Memoria in the Byzantine World, ca. 500-1500

This second book project (Habilitation) constitutes of an examination of one of the most fundamental yet hitherto understudied phenomena of Byzantine society, namely an analysis of the origins and development of memoria (Gr. mnemosyna / μνημόσυνα).

In essence, memoria is a useful umbrella term for encapsulating those ideas and practices which the Byzantines developed to commemorate and remember the dead. This praxis included commemorative prayer, requiem masses, memorial feasts and distributions to the poor and needy. Although the vast majority of information regarding Byzantine memorial practices is contained in the substantial corpus of surviving Byzantine monastic acts, other literary genres such as canon and secular law, hagiography and theology deliver important insights in this regard as well, to say nothing of material culture. Just as Otto Gerhard Oexle determined for the Medieval West, in Byzantium as well memoria was very much a “total social phenomenon” in the Maussian sense, which touched upon all aspects of society, including the economy, family life and politics.

While memoria is now well-studied in the context of the Medieval West, and to a lesser extent in the Islamicate and Slavic worlds, to date Byzantine Studies has not produced even a smaller study of memorial praxis. Memoria in the Byzantine World, ca. 500-1500 will fill this glaring lacuna and thereby offer substantial new insights not only onto an important Byzantine societal praxis, but will also inform and nuance our understanding of the Byzantine vie quotidienne.

Vasily Vereshchagin: Defeated Requiem, 1878 - 1879.

Vasily Vereshchagin: Defeated Requiem, 1878 - 1879.


Dr. Zachary Chitwood