XVIth General Assembly of Syndesmos “Serve the Lord in Unity”: Some thoughts and reflections

Volume 7, issue 1 (summer 1999)

by Edip Aydın

The XVIth General Assembly of Syndesmos, The World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, was hosted by the Orthodox Church of Finland and held at the Valamo Lay Academy and Valamo Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, in Heinävesi, Finland from July 17-25, 1999. The General Assembly gathered around 250 participants from among the Syndesmos members, in addition to observers from the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and from ecumenical and secular organizations.

This was the third time that the General Assembly of Syndesmos was held in Finland and the second time hosted by the Valamo Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Heinävesi, in the beautiful region of Karelia, the easternmost province of Finland. This is why, and rightly so, Dr. Dimitri Oikonomu, the former President of Syndesmos, in his address to the XVIth General Assembly said: “In choosing Finland as a venue for this General Assembly, Syndesmos has very much come home.” Indeed, The Finnish Orthodox Church, the second official Church in Finland after that of the Lutherans, with her 58,000 Orthodox faithful sustained by three dioceses under the auspices of Archbishop John of Karelia and All Finland, holds a special place in her heart and even feels a special responsibility for Syndesmos. Furthermore, Dr. Oikonomu in his President’s address stated:

“For thirteen years, from 1977 to 1990, the Secretariat was located in this land. From 1992 to 1995, Syndesmos’s President was a Finnish priest. For the first time in Syndesmos’s history, thanks to the indispensable support of the local Church, the secretary in Finland had a regular salary and a full time job. On both a human and a financial level, the responsible assistance of the Church in Finland has been enormous and decisive for the well being of the Fellowship. Even today the Finnish Orthodox members are the only ones in the world that unfailingly take up an annual collection from their Churches for the work of Syndesmos.”

Igumen Sergei, the spiritual head of the Valamo Brotherhood, which consists of six monks and four novices, cordially welcomed the Assembly. He said: “The Brotherhood is very happy to be able to serve the Orthodox world this way. Already the second time, Syndesmos held its general Assembly in Valamo last time in 1980.” Valamo, “the heart of Finnish Orthodox life”, was a great opportunity to the participants to learn about the prayer life and service that the Valamo Monastery is offering to the Finnish Orthodox Church as well as to 200,000 visitors (Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike) each year who come on a pilgrimage. For me, as an Orthodox rooted in the Syriac Tradition, it was a thrilling experience to go with Fr. Ephrem Lash to visit Brother Peter in his cell and learn more closely about his monastic life. As I entered his cell, my soul danced and my eyes feasted as they gazed upon the open Syriac Bible standing on a lectern and the Lord’s Prayer hanging on the wall and his study desk covered with Syriac books and dictionaries. When we were seated, he told us about his translation work from Syriac Fathers and ascetics into Finnish. He then added that his translations, with a long introduction about Syriac Spirituality, are going to be published in a form of a book as a service to his monastic community and the Finnish Church in general.

Under the theme: “Serve the Lord in Unity” (Zephaniah 3:9), the Assembly gathered to discuss, create new friendships and cultivate the old ones as well as learn about Orthodoxy and each other.

One of the keynote speeches at the General Assembly was given by Hieromonk Symeon, a Peruvian who lives in the hermitage of Timiou Stavrou under the Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos. He spoke about the division in ourselves and among us, and the union given by God, who is love. This was the first time in the history of Syndesmos that an Athonite monk was invited to speak at the General Assembly. It was a good and appropriate choice indeed, because it reflected the connection and fellowship that exists between Syndesmos and monastic centers. Also, it was a golden opportunity for the participants to hear the words of wisdom and learn from the experience of an Athonite monk and the Athonite monastic tradition. Furthermore, it was good for the women participants to hear and meet an Athonite face to face since no women are allowed on the Holy Mountain.

Syndesmos, being a fellowship of Orthodox Youth, was also very appropriate and rather significant to have Ms. Esther Hookway, a young woman who has been actively involved in the life of Syndesmos for many years, speak to the Assembly. She delivered her keynote speech entitled “Orthodox Youth self-awareness”. In her speech she talked about the relation of the world and Church and how to make a worthy contribution to society. She maintained that any contact with the real world is spiritually a beneficial one. According to Hookway, Orthodox self-awareness is about being a Christian in a real way. And one should change oneself before changing the world. Hookway noted that our Orthodox self-awareness is rather feeble. This, she maintained, is due to lack of education, which also means less witness of Christ in our life. She said: “It is important to be educated in theology and live theologically, that is to say to have a prayer life, to fast and do charitable works, etc., which have a profound and lasting influence on oneself and others.”

Among other things, the Assembly Working Groups deserve a mention here. Working Groups are some of the means by which the Assembly analyses and describes the current status of themes of interest and concern in the Orthodox Church and discusses the actions of Syndesmos in this field. The Working Groups list contained the following range of topics to choose from: Secularism as a challenge, Tradition and traditions, Liturgical language, Responsible participation in inter-Christian dialogue, Social service as Christian witness, Laity in the Church, Christian moral values today, Syndesmos’s commission on Orthodox Theological Institutions, and Orthodoxy and environment.

