Legislation on display: juridical documents as monumental church inscriptions in Byzantium, Serbia and Bulgaria of 13th-15th centuries
Anna Adashinskaya (Central European University, Budapest)
This paper is dedicated to a phenomenon, which appeared in the middle-Byzantine period and became widespread between the 13th and 15th centuries in the Palaiologan state and neighbouring countries (Serbia, Bulgaria): namely the practice of recording official documents or parts of them on Church walls, inside or outside of the buildings, gates, border marks and columns. This practice was used for different types of texts (imperial legislations, property documents, patriarchal acts and others). However, the majority of preserved monuments belonged to the realm of monastic life and are connected with the tradition of founders’ inscriptions. In this paper, I would like to analyze several instances from various areas of Byzantium and the Byzantine commonwealth (such as the Theotokos church in Apollonia (1280s), Hodegetria monastery in Mistras (c.1310), the Dormition church in Stagoi (1393), the monastery of Studenica (1186-1234), Žiča monastery (1220s) and Lesnovo monastery (1342-1349), among others) to see what are the common elements and the differences in the ways of displaying those records. Thus, these painted/carved texts, unlike paper documents, didn’t have full legal validity, but at the same time they were accessible to more viewers than state officials and those operating in the monastery chancellery, and therefore their target group was the literate visitors of those monasteries.