Faith and work

Even in the workplace devotional practices were not neglected. Certain festivals, for example, celebrated specific commercial activities within a religious setting. Psellos describes the annual festival of St Agathe, which took place in Constantinople on 12 May.51 The main actors in the festival were women - spinners, weavers and wool carders (perhaps guild members) - who, in one part of the ceremony, offered ornaments, presumably textiles, to icons. Christopher of Mytilene describes the feast of the Holy Notaries, Saints Martyrios and Markianos. On 25 October, student notaries and their teachers, dressed in a variety of costumes (including women's garments), processed through the streets of the capital to the church of the Hagioi Notarioi, located on a hill in the western part of the capital.52

In the village context the church was involved in other extra-liturgical rites that brought daily labour into contact with the sacred. Agricultural workers, for example, might turn to the village priest to bless the fields, pray for the health of silkworms, or to help heal ailing animals. There were special prayers for the cycle of sowing and reaping, prayers over the threshing floor, for planting and harvesting a vineyard, and for good weather.53 On one occasion, the metropolitan of Thessalonike, Gregory Palamas, himself went to bless and sprinkle holy water at an olive grove whose trees had failed to bear fruit.54 In these matters, the decoration of the village or rural church often facilitated unmediated prayer to saints who specialised in agricultural activities, such as

51 Sathas, MsaaiwviK-q Bi^AiodrjKr, v, 527-31. See A. E. Laiou, 'The festival of "Agathe".

Comments on the life of Constantinopolitan women', in Byzantium: tribute to Andreas N.

Stratos (Athens: [N. A. Stratos], 1986), 1, 111-22.

52 Kurtz, Gedichte, 91-8.

54 Tsames, 0iAo6sou KwvcTaVTivovn'oAsw;, 471-2.

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