I myself chose the Working Group on secularism with its moderator Fr. Heikki Huttunen, a former president of Syndesmos. It was interesting to hear what Fr. Heikki, who is a Finnish Orthodox priest in the secular country of Finland, had to say about secularism as a challenge as well as to hear the views and comments of the participants who represented countries of different political outlook, faith and religion. Fr. Heikki said: “I think secularism should be taken rather as a circumstance in which we live and not as a positive nor negative thing in itself.” Besides enlightening us on the subject, The Working Group also was a good way to get to know each other better.

The program of the General Assembly also included excursions and trips to some of the churches and religious centers of Orthodox Church in Finland. These trips and excursions exposed us to the life of the Orthodox Church in Finland. One such trip was to Ilomantsi, which is at the heart of Finnish Orthodoxy, with a community established in the 14th century. There we visited the Church of the Prophet Elias, which is the largest Orthodox wooden church in the country and only dates from the last century. On Tuesday, July 20th, which marked the feast of St. Elias, the patron saint of Ilomantsi we were privileged to attend the hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated in honor of St. Elias. Following the Liturgy, there was a procession to the nearby lake for the service of the blessing of water. Later, we shared an agape meal under a tent and listened to the address given by Archbishop John of Karelia, welcoming all to the parish of St. Elias and giving a brief account of the parish life and the Church in general. He touched upon ecumenical and friendly relations that the Finnish Orthodox Church enjoys with the Lutherans, Catholics and Oriental Orthodox in Finland. [In fact, I later learned that in Helsinki, where a small community of Oriental Orthodox live, these faithful are allowed to receive communion in the Helsinki parish of the Finnish Orthodox Church. This is something that is rarely practiced elsewhere between Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches]. This was followed by a musical performance played on the kantele by two young girls from the parish. Kantele, a stringed instrument resembling the Middle-Eastern Qanun, is the Finnish national instrument. The instrument originated in Karelia, which is known as the Land of Kantele Music and Song. From there we visited the Joensuu Orthodox parish and the Orthodox Seminary, meeting with representatives of the local Syndesmos members, Orthodox Youth Association (ONL), PISTIS and Orthodox Student Association (OOL).

On Saturday, July 24th, we travelled to the Lintula Convent at Palokki where Mother Marina, who personally took us around the convent and the church, received us. The convent is home to a dozen nuns and open to visitors only during summer. They get about 20,000 visitors in a season. They are self-supporting, maintaining a small farm with sheep and goats but their main activity and income is the candle factory, which produces all the candles used by the faithful of the Finnish Orthodox Church.

On Saturday afternoon, coming back from Lintula Convent, we assembled at the tent for the official closure of the XVIth General Assembly of Syndesmos. After the newly elected Governing Bodies and Auditors of Syndesmos had been officially announced and the past Governing Body as well as all those who worked hard and made the Assembly such a successful event were thanked, the General Assembly was officially declared closed by Manos Koumbarelis, the new President of Syndesmos. The Assembly then sang a cheerful prayer in Greek.

This was later followed by an all-night vigil with the Sunday Divine Liturgy at the Valamo Church of Holy Transfiguration to offer thanks to God Almighty for all that Syndesmos has done and has accomplished for the glory of His Holy Name. Then all faithful shared an agape meal in the Monastery refectory.

On Sunday July 25th, there were two post-Assembly optional excursions. One of these was a pilgrimage to Old Valaam Holy Transfiguration Monastery on Lake Ladoga, Russian Karelia, and St. Petersburg, Russia. The other one was a Finnish Summer camp for the Youth Exchange held at the Kaunisniemi Orthodox Youth Center, Southern Finland. I chose the latter, which I enjoyed immensely. The three-day summer camp was something that I shall never forget. The program included daily worship and introduction to Finnish Orthodox Church life, particularly that of the Helsinki Orthodox parish and its youth work. There was evening entertainment, a traditional Finnish campfire, with multicultural participants singing cultural and religious songs in different languages while enjoying the grilled sausages. Above all, relaxing in the Finnish sauna (the eighth sacrament of the Church!), swimming in the beautiful Loppi Lake and taking trips by boat to the nearby islands was something I shall never forget. In short, the occasion was very enjoyable, relaxing and culturally as well as spiritually enriching.

On the departure day, July 28th, we visited Helsinki and its Orthodox sites, which was a joyous and memorable event in itself.

My final comment on the XVIth General Assembly of Syndesmos is that it was a successful and an enjoyable event. It was a golden opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of Orthodox Church and Tradition as well as to further learn about Syndesmos and appreciate the excellent work and service that it offers for Orthodox youth and the glory of God. Furthermore, it was an enriching experience to witness the vibrant and living Church of Finland with her dedicated priests and many devout faithful. A final word of thanks and gratitude goes to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and staff for selecting me to represent the Seminary at the General Assembly and making it possible for me to participate by contributing towards the costs of the trip and event.

Byz-Niz: Berichten uit de O.B.O.-burelen


Greece in Print – 1997

The Hellenic Literature Society and the A.S. Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies with the support of many Greek American organizations, institutions and numerous individual volunteers, have announced the second major book exhibit of Greek literature and culture in New York City, “Greece in Print -1997.” The exhibit will take place on September 20 and 21, 1997, at the Greenberg Lounge of the Vanderbilt Hall Building of New York University from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The building is located at 40 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012. Discussion panels on Greek literature and culture will be held at Tishman Auditorium in the same building. The exhibit will take place concurrently, and is associated with the “New York is Book Country” cultural event organized by the city of New York. For further information and to reserve seats in the discussion panel program please call 201-666-7374.


