On Saturday, July 9th, Dr. Sean Griffin presented “Saint Prince Vladimir the Great: History, Liturgy, Myth'” as a part of the Russian History Museum’s Second Saturday online lecture series.
Griffin’s presentation was based on his first book, The Liturgical Past in Byzantium and Early Rus (Cambridge University Press, 2019), which won the W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize and the Ecclesiastical History Society Book Prize. Saint Prince Vladimir the Great of Kyiv oversaw the mass baptism of Rus in the year 988. But where did the stories about Saint Vladimir and the conversion to Christianity come from? Are these tales a credible form of history or merely pious legends?
Following an overview of the stories about Prince Vladimir presented in the Primary Chronicle, the first written history of the East Slavs, Griffin shared his research on the liturgical origins of this narrative and explored the making of dynastic saints in early Rus. The chroniclers of medieval Rus were monks, who celebrated the divine services of the Byzantine church throughout every day. Griffin presented his analysis of how these rituals shaped their writing of the Rus Primary Chronicle. During the eleventh century, chroniclers in Kyiv learned about the conversion of the Roman Empire by celebrating a series of distinctively Byzantine liturgical feasts. When the services concluded and the clerics sought to compose a native history for their own people, Griffin maintains that they instinctively drew on the sacred stories that they sang at church.