While I think it is true, as I have argued before, that the Greek church never considered the events of 1054 as marking any kind of definitive break with the Latin West, this does not mean that the theological writers at the time ignored the sudden and dramatic juxtaposition of Eastern and Western liturgical, ritual, and cultural practices. Indeed, almost the reverse is true: the decades following 1054 witnessed a flourishing of a genre that has been termed the “Byzantine lists,” essentially short treatises outlining a series of objectionable practices that were common (or were believed by the authors to be common) among Latin Christians. Typically inspired by the letter of Michael Cerularius to Peter of Antioch, which added several complaints about the Latins to a list of issues that were under more active discussion between the two sides in 1054, these lists commonly discussed issues that pertained to liturgical or ritual practice. Greek Christians regularly complained that their Latin confrères did not celebrate baptism correctly, did not fast from the correct foods or with sufficient rigor, and did not sing the word “alleluia” during church services at the correct times of the year, among other problems.
The primary study of the genre as a whole remains Tia Kolbaba’s monograph The Byzantine Lists: Errors of the Latins, published in 2000 . Kolbaba maintains that the composition of these lists was fundamentally a project of Byzantine cultural consciousness, a way of emphasizing (or constructing) the unity, antiquity, and correctness of Eastern Roman practice by way of comparison to the “other,” in this case, the Latins. These lists were intended as emotional appeals to a broad Greek audience, and were somewhat low-brow in both style and content: theologically difficult issues like the filioque are presented side-by-side with complaints that Latin bishops wear silk rather than woolen robes, with no effort to rank the comparative importance of the various complaints.
Given Kolbaba’s argument that these lists of complaints are fundamentally inward looking, focused more on the Eastern Romans than the Western ones, it is especially interesting that one of the earliest examples of the genre was not written within the oikoumene at all, but rather under the political authority of the Kievan Rus’. Ephraim, the metropolitan of Kiev from around 1055 to the early 1060s, was an ethnic Greek recently transplanted in the eastern Slavic territory when he authored a list of twenty-eight distinct complaints against the Latin Christians . Most of these complaints concern topics that are familiar to students of the East-West conflict: the filioque, the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the celebration of the Eucharist, the practice of fasting on the Sabbath (Saturdays). Indeed, the complaints in Ephraim’s treatise echo the issues raised in the 1054 conflict so completely that he either had received a thorough report of the events or was still personally resident in Constantinople during the time of the Humbertine legation.
Ephraim, however, was also cognizant of his new cultural context, and Igor Čičurov, who first printed an edition of the text, points out instances where Ephraim used words or referenced topics that would have been far more familiar to a Slavic audience. For example, Ephraim attributes the sacramental use of azymes to the Vandals, noting that this group of people are now called the “Nemitzioi” (“τῶν νῦν Νεμιτζίων καλοθμένων”) a native Slavic term for Germans (i.e., non-Slavs): “немитции” or “немцы” . Furthermore, Ephraim deviated from his literary model, Michael Cerularius, in accusing the Latins of not giving baptizands the names of saints, but instead the names of various animals (lions, bears, leopards, etc.) . This complaint, Čičurov notes, is not made in any list of complaints against the Latins composed within the Eastern Roman Empire itself. Instead, it is only from the Slavic context, where the practice of retaining a non-Christian name after baptism was common, that this issue was raised .
This complaint brings us back to Kolbaba’s thesis, that the so-called Byzantine lists had more to do with policing cultural practice and ritual purity within the Eastern Christian world than in correcting behavior in the West. Constantinopolitan authors of similar works, although they surely would have objected to this naming practice, apparently did not see the need to mention it among their complaints. In Ephraim’s case, however, we see an ethnic Greek confronted with the very foreign (to him) practice of retaining a non-Christian name. His attack on the Latin practice would equally have served as a critique of the princely families of the Rus’ by whom he was surrounded. We are left, in the end, with a strengthening of Kolbaba’s central argument: “[…] the intended audience was not Latin. There are anti-Latin works which were intended to convince Latins, but the lists are not among them”  Instead, we should see Ephraim’s work, at least in part, the effort of a Greek clergyman to enforce the norms of Constantinopolitan orthodox theology and practice in the Eastern Christian hinterland.