  • Greenberg Lounge; Sep. 20 & 21, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Book Exhibit of Greek Literature and culture in English and in Greek
  • Donnell Library Exhibit
  • Magna Graecia photographic exhibit
  • H.P. Kraus, Greek Book Arts from the 15th to 20th Centuries exhibit

23rd Annual Byzantine Studies Conference

Sept. 26-28, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Info.: Pat Gaitan, tel. (608) 262-6696, fax (608) 265-3163; e-mailgaitan at admin.uwex.edu.

Christianization In The Early Middle Ages, 400-1000

The Group for the Study of Late Antiquity and the Medieval Studies Program at Princeton are organizing the First Annual Medieval Origins Graduate Conference on Christianization In The Early Middle Ages, 400-1000 to be held at Princeton University on October 18, 1997. This one-day conference will explore aspects of late antique and medieval Christianization, from the eastern frontiers of Byzantium to northern Europe, from the destruction of the Serapeum to the conversion of Iceland. Broad themes may include:

  • the strategies and frustrations of missionaries
  • “pagan reaction” and “pagan survival”
  • the recasting of non-Christian modes of expression for Christian use
  • the influence of Christianity on rural and urban topography

Our keynote speaker will be Professor Dennis Trout of Tufts University, who will present a paper on Christianization at the shrine of Saint Felix in early fifth century Nola.

Queries can be sent to one of the following addresses:

mail: Scott G. Bruce, 207 Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544

email:jmgaddis at phoenix.princeton.edu

fax: 609-258-1873 c/o Medieval Studies Program


A graduate-student conference on medieval studies. November 7-8th, 1997


Sean Morris
English Department
SUNY at Stony Brook Stony Brook, NY 11794-5350
smorris at ic.sunysb.edu

American Numismatic Society Arab-Byzantine Forum III

The third annual edition of the Society’s Forum on Arab-Byzantine numismatics will take place again this fall, on Saturday, November 15, at 10:00. At the forum, specialists in the Byzantine-style coinage issued under Arab rule in the eastern Mediterranean lands will exchange reports of their new finds and findings. As usual, the forum will be co-sponsored by the Oriental Numismatic Society.

A more formal notice will be sent out later to those known to be interested in the field, but anyone who would like to make a brief presentation to the group is invited to notify Society Curator of Islamic Coins Michael Bates. We would be delighted to hear from new contributors. Contributions on related non-numismatic historical topics are also welcome, particularly on the transition from Roman to Muslim rule in Bilad al-Sham.

The Forum will last all day. A registration fee of $20.00 will cover the cost of postage and printing, coffee, doughnuts, cookies, and an informal lunch. There is no cover charge for the entertainment!

Two-day international conference on the influence of St Ephraim the Syrian

16-18 December 1997 at School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Incl. Public lecture on 18 Dec. 1997 by Prof. Sidney Griffith (Catholic University of America):

‘Most awakening of the ancients: the universality of St Ephraim the Syrian’.

Brunei Gallery lecture theatre, S.O.A.S., 7-8.30 p.m.

Registration fee £15. (Students, old age pensioners, £10).

Info.: S.O.A.S., Thornhaught street, Russell Square, London WC1 OXG.

Tel. 0171 3236137 and 0171 3236249

e-mail: ap7 at soas.ac.uk


Hagiography Society Newsletter

Sherry Reames schrijft:

“I am pleased to announce that the Hagiography Society Newsletter, starting with the current issue [March/April 1997], is now available on the web, thanks to the kind offices of the Bollandists. The address is


The site can may also be accessed through the regular Bollandist web-site by opening the rubric “what’s new” and following the appropriate link.

The current issue of the newsletter includes [among other things] a call for papers and some additional information about a small conference we are planning for July 1998 at Ammerdown (near Downside Abbey and Bath, in England) on the topic “Sanctity and Ritual.”


Synopsis: An Annual Index of Greek Studies


Editor-in-chief: Andrew Dimarogonas, Washington Univ.

Publisher: Harwood Academic Publishers (A division of Gordon & Breach)

Aims and scope

Synopsis is an index to the scholarly publications on Greek Studies for the benefit of those who work in the field. Research and review journals, conference proceedings, books, monographs and dissertations (about 10,000 entries per year) are indexed in the areas of Classical, Hellenistic, Biblical Greek, Byzantine, Medieval and Modern Greek Studies without defining precisely their lines of separation. Author, Subject, Text, Geographical and Name indexes are included. The Journal will also publish occasionally reviews and bibliographical studies, calls for papers and announcements of scholarly conferences.

The languages of the Journal are English and Greek. Titles in other languages will be cited in the original language or translated in English. The editorial language is English. Synopsis is published concurrently in printed and searchable electronic form for PC and Mac compatible computers.

The articles indexed or published are selected only on their scholarly value and without prejudice in respect to the opinions of the authors. Reader-submitted titles for indexing are only accepted if they appear in the journals or publishers lists that are indexed by the Journal. Suggestions for the selection of the journals to be indexed should be submitted to the editorial board through the editor, the associate editors or the editorial advisory board.

Ownership and circulation

Synopsis is published by Harwood Academic Publishers. First volume (for 1992) was published in January 1997. The 1993 and 1994 volumes will be published in 1997.


