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Michael Psellos: Seeing Through Painting

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents a text taken from an Epitaphios written by the philosopher Michael Psellos for Nicholas, the deceased Abbot of the Monastery of the Beautiful Source on Mount Olympos in Bithynia. The text perhaps dates to 1055, when Psellos endured a brief and unhappy monastic life on Mount Olympos. This Epitaphios is much more than a commemoration of the deceased abbot, as it also serves as a kind of manifesto for Psellos's belief that philosophy could be brought to bear on Christian theological problems and practices and thence lead to a more intellectually rigorous monasticism. The problem of the limits of painting are explored in great detail in Psellos's Discourse on the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a wide-ranging spiritual treatise addressed to a monastic audience. It offers a model of redemption that is structured around an identification of the listener with the crucified Christ.

Keywords: Christian theological problems; Epitaphios; Michael Psellos; monasticism; Mount Olympos; Nicholas; painting



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