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The Epistle of Cornelius, a Monk of the Snetogorsky Monastery

Valentina I. Okhotnikova


This article deals with the problem of the dating and authorship of the Epistle of Cornelius, a monk of the Snetogorsky monastery, to his spiritual son, the priest Ivan, who decided to marry for a second time “for childbearing.” Nikolai I. Serebriansky dated the Epistle to the 1590s (this dating also was shared by subsequent researchers), based on the assertion that during the life of Ivan the Terrible, Cornelius would hardly have dared to write that tsars who violate the laws of the Church regarding the termination and conclusion of a second marriage would be punished by the birth of an heir who “will trample everything and will be an initiator of every evil deed.” The identification of the sources describing both the heir’s evil deeds and other parts of the text allows us to refine the dating of the Epistle. Cornelius finds arguments for the condemnation of his spiritual son’s decision to remarry not only in Scripture but also in contemporary hagiographic and publicistic works that date back to a period of time from the beginning of the 16th century to the 1540s: the Life of Euphrosynus of Pskov (the Story about Halleluiah), no later than 1510; the Epistle of Maximus the Greek to Fedor Karpov about Leviathan, dated between 1518 and 1525; the Epistle of Mark, patriarch of Jerusalem (from the Excerpt about the Second Marriage of Grand Prince Vasily III), from the 1540s. Such a concentration of works from a specific period of time suggests that the Epistle of Cornelius itself was written at about the same time. Most likely, the Cornelius who is identified as the author of the Epistle is the Cornelius listed as the former abbot of the Snetogorsky monastery in the 1562 record inscribed in the Gospel manuscript from the collection of the Russian State Library, f. 205, No. 29. Monk Cornelius could have written the Epistle no earlier than in 1525 and no later than in 1562, when he was no longer either a monk or the abbot of the Snetogorsky monastery.


text criticism; literary sources; epistles; Snetogorsky monastery; Pskov; 16th century


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