Inauguration of Kypros-Net

Kypros-Net is a new Internet information resource center for Cyprus. Kypros-Net was founded by a group of volunteers and operates as a not-for profit organization. Its primary goal is to build and maintain a rich resource site of ideas and activities on Cyprus, and to make it available to the general public. Such a site offers interested groups and individuals the opportunity to learn about Cyprus as well as the means to contribute towards the promotion of Cyprus. Kypros-Net establishes an important and very dedicated center of information on Cyprus and its people, by providing publications, important documents, treaties and reports, as well as daily news on Cyprus. Kypros-Net provides mirroring sites in the USA for the Government of Cyprus World Wide Web Pages, Web Pages of other Agencies and Organizations from Cyprus or the Diaspora and also support and hosting for a variety of projects about Cyprus with regards to all aspects of Cyprus life and the Diaspora. In addition it has its own publication, the monthly Kypros-Net Newsletter “The World of Cyprus”. Please visit Kypros-Net at the following URL:


Uit: Greece in print, April 1, 1997, 1/2

John Nordin’s Greece page

John Nordin, Boulder, CO (U.S.A.) schreef:

I’ve recently put some material related to Greece up on my home page, and I invite you to take a look at it.


and please take a look at the ‘photo tour of Patmos’ under the ‘places in Greece’ option.

By this note, I’d also invite you to tell me (or remind me) about your Greek homepages, or refer me to good sources.

Byzantium in de pers

Ankara denies that Agia Sofia in Trabzon will be converted into mosque

Istanbul, 20/06/1997

Turkish culture ministry spokesman Osman Kaya told ANA yesterday that there is no question of the historic Agia Sofia Cathedral in Trabzon, currently operating as a museum, being converted into a mosque.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Kaya said the building of the cathedral belongs to a non-profit organization to which the Turkish culture ministry will deliver the building.

During the past year, the Turkish culture ministry and the Vakuf Foundation have been contesting ownership of the building in the courts. Mr. Kaya said that some objects located in the old church at present will be taken to a nearby building, the historic Kostakis home, which will henceforth operate as a museum.

Commenting on reports in the Trabzon press yesterday, expressing concern that Agia Sofia might be converted into a mosque, Mr. Kaya said “there is nothing more than what I have described to you.”

The issue is dividing Turkish public opinion and has been repeatedly raised recently after the Islamic Welfare Party headed by Necmettin Erbakan came to power.

Uit: Athens news agency bulletin (No 1216), June 20, 1997


Robert Browning

Noted scholar Browning dies Athens, 12/03/1997 (ANA)

Well-known Greek history scholar and the president of the Committee for Return of the Parthenon Marbles Robert Browning died yesterday at the age of 83.

Browning, who suffered from cancer, headed the Byzantine Studies department at the University of London for many years and was actively involved in the promotion of many of Greece’s political and cultural issues.

He had been declared an official lecturer at Athens University and had been honored on two occasions by Greece.

French director Jules Dassin, the widow of former culture minister Melina Mercouri, also expressed regret at the death of Browning, as did Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Mr. Dassin, who heads the effort for return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, said Greece has lost a “loving friend.”

Uit: Athens news agency bulletin (No 1136), March 12, 1997

Alexander Kazhdan

Dumbarton Oaks announces with great sadness the sudden death of Alexander Kazhdan, on May 29, 1997. Alexander was closely associated with Dumbarton Oaks from the time of his emigration to the United States in 1979, and some of its most important projects bear his name and imprint. He was a great scholar, who dedicated his life to the study of Byzantium in all its aspects, and whose many works have influenced the field profoundly. He was also a scholar who generously shared his knowledge with his colleagues. He will be greatly missed.

Ontvangen ter redactie

Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies, vol. 7 (1994).

Society for Armenian Studies, Newsletter vol. 21 (1997) no 1-2.

Quest Books, catalogue eight: the Near East and Byzantine Studies (April 1997).

The VIIIth International Congress of Cretan Studies, Heraklion

by Sophia Oikonomou

The International Congress of Cretan Studies has become an important cultural event in Greece during the last 35 years focusing its interest on various aspects of Cretan life.

The first International Congress of Cretan Studies took place at Heraklion in September 1961. It was Andreas Kalokairinos together with a group of young intellectuals who planned and organised that first congress, the main interest of which was studies regarding the island of Crete. This same group of people had already succeeded in publishing the first periodical for Cretan studies, Kretika Chronika (the first issue appeared in 1947 and it is still being published). They also founded the Society of Cretan Historical Studies (EKIM) in 1951 and two years later the Historical Museum of Crete, one of the most important museums in Greece today.

Since then, eight successful congresses have been organised, one every five years in the capital cities of the prefectures of the island of Crete. Mainly EKIM together with other cultural societies of the island organise these congresses. The number of participants keeps growing as well as the number of papers given and of the pages of the congresses’ proceedings.

This year’s congress that took place in Heraklion and was organised by the Society of Cretan Historical Studies (EKIM), was attended by 350 participants from eighteen different countries and 290 papers had been delivered regarding archaeology, history, literature, language and folklore tradition of Crete.

The innovation at this congress was the appointment of a main theme which was “Private Life in Crete”. The appointment of a main theme was thought necessary for the congress to acquire a coherence since it presents an unavoidable heterogeneity because of the large number of participants and of the different periods of Cretan history covered. Most of the papers conformed to that direction.

