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by Archaeology Newsroom

Social gender as a social ill and its therapy. The example of Irene Chrysovalandou in the hagiological texts

This article is a version of an earlier monograph entitled “The Byzantine Woman in the Hagiological Texts and the Penal Law of the Orthodox Church”, in which we tried to trace the social gender of women in Byzantium on the basis of the Vitae of various female saints who lived from the fourth to the ninth century; and also to find out how the social gender is defined according to the interpretation of the myths of Fall and Resurrection, which govern the value system of the Byzantine society along with the historical facts conditioning every narrative and the enactment of social roles in the Penal Law of the Orthodox Church. The critical analysis and processing of Vitae proved the various interpretations of the myths, depending on the period, its historical facts and ideological-theological framework, and the lived experience of the anonymous or eponymous authors. The guilt of woman due to her mutable “by nature” gender in the social and natural being is stressed in most accounts, a guilt already established by the myth of Fall. However, in the years following Iconomachy the guilt of man, due to his impetus “by nature”, is emphasized as the major component of the social gender, and thus the woman, becoming innocent, is identified with the Mother of God or the angelic model. In the present article we will try to elucidate this shift by analyzing the Vita of saint Irene Chrysovalandou, in which the woman is not described as guilty but as healer of the social evil and of the souls responsible for it. The physical disorder and cure are not only beyond the interests of the author of the hagiological text but they are conceived absolutely differently.