Summary of our Doctoral Thesis: Antim Ivireanul – A Complex Personality of the Romanian Literature

Sf. Antim Ivireanul, fresca

Antim Ivireanul is a meteoric appearance in our country. His presence is laconically reported – at least in terms of documentary – and his ascent is fulminatory.

Antim’s activities and his written pages gave us an extremely rich material to study. The irradiation of his grace, in those words that have been preserved until today, meant a source of life and beauty from which we learned during this work.

He came as a foreigner in our country and his laic name was Andrei. He received the name Antim when he became a monk (in Bucharest Metropoly), which means, in Greek, flowered or flourishing.

And he truly flowered on the Romanian land, with many gifts. We can also understand the name Antim Ivireanul as the one who flowered in Georgia but gave fruit in Romania. His gifts are so high that they never cease to amaze us.

We believe that his Georgian origin cannot be questioned. Antim was born in Georgia (Iviria), around 1650 and was savagely murdered near Adrianopole in 1716, by the Turkish escort who was supposed to take him to Jerusalem, following the orders of the ruler of Wallachia, Nicolae Mavrocordat.

Regarding the conditions and the approximate date of Antim’s coming into our country, we took into account all the information that we could get. The best solution we found to explain the mysteries of his biography was to consider that he came from Constantinople, where he had been redeemed from slavery, due to his practical, intellectual and spiritual virtues, and where he had been initiated in the typographical art.

He first came in Moldova (Moldavia), asking to the request of Patriarch Dosithei of Jerusalem, which set up a new printing press in Iaşi, sometime after 1680. This printing press was led by hieromonk Mitrofan, who was to become latter bishop of Huşi.

Dosithei brings Antim (or Andrei, because he was still a layman) to work on the publishing and to improve himself as a typographer. In our opinion, Andrei-Antim accompanies Mitrofan after his passage to Wallachia, in 1686, having the goal of printing Biblia de la Bucureşti (the Bible from Bucharest) (1688).

Mitrofan becomes the leader of metropolitane printing press in Bucharest, but he moves to Buzău in 1691, as bishop, and the leadership is taken over by Antim Ivireanul, who prints, in the same year, a book of parenesis.

Here, at the Bucharest Metropoly, it seems that Antim was included in the monastic rank and we knew this because he recognized hieromonk Macarie and metropolitan Teodosie to be his protectors and spiritual fathers.

Metropolitan Teodosie Veştemeanu left by testament that Antim was to follow in his chair – who, in the meantime, reached to be hegumen of Snagov Monastery and then, in 1705, he became bishop of Râmnic – what happened in 1708, when he was ordinated in the dignity of Metropolitan, in the Sunday of the Orthodoxy. This was a providential fact, because he proved to be a great defender of the Ortodoxy.

Until 1716, when his martyrdom takes place, Antim conducts a truly prodigious activity. He was the Archbishop of the Church of Wallachia (or Ungrovlahia), protector of the brothers from the Romanian Orthodox Church of Transylvania, but also of the ecumenical Orthodoxy.

He was a prolific typographer and the translator of many ecclesiastical books from Greek language into Romanian, achieving the “nationalization” of the Divine Services; he was a writer, an orator and a preacher, founder of a Monastery, etc.

His natural gifts and his artistic heart, his intellectual inclination, his thirst for erudition, his love for a deeper thought, his dedication and patience for the other in conjunction with the neglect of personal suffering, all these make him „the greater of all Wallachian Metropolitans” as N. Cartojan appreciated.

He did an enormous work and he often did things that may seem humble or senseless to us, in order to compensate other’s people ignorance or negligence. He made a tremendous effort to achieve what he has achieved. He printed sixty-four books in twenty-five years, he cared for the churches’ rehabilitation and restoration, as hegumen at Snagov, as bishop of Râmnic and then, as metropolitan of Wallachia.

Many churches and monasteries, some of them very old (such as the Cozia Monastery, founded by Mircea the Old, Cotmeana Monastery, Govora Monastery –  where we have his portrait painted on the wall – etc.), many of inestimable value, were restored by him or with his support.

He made himself the projects for a monastery, showing remarkable skills as an architect. He built this monastery, following a divine revelation, which indicated the place of building that was at the time located in a suburb, and now it is in the very center of Bucharest.

Antim established the patron of the monastery to be All Saints. However, the monastery has now added a second patron: Saint Antim Ivireanul. He has fully proved his wonderful practical and artistic gifts, showing splendid ability in the typographical art, but also as a designer (in the miniature art, designing miniature portraits), architect, painter of Icons, sculptor (in wood and stone), etc.

A tradition has been preserved at the Monastery of All Saints according to witch Antim himself painted some of its icons and did the actual work of building the monastery, where he sculpted, inter alia, its massive wood doors, achieving a real impressive “lacery”.

The motives of grasses and flowers are prevailing in the sculptures in wood and stone that adorn the monastery, symbolizing the rebirth and the resurrection. A real rarity is the imposing catapeteasma (the altar screen) witch is a stone sculpture made by Antim’s hands.

He built himself the printing equipment needed to publish religious Christian books in Arab language, for the Arab (Antiochian) orthodox believers, and it is very likely that he repeated the same gesture for his compatriots from Georgia.

He took care alone of the printing press, he coordinated the publishing work and he enriched the typographical art wherever he went: Bucharest, Snagov, Râmnic, Târgovişte, and than back to Bucharest. Before the end of his days, he built a printing press in the monastery he had founded – Antim Monastery – where he printed a single book.

