Family hagiography and Christian resistance in the tenth century
Book Title – Greek Monasticism in Southern Italy: The Life of Neilos in Context (edited by Barbara Crostini and Ines Angeli Murzaku)
Chapter Number & Title – Chapter 5 : Family Hagiography and Christian Resistance in the Tenth Century: The Bioi of Sabas, Christopher and Makarios (by Adele Cilento)
In tenth-century Italo-Greek hagiography, a long text dedicated to three Sicilian ascetics who belonged to the same family stands out: the Lives of Sabas, Christopher and Makarios. The three monks – a father and two sons – moved together with other relatives from Sicily to Calabria in order to escape the Arabic incursions, and finally they founded several small monasteries on the mountains, in the wild region of Merkourion. Their intense activity in founding monasteries is presented by the hagiographer as the product of a familiar interaction, a unique case of family hagiography in Italo-Greek monasticism. Analyzing the internal connections within the narrative of the three lives and underlining some details referred to family ties, this chapter discusses the continuity and diversity between this text and contemporary Byzantine family hagiography. Moreover, the relevance of these texts is due to the personality of the hagiographer, Orestes patriarch of Jerusalem, whose activity reveals intriguing analogies with his narrative’s protagonist, Sabas. The redaction of the Bioi acquires a special significance in the political and religious context of the Mediterranean, where Christianity was struggling against the Islamic expansion.