Nick Kamas PhD in Medieval Studies University of Notre Dame
 Tia M. Kolbaba, The Byzantine Lists: Errors of the Latins (Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2000). See especially chapter 1, pp. 9-19, for the argument on the purpose and context of the lists.
 For some biographical details on Ephraim of Kiev, see Gerhard Podskalsky, Christentum und Theologische Literatur in der Kiever Rus’ (988-1237) (München: C.H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1982), 285-286. Further details, including a helpful bibliography, are in А. В. Назаренко, “Кое-что о Двух Русских Митрополитах XI в. Ефреме Киевском и Ефреме Переяславском” Древняя Русь: Вопросы Медиевистики 75.1 (2019): 87-90.
 “Антилатинский Трактат Киевского Митрополита Ефрема (ок. 1054/55-1061/62 гг.) в Составе Греческого Канонического Сборника Vat. Gr. 828,” Вестник ПСТГУ 19.3 (2007): 127. This publication in Russian is a revision of an earlier German article: I. Čičurov, “Ein antilateinischer Traktat des Kiever Metropoliten Ephraim,” Fontes Minores X (Frankfurt am Main, 1998): 319–356. The edition of the Greek text appears only in the German version.
 Traktat 18, in Čičurov, “Ein antilateinischer Traktat,” 344.
“That ‘Poetry is the cradle of philosophy’ is axiomatic”
(John of Salisbury, Metalogicon I.22).
It is a truth generally acknowledged that in the Middle Ages a liberal arts education consisted of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy). Poetry –what we might call “literature”– was primarily taught by grammarians and rhetoricians in the Middle Ages. Literary scholars, like Rita Copeland and Marjorie Woods, have therefore been very motivated to study exactly what the language disciplines of Grammar and Rhetoric entailed and precisely how they were taught in order to have a better sense of what the study of literature must have looked like in this period. Their works are indispensable for the study of medieval literature and truly are the bulk of where instruction in poetics lay in the Middle Ages. And yet, once cannot stop there.
Knowing exactly where to put poetry was something that clearly bothered many medieval philosophers. While today we might assume that poetry would clearly be associated with the Trivium, or the arts dedicated to words, specifically grammar and rhetoric, certain medieval thinkers located it within logic and also the Quadrivium, or the arts of number. Understanding why can help us to understand the multi-faceted way in which the medieval mind approached poetry in particular and the literary arts more generally.
In the twelfth century when there were major curricular changes afoot in schools and universities, John of Salisbury maintained that poetry belonged to the art of grammar although it was closely allied with rhetoric. “Art,” writes John of Salisbury, “is a system that reason has devised in order to expedite, by its own short cut, our ability to do things within our natural capacities. Reason neither provides nor professes to provide the accomplishment of the impossible;” Instead, reason pursues the possible by means of an efficient plan, what the Greeks would call a methodon (Metalogicon I.11, p.33). As J.J. Murphy writes in the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Vol. II: The Middle Ages:
In medieval terminology the Latin word ars (plural: artes) denoted a body of principles relating to a specific activity such as painting, music, preaching, or writing. By extension the term was also used for a written treatise on the subject of a particular art […] The term ‘art’ or ars when applied to such a treatise indicates a discussion of what the ancient Greeks would have called techné ––‘technique’ or ‘craft’ –– rather than an abstract or theoretical discussion of a subject (p.42).
The practitioner of an art is therefore called an artifex or craftsman, and the study of the art consisted of both the intrinsic principles for practice and the extrinsic practice of the art itself. When art is understood in this way, craftsmen generally agree that the person able to produce art is more skilled that the person skilled at conveying the principles underlying art. While poetry was clearly a craft that required a practitioner to study a method of practice, it was by no means clear where it ought to fit in the medieval curriculum of the arts.
