Epigraphic Literacy and Christian Identity: Modes of Written Discourse in the Newly Christian European North
This volume examines the role of epigraphic literacy within the newly introduced Christian culture and the developing tradition of literacy in Northern Europe during the Viking Age and the High Middle Ages. The epigraphic material under scrutiny here originates from Scandinavia and North-West Russia - two regions that were converted to Christianity around the turn of the first millennium. Besides traditional categories of epigraphic sources, such as monumental inscriptions on durable materials, the volume is concerned with more casual inscriptions on less permanent materials. The first part of the book discusses a form of monumental epigraphic literacy manifested on Scandinavian rune stones, with a particular focus on their Christian connections. The second part examines exchanges between Christian culture and ephemeral products of epigraphic literacy, as expressed through Scandinavian rune sticks, East Slavonic birchbark documents and church graffiti. The essays look beyond the traditional sphere of parchment literacy and the Christian discourse of manuscript sources in order to explore the role of epigraphic literacy in the written vernacular cultures of Scandinavia and North-West Russia.
The paper discusses the origin of pragmatic writing in Early Rus’ and its relationship to the Church Slavonic tradition. The emergence of birchbark literacy in Novgorod at about 1030 is treated as a by-product of the spread of church education under the reign of Jaroslav the Wise. The intermingling of lay and ecclesiastic affairs in the life of Lyudin konec of Novgorod is shown to have produded the breeding ground for the proliferation of birchbark writing in this part of the city.