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Pseudo-Dionysius and the Dormition of the Virgin Platytéra (‘Wider Than the Heavens’)

  • Francesca Dell’Acqua
Chapter
Part of the New Approaches to Byzantine History and Culture book series (NABHC)

Abstract

This chapter maintains that Dionysius the Areopagite had a long-lasting impact on the way the Dormition was imagined and represented in words and pictures in medieval Byzantium and in the West. Infact, a passage from Dionysius is believed by some to be the earliest authoritative account of Mary’s Dormition. Eighth-century homilists explicitly quote Dionysius among their sources for the Dormition, and connect Mary’s Assumption into heaven to the belief that her womb contained the uncontainable. Because the image of the Virgin Mary as ‘wider than heaven’ (Platytéra) seems also to be alluded to by Dionysius and its earliest known figural developments coincide in dating with the Corpus Dionysiacum, this chapter also suggests that the figural illustration of the Platytéra was indeed imbued with Pseudo-Dionysian thinking and wording.

Keywords

Marian iconography Marian homiletic Medieval Italy Textual and figural imagery 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This chapter is offered as a token of friendship to Nick and Jaakko, who recently embraced monastic life on Mount Athos as, respectively, Evgenios, monk at Iveron and Damaskinos, hieromonk at Xenophontos.

I wish to thank those who have discussed with me the contents of this chapter, either after reading it or after the presentations I made of it at the University of East Anglia in the History Seminars in October 2018 and at the University of Vienna in the Forum Moving Byzantium in February 2019: Armin Bergmeier, Chiara Bordino, Leslie Brubaker, Katy Cubitt, Christophe Erismann, Ernst Gamillscheg, Manuela Gianandrea, Evgenios Iverites, Karin Krause, Katherine Marsengill, John Mitchell, Ekaterini Mitsiou, John Osborne, Leena Mari Peltomaa, Bissera Pentcheva, Claudia Rapp, Andreas Rhoby, Paraskevi Sykopetritou, Lioba Theis. They do not necessarily share my views.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Dell’Acqua
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze del Patrimonio CulturaleUniversità degli Studi di SalernoFisciano (Salerno)Italy

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