limited the number of festivals to sixty-six full holidays (in addition to Sundays) and twenty-seven half-holidays!17 The celebration of these important feasts extended outside the walls of the church. Many of the traditions today associated with church festivals can be traced to Byzantine practices. The decoration of the church with sweet-smelling bay leaves 'as a symbol of the holy feast' is attested in an eleventh-century poem of Christopher of Myti-lene.18 A reference to cracking eggs at Easter is found in a letter written by John Apokaukos, Metropolitan of Naupaktos, to a suffragan bishop in 1222. In describing a slave boy named John Kleptes, Apokaukos notes: 'at the age when he [Kleptes] was still learning to read and write, he used to watch birds and steal into their nests and remove the eggs, mainly in the fifth week of Lent, which he, according to peasant custom, called Kw^n. Then he would hide the eggs away carefully so that he could crack eggs with the other children at Easter.'19 Breads made of birds' eggs set in dough were baked at Easter time, and might be offered to the local village priests as a gift.20 In the fourteenth century Matthew of Ephesos vividly described the joyous celebrations in Constantinople at Easter, 'the mother of feast days', as entire families carrying lanterns assembled in the streets singing hymns and even danced before the church doors on the evening of Holy Saturday.21
Epiphany (6 January) constituted an important feast day for the laity. On this day, the priest blessed the waters, either by submerging a cross in a basin or by tossing it directly into the sea to be retrieved. Documentary evidence for the latter ritual is found in a Genoese statute from Kaffa, which describes the outlay of money for a number of feasts, including that of Epiphany:
The expenses ought to take place yearly on the feast of the epiphany as written below. First of all, the Greeks (Greci) who come to the palace and sing the kalimera should be given two hundred aspers; likewise for those boys who dive into the sea when the priest blesses the sea water, 75 aspers. For those priests who chant lauds in the palace courtyard 100 aspers. Likewise for the person who sounds the bell six aspers.22
The waters blessed during this rite, often bottled and taken home, were considered therapeutic for man, animal and crops.
17 R. Macrides, 'Justice under Manuel I Komnenos', Fontes Minores 6 (1984), 140-55.
18 E. Kurtz, Die Gedichte des Christophoros Mitylenaios (Leipzig: Neumann, 1903), poem 32.
19 H. Bees-Seferlis, 'Unedierte Schriftstticke aus der Kanzlei des Johannes Apokaukos des Metropolitan von Naupaktos (in Aetolien)', Byzantinische-Neugriechische Jahrbucher 21
20 Rhalles and Potles, 11, 355.
21 A. Pignani, Matteo di Efeso: l'ekphrasisper laFestadi Pasqua (Naples, ), 29-38; Pignani Matteo di Efeso. Racconto di unafestapopolare (Naples: M. D'Auria, 1984), 32-5.
22 S. P. Karpov, 'Chto i kak prazdnovali v Kaffe v XV veke', Srednie Veka 56 (1993), 226-32.
Was this article helpful?