The proceedings were divided as in the previous congresses in three sections which correspond with the three main periods of Cretan history : the prehistoric and ancient Greek period (section A’), the Byzantine and Venetian period (section B’) and the modern period (section C’).

Three keynote speeches on the main theme were given on the first day of the congress: “Everyday life in Minoan Times” by Professor Peter Warren (section A’), “Everyday life in Crete under Venetian rule: Existing research and prospects for the future” by Professor Chryssa Maltezou (section B’) and “Information on the everyday life of Cretans, drawn from unpublished material held by the Folklore Centre of the Academy of Athens” by Dr. G. Aikaterinidis (section C’).

The largest number of papers given were of section A’ and they referred to Minoan religion, script, architecture and ceramics. Presentations on undergoing excavations were very interesting as well as on activities and establishments of the Minoans outside Crete. In section B’ papers regarding Byzantine Crete and especially its architecture, iconography, pottery, inscriptions and literature were very important and stimulating, while the ones given on the Venetian period were many more in number. The identification of the first signed work of Domenico Theotokopoulos was the subject of one of the most impressive papers given in the congress. Section C’ presented the smaller number of papers regarding the study of literature and language.

This 1996 Congress was enriched with presentations by the Foundation of Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) on technology in archaeological and historical research: a)”Applications for Lasers in the Maintenance and Presentation of Monuments and Works of Art” by Professor K. Fotakis and Dr. B. Zaphiropoulos, b)”Cultural Information Systems” by Professor P. Constantopoulos. These presentations were enthusiastically welcomed by the audience of all three sections.

The participants of the congress and their companions had the opportunity to attend receptions and other activities: excursion to Piskopiano and tour of its Agricultural Museum, tour of the new exhibition rooms at the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion, excursion to Rethymnon and tour of the local Museum of History and Folklore, and excursion to Gortyna with a visit to the excavation at the Praetorium and the early Christian Basilica in Metropolis conducted by the archaeologists excavating there. In addition a performance of G. Chortatzis’ “Erophili” by the Municipal Regional Theatre of Crete directed by Spyros Evangelatos and a concert by the Polyphonia choral group entitled “Franciscus Leondariti and his Time” were two more activities offered.

Proceedings are expected to be published in two year’s time while the IX International Congress of Cretan Studies will be held in 2001 at Hagios Nikolaos or Ierapetra of Lassithi prefecture.

For further information on the congress and its proceedings you may contact:

The Society of Cretan Historical Studies (EKIM)
Historical Museum of Crete
Lysimahou Kalokairinou 7
71202 Heraklion Crete
tel.: 0030-81-283219
fax.: 0030-81-283754


Het VIIIste Internationale congres over Kretenzische Studiën, Heraklion Kreta, 9-14 september 1996

Elke vijf jaar wordt sinds 1961 dit internationale congres op Kreta georganiseerd. Dit jaar was er een innovatie in de vorm van een centraal thema: privéleven op Kreta. Er waren 350 deelnemers op dit congres. Over ongeveer twee jaar zullen de artikelen gepubliceerd worden, en in 2001 vindt het negende congres plaats in Hagios Nikolaos, of Ierapetra.

Through the looking-glass: British reflections of Byzantium – Verslag van het 29th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, King’s College, London

door Annabelle Parker

Van vrijdag 7 tot en met maandag 10 april vond het jaarlijkse Britse symposium plaats. Tegelijkertijd was de tentoonstelling ‘Byzantium, treasures of Byzantine art and culture from British collections’ in het British Museum, die vanaf 8 december al te bewonderen was (zie onder Byz-Niz het verslag van Jamilla Luyckx-Westerop in het Financieel Dagblad).

Het symposium was onderverdeeld in verschillende sessies. Hieronder in het kort genoemd met de opmerkelijkste bijdragen:

I: The Middle Ages: David Buckton over Byzantijnse vondsten (gebruiksvoorwerpen, juwelen, etc.) in Engeland in de Angelsaksische tijd.

II: The Renaissance to the Enlightenment: Anthony Bryer over het nog weinig onderzochte bezoek van ene Nicander aan Henry VIII, waarin verslag wordt gedaan van hoe een Byzantijn de Engelse vrouwen zag: ‘they are always kissing’. Als main paper David Womersley over ‘Gibbon and Byzantium: classical example and commercial society’. Naar aanleiding van het verschijnen van een nieuwe kritische editie van Gibbon’s Decline and Fall… door Womersley. Gibbon zag na Justinianus I de neergang van het Romeinse Rijk. Tijdens de discussie zei Averil Cameron dat Gibbon zich grotendeels baseert op wat Procopius heeft geschreven ten tijde van Justinianus. Womersley antwoordde dat Gibbon Procopius aanvult, zonder hem te willen uitschakelen.

Later op zaterdag kregen we mooie Orthodoxe Vespers te horen in King’s College Chapel.

III: The Enlightenment and Romanticism: Andrew Palmer hield een heldere lezing over ‘British reflections on the Syrian Orient’.

Zondag was het tijd voor:

IV: Art and Crafts: Byzantium in British Art, maar uw verslaggever bevond zich tot de lezing van Cyril Mango: ‘The British discovery of Constantinople: the Golden Gate reliefs’ in resp. een Ethiopisch-orthodoxe kerk en bij de fam. Palmer thuis.

