The Saint as Church, the Church as Saint: Visions of Monastery, Church and Society in Theodoret of Cyrrhus' Philotheos Historia

Project: Dissertation

Layman's description

The image of the early monastic movement has long been characterized by the colourful stories about uneducated and misanthropic monks. The late antique ascetic has even been taken to represent the final break with the Classical heritage. In my dissertation I study stories about seemingly extreme ascetics, and see how they are presented as philosophers and ideals for a Christian, civilized society.

In the 5th ct. CE one of the most debated and educated bishops, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, wrote a collection of stories about the rise of monasticism in his Syrian neighbourhood. The book was written in classicizing Greek and was called “On the godlovers” (Philotheos Historia). Among his monks was the first stylite, Symeon, who, during 36 years lived a life of prayer and ascesis on an almost 20 meters high pillar.

The depiction of him and other ascetics have long been governing the image of the early monastic movement. It has been taken to confirm the alleged individualism, extremism and misanthropy of the movement. The late antique ascetic has even been taken to represent the final break with the Classical heritage.

With narrative and theological analysis I investigate the ideals that are portrayed in this collection of stories. My thesis is that the way that the individual saint is presented underlines collective ideals that not only pertains to the monastery, but also to the church and to the whole society. By using a classical discourse of civilization the author shapes presuppositions for the new Christian world view to be accepted by the educated elite. With the help of intertextual references from both a general philosophical, as from a specifically Christian heritage, a vision of the world and the human being is shaped that anticipates the theological reflection.

In the end I hope to show continuity between Antique civic ideals and a Byzantine icon of the churc
Effective start/end date2006/09/012011/12/31