Kyivan Cave Patericon

Image - Leontii Tarasevych: SS Vasylii and Fedir of the Caves; Kyivan Cave Patericon (1702). Image - Frontpiece of the 1406 (Tver or Arsenian) redaction of the Kyivan Cave Patericon. Image - Title page of the Kyivan Cave Patericon (Sylvestr Kosiv's 1635 edition). Image - Title page of the Kyivan Cave Patericon (1661 edition).   Image - A page from the Kyivan Cave Patericon (1661 edition). Image - An engraving of Nestor the Chronicler in the Kyivan Cave Patericon (1661).

Kyivan Cave Patericon (Києво-Печерський патерик; Kyievo-Pechers'kyi pateryk). A collection of tales about the monks of the Kyivan Cave Monastery. There exist two extant redactions: the Tver or Arsenian redaction of 1406, and the Kyiv or Cassianian redaction of 1462. The original version arose after 1215 but not later than 1230 out of the correspondence of two monks of the monastery—monk Simon (by then the bishop of Suzdal and Vladimir) and monk Polikarp, who used the epistolary form as a literary device. The letters contain 20 tales about righteous or sinful monks of the monastery based on oral legends and several written sources, such as the Life of Saint Anthony of the Caves and the Kyivan Cave and Rostov chronicles, which have not survived. The later redactions, it seems, did not change the original text significantly, but supplemented it with the Life of Saint Theodosius of the Caves and the eulogy of him, the tale about Saint Isaac (from a chronicle), and stories from the monastery's history. The Kyiv redaction contains information about the later influence of Byzantine Hesychasm. In 1635 the patericon was printed in Polish by Metropolitan Sylvestr Kosiv, and in 1661 in Ukrainian Church Slavonic. Several later editions were considerably corrupted by editorial changes.

Most of the original text deals with events of the 11th century. It varies from brief accounts of particular facts (Poemen and Saint Kuksha) to novella-like or novel-like narratives (‘Moses the Hungarian’ and ‘Theodore and Basil’). Most of the tales tend to be antisecular in tone and favor a strict, ascetic life. Nevertheless, some do testify to the decline of monastic life (some monks, for example, own property). Besides chronological data about the monastery, the text contains a wealth of historical and cultural information about monastic and secular life: such subjects as Master Olimpii’s icon painting, Armenian and Syrian physicians in Kyiv, the cultural role of the Varangians, the fate of Kyiv residents captured by King Bolesław I the Brave in his war with Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, bread made from pigweed during a famine, the princes’ salt monopoly, the court system, private libraries, and the books read by monks. Only sporadically do the themes of wandering monks (a saint’s encounter with devils and the magic treasure) occur, and demonology is mostly absent. Because of its relatively simple style, particularly in monk Simon, and its rich vocabulary, as well as its masterly characterization of individuals by means of dialogue, prayer, and ‘internal monologue,’ the patericon is one of the outstanding works of Old Ukrainian literature. It marked an important advance in the literary art of the period. A scholarly edition of the patericon was prepared by Dmytro Abramovych and published in 1931. A facsimile reproduction of Sylvestr Kosiv’s 1635 edition, with an introduction by Paulina Lewin, was printed in 1988 in the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute’s publication Seventeenth-Century Writings on the Kievan Caves Monastery. The patericon was translated into English by Mauriel Heppell and published in 1989 as The Paterik of the Kievan Caves Monastery.

Shakhmatov, A. Kievopecherskii paterik i Pecherskaia letopis' (Saint Petersburg 1897)
Abramovich, D. Izsledovanie o Kievo-Pecherskom Paterike kak istoriko-literaturnom pamiatnike (Saint Petersburg 1902)
Pechers'kyi Pateryk abo pravedni staroï Ukraïny: Davnie dzherelo staroukraïns'koï dukhovnosty, trans A. Velykyi (Rome 1973)
Isichenko, Iu. Kyievo-Pechers'kyi pateryk u literaturnomu protsesi kintsia XVI–pochatku XVIII st. na Ukraïni (Kyiv 1990)

Dmytro Chyzhevsky

[This article was updated in 2022.]

Image - Master Olimpii on an engraving in the 1661 edition of the Kyivan Cave Patericon. Image - An engraving of monk Isakii by the engraver Illia in the Kyivan Cave Patericon (1661 edition). Image - Kyivan Cave Patericon illumination depicting monks of the Kyivan Cave Monastery (17th century). Image - Leontii Tarasevych: a frontispiece in Patericon 1702.

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