Maandag de 10de april waren er eerst Communications, gevolgd door ‘The twentieth century’ I en II. De lezing van Averil Cameron was erg interessant: in ‘From Bury to Baynes’ behandelde ze de grote Britse historici die iets te maken hadden gehad met Byzantium. Toynbee plaatste Byzantium in de wereldgeschiedenis, Bury zag Byzantium als voortzetting van Griekenland, terwijl Baynes Byzantium als een voortzetting van Rome zag. Baynes is een voorbeeld geweest voor onder andere Peter Brown. “If I’d had to choose, I’d choose Baynes”, zei de voordrachtgeefster. Sir Steven Runciman voegde er aan toe: “Baynes is the best lecturer I’ve ever heard: his remarks were so much better than mine”.

De beste, interessantste en best voorgedragen lezing was de laatste, die van Liz James: “As the actress said to the bishop… British perceptions of women and Byzantium.” James toonde hoe Byzantijnse vrouwen werden afgeschilderd in Britse ‘literatuur’ van de 19de en 20ste eeuw door veel titels en citaten te geven. Ze had echt haar best gedaan om zoveel mogelijk (pulp)romans te lezen voor haar publiek. De vrouwelijke hoofdpersoon wordt altijd geseksualiseerd in romans: een groot aantal heeft Theodora, de vrouw van Justinianus I, als hoofdpersoon, en haar achtergrond (danseres) wordt altijd benadrukt. Nu is dat bij Theodora misschien voordehandliggend, maar de kitsch-beschrijvingen liegen er niet om. Voor Gouden Hoorn was de lezing ook interessant, omdat de rubriek ‘bibliografie van Byzantijnse historische romans’ wel weer om titels van romans verlegen zit. Zodra James haar artikel met bibliografie heeft gepubliceerd, zal het besproken worden in deze rubriek in Gouden Hoorn .

Het symposium werd afgesloten met een round-table discussion voorgezeten door Margaret Mullett. De discussie vond plaats tussen verschillende generaties Byzantinisten en ging om de vragen ‘hoe ben je erbij gekomen om het te gaan studeren’ en ‘welke toekomst zie je voor Byzantinologie?’. Steven Runciman, de oudste van het gezelschap, vertelde dat hij als leerling van Bury zichzelf grotendeels de studie heeft eigen gemaakt. Cyril Mango (Oxford), Anthony Bryer (Birmingham), Judith Herrin (Princeton), Rowena Loverace (British Museum), Liz James (Brighton) en twee jonge studentes deden mee met de discussie. Uit het gesprek bleek dat kennis van klassiek Grieks nog steeds van belang geacht wordt voor de studie Byzantinologie. Runciman achtte een klassieke opleiding van bijna essentieel belang. Bryer voegde eraan toe, dat Grieks tegenwoordig ‘taylor-made’ geleerd kan worden in bijvoorbeeld Belfast. Zijn motto voor Byzantijnse Studies was: ‘The great attraction is that anyone can have a go.’ Herrin benadrukte de interdisciplinaire kant van de studie, waardoor deze veel verschillende ingangen heeft. Volgens Mango is er nog steeds enorm veel werk te doen, bijvoorbeeld de teksten kritisch uitgeven en vertalen. Maar volgens hem blijft het een moeilijke studie, ook als alle 170 delen van Migne vertaald zullen zijn.

Het symposium werd afgesloten met de mededeling dat het volgende, 30ste, op 23-26 maart 1996 zal plaatsvinden in Birmingham met als thema: ‘Dead or alive? Material culture in 9th century Byzantium.’

Verslag 28th Byzantine Spring Symposium, Birmingham University, 26-29 Maart 1994

door Annabelle Parker

Ieder jaar wordt in Groot-Brittannië het ‘Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies’ georganiseerd door één van de universiteiten waar Byzantinologie gegeven wordt. Het symposium is eigenlijk de jaarlijkse manifestatie van de Britse ‘Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies’ (SPBS). Dit is de Britse tak van de ‘Association Internationale d’Etudes Byzantines’ (AIEB), en het is een zeer actieve tak: jaarlijks wordt een bulletin (Bulletin of British Byzantine Studies, ISSN 0265-162, no. 20, 1994) gemaakt waarin nieuws over (‘forthcoming’) publicaties van leden te vinden is, alsmede nieuws over conferenties, Byzantine Studies in Institutions Abroad, Collaborative Projects, en de Bibliography.

Om het jaar wordt het Spring Symposium aan de University of Birmingham gehouden. Elk symposium heeft een thema. Dit jaar was het thema ‘Mount Athos and Byzantine Monasticism’ uitgekozen. De Symposiarch was Dr. Anthony Bryer, en de opening zou verricht worden door de President van de SPBS, Sir Steven Runciman (90). Helaas was hij verhinderd door bronchitis! Het Symposium kon echter wel van start op zaterdag, met twee van de in totaal zes sessies van lezingen van elk dertig minuten. Op zondag en maandag waren er zeven ‘communications’ sessies van lezingen van elk een kwartier, hetgeen in totaal 45 korte lezingen opleverde.

