced according to an Old Bulgarian prototype. The manuscript is preserved in the State Museum of History in Moscow, Sinod 262 3) Icons of Apostles and Evangelists of the Arch type, designed for church iconostases indicate mass production in the workshops of Рatleina and Tuzlalaka at the capital Preslav



T h e L i gh t o f L e t t e r s Catalog

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1) Assemani Gospel is the most completely preserved Old Bulgarian Glagolitic manuscript preserved at the Vatican Apostle Library, Vat. Slavo 3, 10th–11th century; 158 f. of parchment. It is decorated in a great number of polychromous initials of teratological, vegetation and anthropomorphic motifs and headpieces. With regards to its contents, it is a Lectionary (aprakos) Gospel, the text of which is closest to the presumable original Cyril and Methodius translation. The Menologion (religious calendar) marks the festive days of the saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius, and Clement of Ohrid. 2) Rila Glagolitic folia (parts of the Parenesis of Euphrem Sirin), second half of the 11th century, 8 f. of parchment. These are the only Glagolitic fragments on the territory of Bulgaria, preserved in the bindings of the Andrianti Miscellanea of 1473 written by Vladislav Grammatik . They are kept in the Rila Monastery, Rila 3/6 and the rest of the sheets are preserved in the library of the Academy of Science in St. Petersburg

1) Codes Zographensis (four Gospel book) of the second half of the 10th century. It contains about 304 f. of parchment. Up to 1860 the manuscript was kept in the Bulgarian monastery on Mount Athos, i.e. St. George the Zograf Monastery. Then it was given as a gift Emperor Alexander II of Russia as an expression of the hope that he would liberate Bulgaria from the rule of the Ottoman Empire. At present it is preserved in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, Glag. 1. The manuscript is decorated in initials and headpieces of geometric style and some of the initials feature traces of the earliest elements of the Slavonic teratological style. 2) Euchologium Sinaiticum of the 11th century. This exquisite and valuable manuscript used to contain about 300 f., but at present the biggest part of it numbers 106 f. preserved in the St. Ekaterina of Sinai Monastery, signature Sinait. Slav. 37, Sinait Slav 1/N. Fragments of the manuscript are also preserved in the library of the Academy of Science in St. Petersburg (sign. 24.4.8) and in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg (Glag. 2 and Glag. 3). style.

3) Codex Marianus (four Gospel book) of the 10th century. It contains 173 f. of parchment written in round Glagolitic letters, 30 lines per page. It was found in 1845 by the famous Russian Slav scholar, V. Grigorovich in the St. Vergin Mary Skete, which gave the manuscript its name. The Gospels of Luke and John are preceded by miniatures of the two Evangelists. The preserved sections of this cultural monument are kept in various book depositories. Its main part (171 f.) is kept in the State Russian Library (Grig. 6 or Myz. 1689); two sheets of the manuscript are preserved in the Vienna National Library (Cod. Slav. 146).


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In the last decades of the 9th century the capital city of the First Bulgarian State was moved from Pliska to Preslav and Simeon, the highly educated son of Knyaz Boris, came to the throne in 893. Here the disciples of Cyril and Methodius created the second Slavonic alphabet – the Cyrillic alphabet, which, in its essence, represents an adaptation of the uncial Greek letters widely known throughout the Bulgarian lands. In this way the extremely original and beautiful as a graphic system, but esoteric with regards to its stereotype, Glagolitic alphabet gradually gave way to the easy to master Cyrillic letters. The Glagolitic alphabet continued to be used mostly in the western regions of Bulgaria – in Ohrid, where the true disciples of the Slavonic first teachers, Clement and Naum worked. 1) White-clay tile, featuring a Cyrillic text written in a script, resembling Greek biblical majuscule. The tile was found in the Round (Golden) Church of Preslav. It is kept at the Museum of Archeology in Sofia. 2а) Fragment of a Lectionary Gospel, Cod. D. 387, of the second half of the 10th century, 2 sheets of parchment. It is kept at the Ivan Dujčev Center of Slavonic-Byzantine Studies. 2b) Greek and Slavonic fragments of the period 10th–14th century written in uncial letters, kept at the Ivan Dujčev Center of Slavo-Byzantine Studies.