John of Salisbury reports that some people thought poetry should be its own subject (shockingly!) because so much of it is clearly a “product of nature’s workshop” (Metalogicon I.18). The close tie between poetry and nature formed the basis of their argument, but John of Salisbury warns pragmatically that if poetry is removed from grammar, “its mother and the nurse of its study,” the study of poetry could be “dropped from the roll of liberal studies.” In other words, everyone studies grammar, which in those days often included a careful study of works like Virgil’s Aeneid. If poetry became its own subject, people might not take it at all!
Some philosophers thought that poetry actually belonged to the subject of logic. These people were especially concerned about how to classify Aristotle’s Poetics. In Ancient Greece, Aristotle had written a group of works (one might even say lecture notes) on logic when teaching at the Lyceum. His followers, the Peripatetics, classified these works as the Organon, meaning instrument or tool, because they saw them as instrumental in preparing for the study of philosophy. The Latin West had only select works from the Organon until their increased contact with Arabic philosophers like Avicenna, who wrote a commentary on the Poetics. Following the Greek commentators on Aristotle, most of the Arabic (and subsequently Latin scholastic) commentators saw Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics as the seventh and eighth works of Aristotle’s Organon. In their zeal, therefore, to comment on the entirety of the Organon, some Latin scholastic commentators, like Herman the German, viewed poetics as a part of Logic.
As surprising as it might be to think that poetry should be considered primarily within the context of “logic,” there is strong evidence that poetry was also studied within the context of the quadrivium. And yet, many medieval thinkers, the Pythagorean believed that number lay at the root of creation itself. For example, Dante writes in the Convivio when commenting on the beauty of a canzone:
All of you who cannot perceive the meaning of this canzone, do not reject it on that account, but consider its beauty: considerable for the way it is constructed, which is the concern of the grammarians; the ordering of its discourse, which is the concern of the rhetoricians; and for the metrical numbering of its parts, which is the concern of poets. (II.xi.9–10)
The key word to focus upon here is numbering. Familiarity with the Commedia and its frequent references to the starsis enough to convince a reader that one aspect of the numbering that Dante had in mind was the medieval discipline of astronomy, but there is also good reason to think that Dante had music in mind. Some of this evidence is textual…the numerous references to music in the Purgatorio and Paradiso…, but some of this evidence can be found in Boethius.
The standard textbook for the teaching of music theory in the Middle Ages was Boethius’ Fundamentals of Music, and until 1255, it was not uncommon for most educated men , including Dante, who undertook a liberal arts education to have at least some instruction in the subject. As a result, even 11th and 12th c. philosophers like Anselm and Peter Abelard wrote sacred poetry and song. In this book, Boethius speaks of poetry as a subset of one kind of music.
Boethius begins his work on music with a philosophical justification for its study. Citing Plato and Pythagoras, he observes that music is so deeply engrained in human nature that from a young age it has the power to move human souls, transform their character, and even affect their health and sense of well-being (I.1.180–185). He explains that this phenomenon should leave us with no doubt that “the order of our soul and body seems to be related somehow through those same ratios by which subsequent argument will demonstrate sets of pitches, suitable for melody, are joined together and united” (I.1.186). Since “music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired,” then “the power of the intellect ought to be summoned so that this art, innate through nature, may be mastered, comprehended through knowledge” (I.187). In this way, Boethius justifies the study of music because it reflects something about the fundamental nature of the human soul.
