From “Pilgrim Book” to Treasure-House: Fifteenth-Century Monastic Editing of the “Xoženie igumena Daniila”

The “Pilgrimage of Abbot Daniel,” the oldest pilgrimage account from Rus′ (early twelfth century), paradoxically finds its oldest preserved copies in the hand of perhaps the most “modern” scribe of fifteenth-century Rus′, the hieromonk and and elder, Efrosin (fl. at Kirillov Monastery, ca. 1463–1491). Efrosin compiled “encyclopedic” books, innovative in their content and their form: he edited texts in a new way, glossing historical names, dates, and places, removing the allegorical and amplifying the factual, referencing other texts and codices explicitly, and joining disparate works bearing shared narrative or factual elements. His editing work shows traits of scholasticism as a mode of thought (cf. Cabezón’s work on comparative scholasticism)—a concern with language, proliferativity and completeness, a belief in the epistemological accessibility, systematicity, and rationality of the world, and a “concise” understanding of knowledge—so that we are justified in calling it proto-scholastic. Thus, his copy of the “Pilgrimage” is not a representative manuscript—it is not useful for reconstructing the original text—but rather opens a window to an important moment in the evolution of thought.

A comparison of the full redaction of the “Pilgrimage” with Efrosin’s versions shows how traditional monastic modes of textual interpretation—which originally conformed to the “oral,” non-hierarchical and edificatory lectio divina and the “word” of the charismatic father—gave way to reading in a modern sense, hierarchical, and information-seeking. Through proto-scholastic editing, (1) hagiography, apocrypha, and epic are all reinterpreted as history, and how history is ultimately “reduced” to an encyclopedia of the human world, while the past, distinguished from the present, is sacralized, and (2) parables are reinterpreted as natural science, and science is in turn “reduced” to an encyclopedia of the natural world. I will examine Efrosin’s two redactions of the “Pilgrimage of Abbot Daniel,” and show how the work is successively transformed from a “pilgrimage” to a “treasury” of information. Following Illich (cf. his In the Vineyard of the Text), this may be seen as an allegory of the evolution of monastic reading in Rus′: reading, which was once a pilgrimage through a book, becomes a search through a treasure-house of facts.