In Bulgaria the earliest preserved manuscripts are dated to the second half of the 11th century. These are the Rila Glagolitic texts and the Cyrillic Enina Apostle written in ancient slightly sloping to the right uncial letters resembling the uncial liturgical manuscripts of the 9th–10th century period. 1) Enina Apostle (a fragment of a Lectionary Apostle): second half of the 11th century, 39 f. of parchment, uncial. A great number of initials colored in blue and red; Headpieces of the interlaced type. The manuscript was found in the village of Enina, Kazanlak Region in 1960. It is kept at the Saints Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia, under № 1144.

Bitolya Triodion of the last quarter of the 12th century: 101 parchments sheets have been preserved. According to its content the code is a Lenten Triodion and contains the original chants by the Old Bulgarian man of letters, Constantine Preslavski designated for the days of the Long Lent period. Preserved also are traces of the ancient Byzantine Theta Notation. The manuscript is a copy of an older Glagolitic text and it is a testimonial of the parallel use of the Glagolitic and the Cyrillic alphabets in Bulgarian lands during the epoch. On certain pages the scribe replaces spontaneously the Cyrillic alphabet with Glagolitic letters. The manuscript is preserved in the Scientific Archive of BAS, Sofia, sign № 38.



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Only a few fragmented Cyrillic codices of the 12th century have been preserved among which we find the Slepchanski Apostle and the Kyustendil Palimpsest dated to the second half of the 12th century. Compared to the Serbian and Russian manuscripts, the greatest number of palimpsests, i.e. manuscripts written on recycled via erasing of the initial text parchment from, are in Old Bulgarian. This is only natural, taking into consideration that it was in Preslav and Ohrid, where intensive translation work and copying from Greek into Old Bulgarian took place. 1) Slepchenski Apostle: second half of the 12th century, 154 f. of parchment. Written on erased Greek text. It is decorated with many initials in teratological style and interlaced type headpieces. It is preserved in five libraries all over the world: the Academy of Science and the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, in the State Russian Library in Moscow, in Kiev, and in the Ivan Vazov Library in Plovdiv, № 25. 2) Kyustendil Palimpsest (Lectionary Gospel): end of the 12th century, 9 f. of parchment. Written on erased Greek text. Decorated in polychromous initials of geometric-vegetation type. It is preserved in the Plovdiv Library “Ivan Vazov”, № 7. 3) Rila Gospel Lectionary of the beginning of the 13th century, 102 f. of parchment. The manuscript is kept in the library of the Rila Monastery № 1/23.

Unlike the manuscripts for day-today uses, i.e. designated for liturgical services and individual prayers, which were very simply illuminated, a very small number of illustrated Slavonic codices have been preserved. One of them is Dobreisho’s Four Gospels of the first half of the 13th century, 127 f. of parchment. Centuries ago this manuscript was divided into two parts. The Gospels of Mathew and Marc found their way into the National Library in Belgrade, where they were consumed in the flames during the air-raids in 1941 together with the other exhibits of the rich collection. The other two gospels are kept in the Saints Cyril and Methodius Library in Sofia under № 17.

1) The Menaion of Dragan is a manuscript of the second half of the 13th century, 219 f. This is an exquisite and valuable monument of the liturgical poetry of the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. It contains liturgies about St. Paraskeva (also known as Petka), St. John of Rila, King Peter of Bulgaria, and Saints Cyril and Methodius. The decoration of the manuscript is a classical example of Bulgarian teratological motifs. The manuscript is preserved in the Bulgarian St. George Monastery on Mount Athos, sign I.d.8. Fragments of it can be found in the Russian State Library in Moscow (ф.87 № 1725) and in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg (Q.п.I.40). 2) The Psalter of Radomir of the 13th century, 182 f., is a parchment manuscript decorated in the style of Slavonic teratology. The manuscript is preserved in the Bulgarian St. George Monastery on Mount Athos, sign I.d.13. One sheet is kept in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg (Q.п.I.11). 3) The Bulgarian St George Monastery on Mount Athos.

Dobreisho’s Gospel is a manuscript of great value, because it presents the archaic trend of the illustration tradition of Slavonic codices. Two miniatures on whole sheets of Evangelists Luke and John with the scribe, Priest Dobreisho, have been preserved.


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The capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, Tsarevgrad (the Town of King, present Veliko Tarnovo) was the main literary center in the 13th and 14th centuries and it was extensively glorified by Bulgarian men-of-letters as a city protected by the Lord and as the new Constantinople. In the 14th century, during the long and relatively peaceful reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331–1371), a number of lavishly decorated manuscripts usually containing a colophon or verses to glorify the policies of the Tsar as a patron were produced. For instance, the commissioned in 1337 Psalter is called “Pesnivets” (Book of Hymns) in the colophon-eulogy to the Tsar.