In this work, Boethius identifies three kinds of music––cosmic, human, and instrumental. This categorization implies that the human response to music is rooted in the nature of not only the human soul but of the cosmos (I.2). Cosmic music, or the music of the spheres, is the harmonious sound produced when the stars in their courses and the diversity of seasons move swiftly together in harmonious union (1.2.187–188). Human music does not concern the music produced by humans. Rather, it is the music found in the harmony of soul and body in a human being. Boethius describes this music as “a careful tuning of low and high pitches as though producing one consonance” (I.2.189). It unites not only the rational and animal parts of the soul, but the parts of the body and the body’s union with soul. Boethius promises to speak about this subject later, but he never returns to it. Instrumental music, for Boethius, includes the harmonious sounds produced by tension of strengths, human breath, percussion, etc. (I.2.189). This kind of music is what most people today associate with music, but Boethius’ understands this music to operate according to the same mathematical principles of both cosmic and human music. This mathematical concordance explains the reasons for music’s profound effect on the human soul.
Although the producer of cosmic and human music is ultimately God, instrumental music must be produced by a human musician. Boethius’ definition of a human musician broadens the horizon within which music itself is narrowly considered today. He identifies three classes of musician: the instrumentalist, the poet, and the rational judger of music (I.34.224).
The instrumentalist is no greater than a “slave” because one does not need the faculty of reason in order to produce music upon an instrument.
The second class of poets are presumably higher than slaves, but Boethius remarks that even the poets create songs by instinct rather than reason. One might recall here Lady Philosophy’s attack upon the Muses as “harpies” because their base songs only continued to prolong Boethius’ misery.
The third class of musician is the one with the ability to judge rhythm, melody, and composition. Since this class exercises reason in their experience of music, they alone should be considered worthy of esteem. This final judgment may seem harsh, but it was a common opinion in his day; Augustine repeats a similar idea in Demusica.3 In fact, both men express their love of hearing music with some guilt, even though Augustine insists that music should remain in churches (Conf.9.6, 14 and 10, 33, 49–50; Consol.I.2 and IV.6.6). In other words, Boethius repeats the infamous attack of Plato on the poets, even though he himself writes poetry in the Consolatio.
It is startling to consider that Boethius includes both poets and song-writers within the class of musicians. Any time a human being takes the mathematics of sound seriously in the construction of a work of verbal art, they are a musician, whether or not the words constructed are intended for accompaniment with music. Second, Boethius boldy asserts that the ability to judge music is superior to the ability to craft and perform music. Within this model of music, the music theorist and literary critic are both superior to the musician and the poet. The ability to judge is always to be preferred over the ability to craft. In the long war between philosophy and poetry, philosophy always wins.
Whether or not poets like Dante would have agreed with Boethius that the practice of their art was inferior to those who judge art, especially since arts are, by definition, intended to be practiced, it is interesting to consider that medieval poets, as a kind of musician, may have conceived themselves to be craftsman that used the tools of grammar, logic, rhetoric, and music (or the entire quadrivium if one is Boethius or Dante!) to construct their art while looking up at the stars.
Lesley-Anne Dyer Williams Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow Medieval Institute University of Notre Dame
Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius. Fundamentals of Music. Edited by Claude V. Palisca. Translated by Calvin M. Bower. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989.
Copeland, Rita, and Ineke Sluiter. Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric: Language Arts and Literary Theory, AD 300 -1475. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Dante Alighieri. Dante: Convivio. Translated by Andrew Frisardi. New edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.
Fournier, Michael. “Boethius and the Consolation of the Quadrivium.” Medievalia et Humanistica, no. 34 (2008): 1–21.
John of Salisbury. The Metalogicon. Translated by Daniel D McGarry. Berkeley: Calif. U.P., 1962.
Martianus Capella. Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts. Translated by William Harris Stahl, Richard Johnson, and E.L. Burge. Vol. II: The Marriage of Philology and Mercury. 2 vols. Records of Western Civilization 84. Columbia University Press, 1992.
Minnis, A. J., and A. B Scott, eds. “”Placing the Poetics: Herman the German; An Anonymous Question on the Nature of Poetry.” In Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c.1100–1375: The Commentary Tradition, Revised. Oxford: OUP, 1991.
