This extraordinary 1564 manuscript containing the works of John Mauropous, preserved at the Real Biblioteca del Escorial, is one of the only 9 extant copies of Mauropus’s works, the oldest one being from the 9th century (Vat. Graec. 676). The Escorial codex contains 99 epigrams describing icons and religious festivals, but also varied other topics (doctrinal, politic and literary) and lamentations for the dead, etc. It was moved to the Escorial Monastery Library upon request by Philip II, together with other Latin and Greek manuscripts.
The Extraordinary Work of a Court Poet
John Mauropous – born c. 1000, Paphlagonia (modern Turkey) and died c. 1075-81, Constantinople – was a Byzantine scholar and ecclesiastic, author of sermons, poems and epigrams, letters, a saint’s life, and a large collection of canons, or church hymns. The precise chronology of Mauropous’ life is still uncertain: what we known can only be traced through what he himself tells us in his works. He was a private tutor in Constantinople in the first quarter of the 11th century and he became part of the court during Constantine IX’s reign (1042–55) urged by his friend and pupil Michael Psellus. About 1050 he became metropolitan archbishop of Euchaita in Asia Minor; later he was to become a recluse monk.
The New Cultural Movement of 11th Century Byzantium
John Mauropous was one of the most prolific liturgical poets, who composed over 150 canons, most of which are still unpublished. In his role as court orator, Mauropous was part of the trusted circle of artists, writers and scholars the emperor gathered him at the royal palace. Mauropous penned an incredible wealth of liturgical canons. Due to his style, Mauropous has been deemed as a precursor of the new cultural mentality in mid-11th century Byzantium.
Moving Poetry and the Respect for Ancient Masters
John Mauropous’s poetry contains descriptions of religious or artistic artifacts and sepulchral epigrams, together with many allusions to the author’s personal life and his times. A particularly moving episode John recounts is that in which he was forced to bid a sad farewell to his old house, which he was subsequently happy to re-acquire from its new owner. In his poetry, John also cites pagan authors such as Plato and Plutarch, and is especially adamant in praying God to spare them from damnation.
An Extremely Refined Style
All of the 99 epigrams are written in ‘Byzantine dodecasyllable’ (also known as Iambic trimeter). The lexicon is extremely rich, while the style often features extremely refined figures of speech. Due to the incredible value of this text, scholars have come to consider John’s work as one of the most important examples of Byzantine poetry in the whole of the Medieval period.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Byzantine Epigrams and Icons of John Mauropus of Euchaita": Epigramas e Iconos Bizantinos de Juan de Eucaita facsimile edition, published by Scriptorium, 2002