The Homilies of James of Kokkinobaphos in their twelfth-century context
The six homilies on the life of the Mother of God by the monk James (Iakovos) of Kokkinobaphos present many anomalies. They consist of an encomiastic narrative based on the Protevangelium of James that proceeds chronologically as far as the Annunciation but stops with Mary’s vindication on charges of unchaste behavior. Why this truncated biography? Although Marian feasts are alluded to they do not form a major focus, and important feasts such as the Dormition of the Virgin are never mentioned. Much of the homilies’ content is drawn from rhetorical middle-Byzantine homilies by, for example, George of Nikomedia, although other sections are more mundane. The homilies survive in two manuscripts dated to the mid-twelfth century: lavishly illustrated, these manuscripts are attributed to the most significant painter of the period who is referred to as the Kokkinobaphos Master. Current scholarship associates these texts with the enigmatic sevastokratorissa Eirene, who was a lavish patron of writers and artists in Constantinople between 1143 and ca. 1153. We know from their correspondence that James of Kokkinobaphos was Eirene’s spiritual father. This contribution to the workshop on Narrative and Exegesis in Byzantine hagiography and homiletics of the 9th to 12th centuries wishes to explore James’ use of earlier writers, assess his own contribution to the homilies’ theology and propose a context which helps to explain their curious structure.
Exeter College, Oxford University