Bisschop Kallistos Ware opende de zaterdaglezingen met een uiteenzetting over Athanasios de Athoniet (overl. 1001), die het leven op Athos veranderd heeft naar cenobitisch voorbeeld. Lezingen van o.a. Rosemary Morris, Dirk Krausmüller en Ephrem Lash volgden over de ontstaansgeschiedenis van de Athosgemeenschappen en het leven in een Athosklooster anno heden. Lash, die zelf enige tijd op de Athos verbleef, vertelde een levendig verhaal over abten die bomen omkappen en andere huiselijke taferelen. Alice-Marie Talbot hield een inleiding over ‘Women and Mount Athos’: het verbod tot toelating van vrouwelijke mensen en dieren zou voortkomen uit de beslissing dat de Athonieten geen mensen voor zich wilden laten werken, ook geen kippen en geiten. Ze hebben trouwens wel loodgieters en andere werklieden in de buurt voor het geval er iets technisch mis gaat. Maar alhoewel Athos er bekend om is, is het niet de enige monnikengemeenschap waar vrouwen niet toegelaten werden, op Patmos bijvoorbeeld was dit ook het geval.

Tijdens de receptie in het Barber Institute of Fine Arts werd wijn van de berg Athos zelf geschonken. Er was ter gelegenheid van het Symposium een tentoonstelling te zien van ‘Byzantine saints on Seals and Coins’. Helaas werd het serieus bewonderen van deze exhibitie bemoeilijkt door de aanwezigheid van enkele beschonken Belfasters, waarover later meer.

Op Palmzondag moest ik zelf een ‘communication’ houden, zodat ik veel van de andere communications gemist heb. In twee zalen was er tegelijkertijd een programma met telkens lezingen van een kwartier, en te weinig tijd om van zaal naar zaal te gaan. Helaas miste ik hierdoor de lezing van Michael Bakker (Slavistiek, UvA) over ‘computer collation of Slavonic and Greek manuscripts’.

Het Evergetis-project had een hele sessie communications toegewezen gekregen, waarin de vertalers evenals Barbara Crostini (Katechetikon-editie), Janet Rutherford (Diadochus van Photike) en Judith Waring (bibliotheken) hun zegje konden doen.

Dan het sociale leven wederom: er was erg lekker eten in ‘university House’ waar de meeste bezoekers verbleven. Op zondagavond is er elk jaar traditiegetrouw een ‘Belfast party’, waarbij alle studenten en aanhang van de Queen’s University, plus allen die door hen gekend worden (zoals ondergetekende) bij elkaar komen in een klein zaaltje in University House om onder het genot van een stevige slok met elkaar van gedachten te wisselen. Onvermoeibaar bleef Margaret Mullett tot het laatst, waarna ze nog een fles witte wijn mee naar haar kamer nam om verder op te drinken in een kleiner gezelschap.

Volgend jaar is het 29th Spring Symposium in Londen. Het thema zal zijn ‘the British contribution to Byzantium’ met veel aandacht voor Gibbon, en verslagen van reizigers naar Constantinopel. We houden u op de hoogte.

Verslag van de International Conference on Asceticism, Union Theological Seminary, New York, april 1993

door Annabelle Parker

Aangemoedigd door Elizabeth Castelli, collega-Syncletica-kenster, besloot ik om het bovengenoemde interessante en belangwekkende congres in New York City te bezoeken, als één van de weinige niet-universitair gebonden congresgangers (‘Where do you teach’ was een veel gehoorde vraag). New York beviel best, en de omgeving van het Union Theological Seminary was prachtig. Het was volop lente en de besloten tuin bood vele mogelijkheden tot rust, overpeinzing en gesprek. Daarbuiten, op Broadway, was het gezellig druk, met veel boekenstalletjes.

De officiële titel van het congres luidt: ‘The Ascetic Dimension in Religious Life and Culture’. Het beloofde een belangrijk congres te worden, van zondag tot en met donderdag. Jarenlange voorbereidingen gingen eraan vooraf door een groep mensen, die vanuit diverse disciplines het begrip ascetisme bestudeerd had. Dit was de eerste grote ontmoeting van die besloten groep met andere wetenschappers en belangstellenden die zich bezig houden met de bestudering van ascetische levenswijzen.

In al die jaren van overleg was het voor de besloten groep niet mogelijk gebleken een sluitende definitie te vinden van het begrip ascetisme (Castelli: “We have published three volumes of something we still have to define”). Er zijn zoveel manieren waarop ascetisme beoefend kan worden, dat het zeer interessant is om deze kwestie in een grotere groep ter discussie te stellen. Het congres werd geleid door Vincent Wimbush en William Love van Union. Iedere congresganger kon zijn/haar zegje doen, en de congresleiding zou er zelfs op letten dat alle opmerkingen in de congresbundel zouden worden opgenomen. Ik kan in dit verslag maar een beperkt aantal sprekers noemen, omdat de dertig lezingen te veel ruimte zouden innemen in dit artikel.

De eerste dag had als thema “Origins and meanings of Asceticism”, hetgeen vooral ‘kip-ei’discussies bij het publiek losmaakte. De eerste lezing was van Gillian Clark (Univ. of Liverpool), die onlangs een boek schreef over vrouwen in de Late Oudheid. Zij vroeg zich af of ascetisme een echte christelijke levensstijl is. Daarna volgde Samuel Rubenson (Lund), die bekend moge zijn van zijn boek The letters of St. Anthony. Hij sprak over Antonius en de oorsprong van het monasticisme: volgens Rubenson is het nodig het intellectuele milieu (de bronnen) te bestuderen teneinde iets over de motieven en de gedachten van de eerste monniken te leren. Volgens hem trok de ascetische levenswijze in Egypte niet alleen armen aan, maar ook velen uit de ‘geletterde’ middenklasse en hogere klassen. De eerste monniken waren middenklasse geletterde personen die niet gevlucht waren uit de maatschappij, maar die een filosofisch leven trachtten te leiden ver van de maatschappij.

