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Sacred FollyA New History of the Feast of Fools$
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Max Harris

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449567

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449567.001.0001

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The Holy City of Byzantium

The Holy City of Byzantium

(p.25) Chapter 2 The Holy City of Byzantium
Sacred Folly

Max Harris

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how those at the top of the prevailing civil and ecclesiastical hierarchies participated in the Kalends masquerades under the Byzantine Empire. It begins with the story of Michael III (842–867), a young emperor who led his friends in public mockeries of the liturgy. The patriarch of Constantinople during the early part of Michael's reign was an austere monk named Ignatios. The emperor mocked the patriarch by pretending to appoint in his place an officer of the imperial guard nicknamed Gryllos. After discussing Michael's misappropriation of sacred vestments, mockery of the Eucharist, and humiliation of Ignatios, this chapter turns to another patriarch who introduced scandalous songs and dances to the divine office: Theodore Balsamon (ca. 1105–ca. 1195), who wrote a commentary on the canons of the Council in Trullo (691). It suggests that the Feast of Fools was embedded in the divine office of the church and that the masquerades in Hagia Sophia were not the Feast of Fools.

Keywords:   liturgy, Kalends masquerades, Byzantine Empire, Michael III, Ignatios, mockery, Eucharist, Theodore Balsamon, Council in Trullo, Feast of Fools

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