Only a Byzantinist could love this title. Unexceptionably descriptive of its contents, the title would nonetheless give any marketing department fits. But Byzantinists could--and should--consider taking a seat at this plain table, because the spread promises to be sustaining and stimulating for all--medievalists included--who pull up.
The book performs the role of contextualizing the founding document, the Hypotyposis, of the monastery of the Theotokos Evergetis, one of the most important monasteries of the Byzantine capital--now sadly disappeared to the degree that its physical location outside the city walls is not even certain. The monastery was initiated by a certain Paul between 1049 and 1054, and it was an important center for monastic reform in the Byzantine world and beyond. Its historical reconstitution has been the goal of the work of the Institute for Byzantine Studies at Queen's University in Belfast, and over the last two decades and more, significant advances have been made in our understanding of the monastery's history through a number of strong publications, which have included collected volumes and translations. Through Belfast Byzantine Texts and Translations, the surviving dossier of texts has been published or is forthcoming into English. The texts include Synaxarion, or liturgical practices, the most detailed of its kind from the Byzantine world; the Katechetikon, or Homiliary, of Paul, the monastic founder; Paul's Synagoge or Evergetinon, or Spiritual Manual.  This book takes as its core a translation of the Hypotyposis, the text that reveals the most about the daily running of the monastery, in both the administrative and spiritual senses. This text had already appeared in English,  but in this volume, its meanings and importance have been carefully sifted, with eyes to highly specialized questions, clarifying explanations and wider implications.
In this volume, then, one finds not only this finely crafted exposition, but also, with measured voice, a careful unpacking and persuasive analysis of difficult texts concerning the Evergetis. The authors claim to be addressing a diverse audience of differing abilities in Greek, and largely they succeed; the material is forbidding--as is the title--but even advanced, motivated undergraduates could profit from exposure to this book. The book's organization maintains the translated text and its rich apparatus of footnotes as its core (147-214). A strongly matter-of-fact presentation of prefatory material, the first part of the book is divided into three Introductions (A, B, C) and comprises the bulk of the book. The first Introduction lays out the terms of our knowledge of the Evergetis gathered from the above-mentioned dossier and others sources, and it contextualizes, with due caution, that influential complex in Middle Byzantine monasticism. The Evergetis was evidently at the forefront of the reform movement, but the sources are less clear for us about the reasons for that vanguard position. The authors suggest ties to the Stoudios Monastery, a major player too, and imperial patronage that led to the diffusion of the Evergetis model, for example into the Slavic world with the foundation of Chilandar on Mount Athos. But the monastery was apparently independent, did not accommodate family mausolea, and kept itself separated through severe regulations. Komnenian support likely led to the expansion of the monastery's influence, and yet the partial record permits, the authors remind us, provisional conclusions only. Introduction B examines carefully aspects of the life and administration of the monastery: the ongoing question of the double abbacy at the monastery, an issue also for Stoudios; the officers at the monastery and the study of documents from Stoudios again that allow its administration to be reconstructed largely; status and possessions; liturgical practice; fasts, feasts and commemorations; communal reading regulations, which allow vivid glimpses of monks' lives with books (even if private reading was unlikely), and the development of the "library" there (authors' scare marks); and finally, a treatment of the scriptorium at the monastery, which produced a number of manuscripts in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Introduction C excavates the text and attempts to uncover the influences and motivations behind Paul's enterprise and to reconstruct the first state of the document Paul wrote to initiate this monastic innovation. This thorough and prudent archaeology leads to a useful discussion of "followers" of the Evergetis, both direct and indirect, and in this way, to an uncovering of the network of influence and the Evergetis's determining role in the development and meaning of Byzantine spiritual lives.
The book is completed by six appendices, fine desserts for a substantial meal: a reconstruction of the original Typikon of Paul Evergetinos (217-239); influential chapters of the Hypotyposis and later typika with references (241-242); a reconstruction of the books used at and possessed by Evergetis (243- 252); an identification of the Monk kyr Anthony with John Doukas, brother-in-law of the emperor Alexios I (253-255); the patrons Promotenos and Kataphloron, whose identities establish the high-level social network within which the monastery worked and from which it benefited (257-260); and later, translated documents concerning the Evergetis, including a highly entertaining pair of letters to the monks at Evergetis by Nicholas Mesarites who described his difficulty journeys, and documents related to the possession of the Evergetis by Monte Cassino during the Latin period in Constantinople (260-279).
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1. Valuable new work continues to appear, such as Dirk Krausmüller, "Liturgical Innovation in 11th- and 12th-Century Constantinople: Hours and Inter-Hours in the Evergetis Typikon, its 'Daughters' and its 'Grand-Daughters'," Revue des Études Byzantines 71 (2013): 149-172.
2. Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents, 5 vols., eds. John Thomas and Angela Constantinides Hero (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2000), 2: 454-506.