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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

Chapter 4 - The Dayspring Before the Sun:

  • Sean Griffin, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 93-133


This chapter reconstructs the liturgical context of two chronicle entries about Princess Olga of Kiev: the account of her baptism in Constantinople in 955 and the panegyric following her death in 969. The chapter demonstrates that the tale of the princess’ baptism derives, in part, from the tenth-century baptismal rubrics of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In the liturgical manuscripts, every word and action for the baptismal ritual is spelled out for the priest performing the service. In the chronicle, the prelate and princess act out these ritual behaviours between baptiser and baptised, precisely as they are prescribed in the church books. The chapter also uncovers the liturgical typologies in the text. In 955, Princess Olga is depicted as a ‘Slavic Mary’ using hymns from the major feasts of the Mother of God, and in 969 she is cast as the ‘Slavic Forerunner’ using hymns from a series of feasts surrounding the conception and birth of major sacred figures, such as Saint John the Baptist. The ‘blessed Olga’ is thus best understood not as a biblical or hagiographical creation but rather as a liturgical one. She is a textual figure fashioned from the songs, prayers, and readings of the Byzantine rite.