De eerste avond vond het ‘Plenary Address’ plaats in de mooie kapel van Union door bisschop Kallistos Ware. Zijn lezing was getiteld “The way of the ascetics: negative or affirmative?” Ware benadrukte dat ascetisme een universele, menselijke roeping is. De twee belangrijkste verschijnselen van ascetisme, terugtrekking (anachoresis) en zelfbeheersing (enkrateia), zijn, wanneer ze positief benaderd worden, hiervan het bewijs. Ascetisme is geen onderdrukking of egoïsme, maar transfiguratie: ‘Serving society by transforming himself’, aldus Kallistos Ware.

De tweede dag had als thema “Hermeneutics of asceticism”. Averil Cameron (King’s College. London) sprak over “Ascetic closure and the End of Late Antiquity”, waarbij ze ascetisme ziet als een mogelijke factor voor culturele verandering in de Late Oudheid. Dit is te bewijzen door naar de gebezigde taal van de ascetische geschriften ( de ‘ascetic discourse’) uit die tijd te kijken. Deze taal was er één van discipline en beheersing. De Laat-Antieke asceten leefden niet in een aparte wereld, maar midden in de maatschappij, ze hadden namelijk een publiek nodig; en zodoende had hun taalgebruik en daardoor hun ideeëngoed invloed op allen om hen heen, ook op armen en vrouwen. Cameron besluit met de benadrukking dat de geschiedwetenschap baat zou hebben bij een tekstkritische benadering van het bronnenmateriaal.

In het antwoord, dat na iedere ronde van toespraken werd gegeven, benadrukte Elizabeth Castelli (College of Wooster, Ohio) dat Cameron de theorie, dat Byzantium een statisch theokratisch rijk zou zijn, ontkracht heeft in haar rede over de onstabiele vijfde-eeuwse maatschappij.

Dinsdag de 27ste april was gewijd aan het thema “Aesthetics of Asceticism” en werd voornamelijk gehouden in het aan de overzijde van Union Theological Seminary gelegen Jewish Theological Seminary of America. De drie sprekers waren zeer uiteenlopend van karakter: Ephraïm Isaac (uit Eritrea, vertelde hij me, maar lesgevend aan het Inst. of Semitic studies, Princeton, N.J.) sprak over de rol van voedsel en vasten in religie; Gregory Collins, een Ierse monnik, sprak over Symeon de Nieuwe Theoloog. Als laatste trad Geoffrey Harpham (Tulane, New Orleans, English Dep.) op, die een schokkende redevoering hield onder de titel “Ascesis and the Modernity of Art”. Hij had xeroxen uitgereikt van twee afbeeldingen: één van een omarming van Elisabeth en Maria, en een afbeelding van Paulus van Thebe en Antonius Abt, die elkaar voor een grotingang omarmen. U begrijpt al waarom de zaal ging gniffelen: Harpham gaf deze afbeeldingen een psychoanalytische betekenis. Zelfs de Koptische ikoon van Antonius op de voorkant van het programmaboekje werd homoseksueel uitgelegd. In de discussie na afloop keerden Isaac en Collins zich tegen de visie van Harpham dat de boekrol in Antonius’ handen symbool zou staan voor het mannelijk lid… Harpham verdedigde zich door te zeggen dat ascetisme volgens hem geladen is met erotiek, alleen wil men dat niet zien. Deze discussie was de meest grappige en heftige die in de conferentie voorkwam.

De volgende dag was het thema “Politics of Asceticism”. Vasudha Narayanan (U. of Florida) sprak over de teruggetrokken levensstijl van de Srivaisnava-gemeenschap in India. De huwelijksmetafoor van het huwelijk van Antal met Vishnu wordt op de gemeenschap overgebracht. De vrouwen uit de gemeenschap proberen zoveel mogelijk op deze Antal te lijken als ze trouwen. Dit is een ascetisch gebruik. Een soort ‘Bruiden van Vishnu’?

De laatste dag bestond uit een aantal korte lezingen over diverse onderwerpen. Zo sprak Jason BeDuhn (Indiana Univ.) over “The battle for the Body in Manichean Asthetics”. Jason: ‘To be a Manichean is to be an ascetic’. Helaas is het omgekeerde niet het geval, zodat de definitie van ascetisme wederom niet werd gevonden. Maar ja, van de enige groep waarvan ieder lid een asceet was, de Manichaeeën, is dan ook iedereen uitgestorven, zoals Elizabeth Clark (Duke Univ., N.C.) in haar ‘critic’s response’ mededeelde.

Clark had de ondankbare taak om de hele conferentie samen te vatten als ‘Conference reporter’. Zij deed dat zeer helder.

Samenvattend was de conferentie geslaagd in zijn opzet om discussie op gang te brengen tussen geïnteresseerden in- en kenners van ascetische levenswijzen over het begrip ascetisme. Met veel belangstelling zie ik uit naar de Proceedings van de conferentie en een mogelijke opvolger ervan over enkele jaren.