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On the Sources for the “Life of Alexander of Svir”: The Chapter “About the Person Who Wrote the Life of the Saint”

Natalia V. Pak


The article analyzes the literary sources of the “Life of Alexander of Svir,” which was written by Hegumen Herodion of Svir. The discovery of new sources significantly expands the methodological possibilities of studying this literary monument. Knowing which text the medieval author reworked, we can reveal and describe those changes which were made by the author in the adaptation of the borrowed texts. In addition, knowing which circle of sources the author borrowed from, we can come to a conclusion concerning the result that the author sought. The study shows that the final chapter, with autobiographical information on the hagiographer’s life, was compiled on the basis of three sources: “The Life of Theodosius of Kiev,” “The Life of Nikon of Radonezh,” and the epilogue of scribe Athanasius to “Oko tserkovnoe.” The first of these sources was pointed out by I. Yakhontov (1881), but the borrowings from this source that are found in the final chapter of “The Life of Alexander of Svir” have still not been studied. The other two sources are revealed for the first time. Yakhontov concluded that Herodion used in his work the lives of Russian venerables and monastery founders, mainly the works of Pachomius the Serb. Now we have reason to believe that Alexander of Svir’s hagiographer was not ruled only by patriotic or genre considerations, and that he was not an imitator of Pachomius. As far as we can tell, the choice of the source was motivated by a specific literary purpose and by each separate episode, the description of which he created on the basis of the texts of his predecessors. (The examination of these motives, however, are beyond the scope of this article.) The texts of all of the sources known to date (especially those sources which were unchanged when they were included in the “Life” of the saint) can be used as a control element in the comparison of the copies of the literary monument and in the construction of a stemma codicum.


medieval Rus’; Old Russian literature; hagiography; Alexander of Svir; Pachomius the Serb; Herodion of Svir; Life of Nikon of Radonezh


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