This article looks closely at the report of a miracle that occurred in eleventh-century Constantinople in which the veil covering an icon of the Theotokos (Virgin) at the Blachernae church lifted itself miraculously. The report, scripted by the Byzantine polymath Michael Psellos, focuses in intriguing ways on the actions and nonactions of the veil when the icon presided over a judicial trial. The article contends that Psellos insists on the theme of timing (with regard to the lifting and otherwise of the veil) and the Blachernae icon's role in determining a critical, decisive moment in the arbitration of human affairs. This emphasis, in turn, bespeaks a broader concern over the timing of sacred icons during significant moments in Byzantine history as understood by contemporary chroniclers: namely, their failure to act in appropriate ways at critical moments when the empire itself was at stake.
The Byzantine Icon of the Virgin in the Church of the Blachernae: Michael Psellos on the Problem of Miraculous Timing
Paroma Chatterjee; The Byzantine Icon of the Virgin in the Church of the Blachernae: Michael Psellos on the Problem of Miraculous Timing. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2021; 51 (2): 241–262. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-8929059
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