Archival Events

Musical Politics and the Geography of Late Byzantine Monasticism:
The Akolouthiai of St. John Prodromos Monastery

Jamie Greenberg
Department of Music

The fourteenth and fifteenth-century musical manuscripts originating at St. John Prodromos, near Serres, Greece, testify to the monastery’s vibrant role in post-Nicaean musical innovation. Poised at the crossroads of Constantinople, Thessaloniki, and the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos)—the main monastic centers that drove these musical developments—Prodromos monastery provided fertile ground for the cultivation of this new, essentially monastic, musico-liturgical idiom, codified in a chant collection known as the Akolouthia.  While musicologists have addressed the stylistic, notational, and liturgical developments that the Akolouthia enshrines, little attempt has been made to situate these collections in the monastic milieu that gave rise to them.  Drawing on the historical research and ethnographic fieldwork conducted at Princeton’s Mount Menoikeion Summer Seminar, this paper demonstrates how this unique monastic environment, closely wedded to imperial programs and situated in a privileged cultural location, might account for the provenance of these particularly rich musical collections at the monastery.    

Jamie Greenberg is a third year graduate student in musicology.  She studies the transactions between Byzantine and Venetian musical cultures.   Her dissertation on “Venetian Ritual Re-Soundings: Music, Liturgy, and Ceremony from Constantinople to San Marco”, addresses Venice’s musical resonance with the Byzantine world through an examination of musico-ritual activity at the basilica of San Marco during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Before coming to Princeton, Jamie received a B.A. in Music Performance and in English from Dickinson College, in 2006.  She spent the academic year 2006-07 on a Fulbright fellowship doing ethnomusicological fieldwork in Crete.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
6:00 p.m.
Scheide Caldwell House, Room 103

Landscape, art, and architecture of Mount Menoikeion

Paper on the Post-Byzantine landscape, art and architecture of Mount Menoikeion presented at the Post-Byzantine Monasticism Conference at the University of Crete in Rethymno, December 17-19, 2009

  “Μελετώντας ένα ζωντανό μνημείο: Συμπεράσματα από το εκπαιδευτικό πρόγραμμα στο Μενοίκειο όρος και στη μονή Προδρόμου.”     

Nikolas Bakirtzis (The Cyprus Institute)
Kostis Kourelis (Franklin & Marshall College)
Matthew J. Milliner (Princeton University graduate student)



Modern Greek Studies Association

The Sacred Grip: Landscape, Art and Architecture in Mount Menoikeion (19th-20th Centuries)
Paper presented at the Modern Greek Studies Association in Vancouver, B.C.

Nikolas Bakirtzis (The Cyprus Institute)
Kostis Kourelis (Franklin & Marshall College)
Matthew Milliner (Princeton University graduate student)

Mount Menoikeion near Serres preserves a rich tradition shaped around the 13th-century monastery of Saint John Prodromos. The monastery evolved into one of the major monastic centers, surviving through volatile chapters of Balkan history. It is a spectacular monument of Byzantine art and architecture surrounded by an equally spectacular natural environment. In 1986, the deteriorating architectural shell was taken over by a female community of nuns whose spiritual guide, the Athonite monk Elder Ephraim, resides in Arizona. Although reviving older Orthodox traditions, Prodromos presents intersections between Byzantine and modern realities, between monastic life and local communities, ecclesiastical authorities, productive resources and the landscape. The Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University established an annual field seminar to investigate the site’s complexities as exemplary of the Modern Greek condition. Since 2005, the Mount Menoikeion Workshop has brought together a diverse group of scholars and students from anthropology, archaeology, history, classical studies, religious studies and art history. Our paper concentrates on the archaeology of 19th- and 20th-century life, represented in the cultural landscape, the architecture and the artistic treasures of Mount Menoikeion.

Landscapes are the product of ecological and human processes. What to the romantic eye seems idyllic and “natural” is, in fact, the product of continuous inhabitation and exploitation. In order to read the chronological development of the monastic landscape, we have mapped all evidence of cultural activity--caves, chapels, roads, paths, fields, orchards, farm buildings, sheep pens, trash heaps, industrial installations, water channels, memorials, inscriptions, markers and quarries. The early modern landscape reveals an inherent tension between the ideal of monastic wilderness and its aggressive human exploitation. Architecturally, Mount Menoikeion contains an intricate complex of buildings emanating from the Katholikon. Additions, towers and chapels tell a story not only of Byzantine tradition, but of modern Orthodox responses to more recent challenges, including Ottoman patronage, the ravages of the Balkan Wars and the effects of World War II, which in Menoikeion took the form of a Bulgarian occupation. Of special interest are the monastery’s 19th- and 20th-century art. Byzantine art historians have traditionally ignored this period as inferior and entirely derivative. The artistic culture of Prodromos demonstrates not only a flexible multilingual visual language but also deeper insights into the Orthodox community’s negotiation on multiple fronts, from its benevolent Ottoman patrons, to its western European markets and to an independent Greek nation-state further south.