have communicated only a few times a year, on the Great Feasts and at Easter.15 The reception of communion required spiritual preparation and fasting which, according to one thirteenth-century bishop, consisted of a diet of only bread, dried figs, dates and green vegetables.16
The infrequency of communion, paired with complaints about church attendance, signals a change in the manner in which laypeople approached sacred rite. By the thirteenth century, in many churches, much of the eucharis-tic celebration was visually obscured from the faithful by an opaque barrier. This obfuscation of ritual practice in no way diminished the religious experience. In fact, the faithful's spiritual encounter with the sacred may have been heightened by witnessing a series of holy appearances, by being enveloped in incense and by auditory participation in intoned prayers. Moreover, while the priest was celebrating the liturgy the faithful had access to a series of powerful intercessors rendered in paint. Located on the nave side of the sanctuary barrier, on stands and on the interior walls of the church, these large-scale icons presented figures of devotional or doctrinal importance and constituted a complex plan of salvation based on sacred figures of personal, familial or congregational import. The icons structured pietistic exercises through the supplicant's baptismal association with a specific saint, through his or her knowledge of holy biography and the special powers wielded by a specific holy figure, or through the evocation of abstract qualities embodied in the literal understanding of saints' names, such as 'many years' (Polychronia) or 'much fruit' (Polykarpos). Judging from the numerous supplicatory inscriptions affixed to portraits of saints in Byzantium, it was the holy figure that constituted the most immediate intercessor for laypeople, guaranteeing their health, prosperity, safety and salvation. Thus the religious experience of the laity was associated both with the corporate rite and with an intensely private system of prayer.
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