The only preserved today illustrated copy of the World History composed by Byzantine Chronicler Constantine Manasses in the 12th century, which contains 69 miniatures, is among the most famous Bulgarian manuscripts. This is the so-called Manasses Chronicle of 1344–1345 (206 f. of parchment). It has been kept in the Vatican Library Lat. Sl. № 2 since 1475. Of special interest are the texts supplemented to give information about the Bulgarian history and a cycle of illustrations which has not been preserved in any of the 140 Greek copies of the Chronicle. This cycle, in spite of the fact that it follows strictly the lost illustrated Greek prototype, also exhibits definite elements of actualization with regards to the Bulgarian-Byzantine relations over the centuries. Thus 19 miniatures depict events related to the history of Bulgaria and five more contain the portraits of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331–1371) with Constantine Manasses, members of his family, as well as events directly related to the death of his first born son – Ivan Assen.

Among the manuscripts commissioned by Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331–1371) of special significance is the London Four Gospels, also known as the Four Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, or the Gospel of Curzon of 1356; 286 sheets of parchment. It was donated to the British Library (where it is kept to this day, Add. Ms. 39627) by English traveller Robert Curzon, who had found it in the St. Paul Monastery in Mount Athos.

The Psalter of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1337), 317 f. of parchment. It is kept in the library of the Academy of Science under № 2. There is a headpiece and an initial in Byzantine floral style to Psalm 77 featuring Christ ‘ancient of days’.



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The London Four Gospels is illuminated in 366 miniatures placed in friezes within the text. At the end of every gospel of the Slavonic manuscript the figure of Tsar Ivan Alexander is portrayed and in the very beginning we find a miniature of the Tsar’s family. Every gospel begins with a headpiece in floral Byzantine style. The Gospel was written by Monk Simon in official liturgical Tarnovo uncial.

The Tomich’s Psalter features 109 miniatures arranged in a frieze in the text, nine of which are full page images. As far as the style of the manuscript is concerned, it is very similar to the characteristic art techniques of the Palaeiologos Era and the traditions of Mount Athos workshops. Of great interest are the headpieces in floral Byzantine style, as well as the extremely lavish decoration of the initials, which is of the interlaced, teratological and floral Byzantine style. The Tomich Psalter is among the best specimen of manuscripts produced by the Slavs in the age of the Palaeiologan art.

The so-called Tomich’s Psalter was produced during the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331–1371) of Bulgaria, i.e. in the 60s of the 14th century. It is preserved in the State Museum of History in Moscow (GIM № 2752, 301 f. of paper).

The manuscript was copied in the Monastery of Kilifarevo in the vicinity of the second Bulgarian capital city of Veliko Tarnovo and it was most probably commissioned by Theodosius of Tarnovo, an eminent Hesychast.


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After the fall of Tarnovo in 1393 a number of the most eminent Bulgarian men of letters, as Kiprian, Grigorios Tsamblak , Constantine Kostenechki and Vladislav Grammatic emigrated to Russia, WalachiaMoldavia, and Serbia. Most of the Bulgarian literary centers declined, others were moved to the West – to the Rila Monastery, to Sofia, and to Vtratsa.

The Kremikovsko Gospel of 1497 is kept in the Ecclesiastical Institute in Sofia under № 374 and it contains 305 f. of paper. In the lavish decoration of this manuscript, produced for the church of the Kremikovtsi Monastery, we can feel even more intensively the adherence to the classical models of the Greek codices of the 13th–14th century. These trends are also preserved in a number of the square headpieces of the Slepchensko Gospel of the 16th century, where the influence of oriental arabesques is manifest in the delicate interlacing of the motifs.

The Slepchensko Gospel is among the most exquisite models of manuscript decoration of the 16th century with its headpieces featuring modification of the Byzantine palmette and interlaced motifs, as well as the large size portraits of the Evangelists depicted in full pages. The Gospel is kept in the Ecclesiastical Institute in Sofia under № 340 and it contains 305 f. of paper.

