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Sermons and Sermonizing in 18th-Century Russia: At Court and Beyond

Ekaterina I. Kislova


This paper is devoted to the question of the spread of court sermons in 18th-century Russian society. The author describes three types that had been formed by the 1740s: court, seminary, and parish homilies. The main question is how and by what means did the court homilies in Elizabeth Petrovna’s time spread the cultural models, thoughts, and ideas created by court preachers throughout Russian society as a whole? Did these texts penetrate traditional culture and how were they adopted? Who read the court sermons, apart from members of the court? To answer these questions, the author describes how court homilies were published and sold, and how they entered the manuscript tradition. The analysis of archival and published materials allows the author to conclude that in the second half of the 18th century, the court sermon was only beginning to penetrate the “traditional” culture. The genre spread primarily in the seminaries, where texts by court preachers functioned as a “library” of panegyrical and theological elements to be used by students and teachers in their own compositions. With few exceptions, the court tradition does not intersect with texts originating from Old Russian and classical theological traditions, although all such texts are called slovo (literally ‘word,’ i.e., ‘sermon’). However, by the end of the 18th century, the new genre became more widely disseminated, following the spread of seminary education and the increase in the number of priests educated in this tradition.


homily; preaching; publishing; Russian 18th century; seminary; Russian court

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