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Fellow Seminar

09 April 2020

Prof. Margaret Dimitrova will present online via Zoom his research proposal on the topic: "The Athonite Monk Panteleimon (ca. before 1785 - after 1850): An Excellent Bulgarian Preacher" on 9 April 2020 (Thursday) at 16:30h.


The main goal of my project is to characterize the mentality, theological culture and monastic sensitivities of a Hilandar monk through an analysis of his written heritage viewed in the context of his numerous activities as a taxidiotes, prohegoumenos, and archimandritis in the first half of the 19th century. As a matter of fact, Monk Panteleimon is an enigmatic figure: in scholarship, at least two monks named Panteleimon have been incorrectly identified in as one person. Therefore, I started this project with the ambition to revisit the sources quoted in literature and to select as much as possible reliable data about this person in order to analyse his writing in the context of his activities. His monastic titles prohegumenos (since no later than 1808) and archimadritis (since no later than 1819) suggest that he was an influential and respected figure in Hilandar Monastery, and, as far as I could judge from the sources available, he was a respected figure outside of Mount Athos.
I tried to identify the manuscripts and marginalia that unquestionably belonged to his hand. Undeniably, in the first decade of the 19th century, he copied two manuscripts (both held today in Hilandar Monastery, Hil. 173 and Hil. 294): 1) a pocket book containing prayers for the ill and for farmers, including a prayer against evil eye: these were the most needed prayers for a travelling monk (some of them today the Orthodox Church qualifies as apocryphal); and b) in 1809 in Ruse, Panteleimon copied Priest Stoiko Vladislavov's version of the Slavonic-Bulgarian History (Istoriia Slavjanobolgarskaia) by Paisii of Hilandar. Monk Panteleimon was not only a copyist. He made a revision of the text in his antigraph (Vorlage) using additional sources one of which was Cesar Baronius' [1538-1607] Ecclesiastical Annals, also a Romanian vita of St. Demetrius of Bassarbovo, and, I suspect, oral narratives.
In this period, only about 3 % of the Bulgarians were literate. Father Panteleimon did not only know to read and write but he was able to generate a text and to edit a text comparing it to other authoritative texts. An objective of my research is to analyse the language and narrative strategies that the monk applied when he edited the text of Priest Stojko Vladislavov. My working hypothesis (formulated on the basis of juxtaposition of portions of the text) is that Panteleimon managed to follow two guiding principles that at first glance seem to be opposite to each other. On the one hand, he aimed at producing a text comprehensible and inspiring for people who did not master "the grammar", that is Church Slavonic. Istorija Slavjanobolgarskaja was not a sacred text and therefore it allowed for being paraphrased in line with techniques of folk narratives. On the other hand, this historical work might have been perceived as a solemn text that differed from the vanity of everyday talks because it told something important: first, it showed that the history of the Bulgarians was part of the universal Christian history, and second, the stories of the Bulgarian rulers had the flavour of didactic narratives or beneficial tales teaching that God helped those who followed the Christian ethics and punished those who sinned against their brothers. A piece of information has survived that monk Panteleimon was qualified by his country fellows as an excellent preacher and these rhetoric abilities of his helped him produce an inspiring version of the Slavo-Bulgarian History that was further disseminated on Bulgarian soil.
For this purpose, I work on three tasks: 1) to identify the Vorlage used by Panteleimon - I suspect this was a manuscript that did not survive (a missing link between Priest Stojko's copy and Panteleimon's copy); 2) to identify the additional sources of Pantelejmon; and 3) to trace back the dissemination of his version of the History.

Margaret Dimitrova graduated from St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia (Bulgarian Philology) and received her PhD from the Central European University, Department of Medieval Studies in 1998 with dissertation on the loanwords in Croatian Glagolitic liturgical books. She teaches Bulgarian historical linguistics as well as Religions on the Balkans at St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. She has published intensively on medieval Slavonic biblical manuscripts, on medieval Slavonic translations from Greek of prayers for women, on the 17th-19th-century Bulgarian vernacular homiletic and hagiographic literature, and on Paisij of Hilandar's Slavonic Bulgarian History. Recently the emphasis of her work is on late Slavonic manuscripts kept in Zograf Monastery late manuscripts and, in general, on 19th-century manuscript use and dissemination. She authored a book on a medieval Slavonic translation of a biblical commentary on the Song of Songs, a book on prayers for women and newborn in medieval Slavonic manuscripts and she has contributed to collaborative volumes on medieval Slavonic and early modern Bulgarian writing.


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