The Andrianti Miscellanea of 1473 (562 f. of paper) was written by Vladislav Grammatic in the Monastery of the Holy Mother (Skopje Montenegro). It is kept in the Rila Monastery, Rila 3/6. The work contains 31 lectures mostly by John Chrysostom, as well as by Ephrem Sirin, Atanasius of Alexandria, etc. It is lavishly decorated in large-size square headpieces in neo-Byzantine style, which echo the traditions of Greek manuscripts produced in Mount Athos in the 13th century and the interlaced type of high degree of stylization under the influence of the eastern arabesque tradition. The Rila Monastery.

The Kremikovci Monastery.



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The activities of the Sofia Literary School, comprising Sofia and the Sofia monasteries, play a central role in the literary life of the 16th century. The manuscripts are produced in lavish bindings of silver and gold and the paper body is illuminated in a great variety of headpieces and initials. This is also the time of intensified literary exchange with Serbia, Rumania, and Mount Athos.

The manuscript production of the 16th century is also notable for the work of Priest Ioan from Kratovo. On one hand, the decorations of his manuscripts feature motifs of the “Rumy” style, influenced by the oriental arabesque tradition and resembling the lace-work of metal grids, and on the other – framed initials on a background of vegetation motifs and flowers resembling old published editions.

The 17th century is remarkable for the revival of the literary centers in the area of the Balkan Range and the Sredna Gora Mountain, which is related to the development of the mining sector. For instance, lavishly decorated homilies and liturgical books were produced in series in the Etropolski Monastery of St. Trinity.

1a) b) The Suchavsko Gospel of 1529 (366 f. of parchment and paper) was written by Monk Makarios in Suchava. It is kept in the Rila Monastery under № 1/11a. The Gospel has a gold casing featuring the images of the four Evangelists and the Crucifix – the work of Priest Isaiah. It is decorated richly in laced headpieces on gold background and the miniatures of the four Evangelists. 2a) b) The Krupnishko Gospel (334 f. of paper), work of Mathew the Goldsmith from Sofia produced in 1577, is in a similar casing of silver and gold and features scenes of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It is kept in the Rila Monastery under № 1/5. The Gospel is decorated in square headpieces and headpieces composed of interlaced round motifs coloured in cold blue-greenish and yellow hues.

The Prayer Book of Ioan Kratovski of 1567 (VII + 102 + V f. of paper) is kept in the Rila Monastery under № 1/23. In addition to the polychromous headpieces the work is lavishly decorated in floral motifs, featuring scilla, hyacinth, hollyhock , Turkish tulip, etc. The same rich variety of motifs and the images of the Evangelists incorporated in the headpieces are also found in the Gospel of Ioan Kratovski of 1567, kept in the Ecclesiastical Institute under no 250 (232 f. of paper). The initials in it are performed in blue and gold and they are richly decorated in vegetation twigs.

1) In addition to the interlaced vegetation motifs the headpieces of the Etropolski Menaion kept in the Ecclesiastical Institute (159 f. of paper) feature images of intertwined hair, which we can also find in the initials. 2a) b) Similar initials also appear in the richly illuminated Psalter of the 17th century kept in the Library of Plovdiv № 5 (142 f. of paper). In this work , the author of the Psalter – King David – is included in the headpiece similar to the manuscripts of Ioan Kratovski and the Psalter of 1692 kept in the Ivan Dujčev Center, Slavo D. 1.


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Panel 24 Widely preferred reading in the 17th–18th century was the Lectures and the Lessons of Damascenos Studites. This explains the preserved great number of these texts, which are lavishly decorated, sometimes in more than 30 miniatures. For instance the Rilski Damascene of the second half of the 17th century (413 sheets of paper, Rila 4/10) contains 26 miniatures preceding each of the lectures of Damascenos Studites and one by Theophane Ritor. Handwritten manuscripts continued to be published in Bulgaria during the 19th century although in the 18th and 19th century handwritten books gradually started to give way to old-printed editions.

The Light of Letters Axinia Džurova Vasya Velinova 1st Edition, 2013

State Institute for Culture Ministry of Foreign Affairs All rights reserved.

Translation into English: Atanaska Miteva Graphic design: Kiril Gogov Pre-press: Ars Millenium MMM Typography: Viol Typeface – designed by Vassil und Olga Yonchev, 1985 Total run: 500 copies Printed by: Dedrax, Bulgaria

The Light of Letters  

The Light of Letters - catalog of exhibition Axinia Džurova Vasya Velinova 1st Edition, 2013 State Institute for Culture Ministry of Foreign...