A very important manuscript, from a high cultural perspective, is entitled Chipurile Vechiului şi Noului Testament (The Icons of the Old and New Testament). Antim wrote this book in Romanian and he dedicated it to the Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu, his “benefactor”, ruler of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714.

The manuscript is extremely precious not only for its rare theme, Arborele lui Iesei (Jesse’s tree) – witch is unique in the Romanian literature, and it is to be found only in athonite or moldavian iconographic compositions – but also for its over five hundred drawings and miniature portraits in medallion. The Kiev Academy preserves now this rare manuscript.

Antim’s activity also involved a very exhausting pastoral work, a continuous effort for the moral and spiritual raising of all consciences: monks, priests and laymen, so that every rank could understand its duty.

Besides, he had to take care of all orthodox Romanians from Transylvania, who were in a great danger of losing their Orthodox faith, under a lot of pressure, following the decision of a part of the Transylvanian orthodox clergy, headed by the archbishop Atanasie Anghel, to be united with Rome, in year 1700. As a result, the orthodox Romanians from Transylvania were seeking for help to the brothers in Wallachia, where they knew they could count on the large support of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu.

The head of the Wallachian Church, Antim, together with the Prince Brâncoveanu, showed the same goodwill when they also decided to answer the help’s appeal of the orthodox Christians from Antiochia and Georgia. For them, our metropolitan built the printing equipment that was given to them as a gift and was used to publish many books they needed.

His typographical art is linked to the project of “nationalization” of the Divine Services, which also led to the creation of the Romanian literary language. Antim is part of an old Romanian literary tradition, together with Coresi and metropolitan Dosoftei.

This is the first of the two major coordinates by witch Antim catches inexpugnable roots in Romanian culture and history. The second coordinate includes Coresi, metropolitan Varlaam and Antim as the author of “nationalization” of the preaching art.

In both cases, the Romanian language took the win, receiving the flexibility of expression and its natural beauty, a lyrical and mellifluent character and the quality to support a very complex and profound theological oration.

Mihai Eminescu was entitled to state that „the Church has created the literary language, has sanctified it, raised it to the rank of a hieratic and of a state language” (“Timpul” Journal, from 10 October 1881).

The literary language is the Church’s creation and Antim Ivireanul had a remarkable contribution on it. He printed Liturghierul (The Missal) not once, but twice, in 1706 and 1713, the second time reviewed. That was „a panromanian communication tool” (Virgil Cândea), which had a capital contribution in shaping the national consciousness and unifying the Romanian state.

Antim Ivireanul is not only a complex and prolific artist, but also a complex and prolific writer. Knowing his short time left to write, nevertheless Antim amazes us by the diversity of his literary styles. He is insuperable in the rhetoric-homiletic style and excels in his encomium preach.

The metropolitan reveals himself both as a great lyrical spirit, in Didahii (Homilies or Sermons), and as a great narrator in some of his homilies containing the germs of greater narrative developments, but especially in Chipurile Vechiului şi Noului Testament.

These two natural dispositions, the lyrical and the narrative one, are not generally compatible under the same „roof” of a single personality. This compatibility is rare, so that we had the most pleasant surprise to discover this fortunate „cohabitation” for the Romanian literature.

Varlaam appears as a gifted storyteller in Cazanii (Homilies) while Antim’s ability as a narrative writer is accomplished in a history work. The old historiography (The Chronicles) represents an essential study area in our medieval literature.

We also talked, in our doctoral dissertation, about Antim’s qualities as an author of a parenesis, elaborated in Greek verses, Sfătuiri creştine-politice (Christian-political Advices). This book have provided our literature –  although it is written in Greek –, with a second work of this kind after Învăţăturile lui Neagoe Basarab către fiul său, Theodosie (The Teachings of Neagoe Basarab to His Son, Theodosios), who, also, is not written in Romanian, but in Slavic language.

Antim’s personality harmoniously manifests itself through his writing pen showing deep reflection and dogmatic accuracy, lyrical exuberance, moral inflexibility, theological, philosophical and psychological subtlety, poetic refinement, hermeneutic sophistication, stylistic abundance, elegance of speech, very much rigor in historiography, narrative concision, fluency of the chronicle’s style, initiating excurse, sapient expressing proper to the parenesis, the legislative style, present in Aşezământul Mănăstirii Tuturor Sfinţilor (The Disposal for the Monastery of All Saints) but also in his works that include the teachings for the priests, and so on. It is indeed a very unusual complex!

For all these and more others literary virtues, Antim has all the reasons to be appreciated as a writer. Even more wonderful is that he successfully anchors on any of these literary shores, surfing, at the time, on a rather unsmooth Romanian language.

Mostly, however, the book called Didahii, his book of sermons, draws our attention on Antim the writer. We granted, therefore, in our thesis, a significant space to make observations and draw conclusions on the edge of this essential work, in the context of the evolution of the Romanian language and literature.

Therefore, we sought to demonstrate that his sermons neither get to the end of their understanding from the viewpoint of a literary review, nor are too accessible, as the critics of his work remarked before. In many ways, Antim appears to us as a precursor of modern literature, both through his visionary capacity, as well as through his complicated literary techniques.

Antim chose to express himself in Romanian, most of the time, although he was a foreigner and that was not the custom for the great Greek orthodox preachers visiting Bucharest – some of them remained here for a long time.

He reached to be one of the great creators of the Romanian cult language and the author of many sublime pages of literature. His high pastoral conscience served him when drawing up a superb work in terms of literary and vice versa, his rich artistic skills have enormously helped him in fulfilling his pastoral vocation.

Antim Ivireanul wrote as he lived: held on the wings of the highest ideals about true human value recovered only in the icon of the divine light, and of his faith in beauty, justice and truth.

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