O’Daly, Gerard J. P. The Poetry of Boethius. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991.
Stahl, William Harris, Richard Johnson, and E.L. Burge. Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts. Vol. I: The Quadrivium of Martianus Capella. 2 vols. Records of Civilization, Sources and Studies 84. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.
Woods, Marjorie Curry. Classroom Commentaries: Teaching the Poetria Nova across Medieval and Renaissance Europe. 1 edition. Text and Context. Ohio State University Press, 2017.
Woods, Marjorie Curry. Weeping for Dido: The Classics in the Medieval Classroom. 1st ed. Vol. 1. E. H. Gombrich Lecture Series. United States: Princeton University Press, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780691188744.
The development of the appearance of the modern Santa Claus is a fascinating one, evolving from traditional representations in Germany and the Low Countries, a distinctly English Father Christmas, and the Coca-Cola Company’s efforts to sell product. One of the most distinctive features of the modern portrayal, though, predates all of these: the beard, a sine qua non of the modern depiction, dates back centuries, and likely originated with the historical St. Nicholas himself. Unlike some of the other aspects of his appearance, though, the decision of St. Nicholas (probably) to wear a beard, and the decisions of his later iconographers to depict him with one (or not, as the case may be), were generally not socially or theologically neutral. In this post, I’d like to explore some aspects of the meaning conveyed by St. Nick’s beard, focusing mostly on the Middle Ages and as an excuse to bring up my favorite research topic: the differences that arose between Latin and Greek expressions of Christianity during and after the conflict of the mid-eleventh century.
But first, by way of background, what can be said about the appearance of the historical St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the first half of the fourth century? While the sources for the general practice of the time period are not unanimous, the consensus of the Christian writers of the period, especially in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, seems to have been in favor of beard-wearing . Clement of Alexandria, writing the century prior, argued, “For God wished the woman to be hairless and smooth, rejoicing in her hair alone, like the horse does its mane, but He decorated man with a beard, just like the lions” . Nor was the sentiment confined to Christian authors. Emperor Julian (“the Apostate” or “the Philosopher” depending on whom you ask), about as un-Christian an author as one could ask for and a reasonably close contemporary of Nicholas, is famous for his written defense of the beard. At the same time, clergy in many parts of the West, and the city of Rome in particular, retained the republican and imperial Roman custom of cleanshavenness.
The preference of the Eastern churchmen has been taken into account for forensic reconstructions done on the basis of the relics in his tomb in Bari, and the resulting depiction is dominated by a sizeable beard ]. This depiction persisted in subsequent centuries of Greek Christian iconography. From the earliest surviving example (seventh or eighth century, available in the Mount Sinai Archives), through to the present day, St. Nicholas, in the Greek tradition, is consistently depicted with a beard. And, given his ubiquity in the medieval and modern Orthodox church setting, it might be fair to say that he became one of the definitive archetypes for how clergy should look.
Clerical appearance took on a new significance as conflicts between the Greek and Latin churches began to arise. During the so-called “Photian Schism” in the ninth century, for example, while Photios himself noted the differences between Greek and Latin practices with equanimity, other Greeks were less tolerant . The Roman Pope at the time, Nicholas I, complained to Hincmar of Reims that the Greeks condemned them for being clean shaven . By the time of the legation of 1054, this condemnation had grown into an occasional cause for a break in communion. As Humbert of Silva Candida complained: “maintaining the hair of their head and their beards, they [i.e., the Greeks] do not receive into communion those who tonsure their hair and shave their beards according to the institution of the Roman Church” .
The Latins, as mentioned above, were much friendlier to the notion of cleanshavenness as far back as the Patristic period, especially among the clergy, and this permissiveness gradually evolved into a situation in which not having a beard became one of the defining markers of the clerical state. Even within monastic communities, wearing a beard was a sign of the low social standing of lay brothers in religious communities. Monks who were also ordained, in contrast, were usually clean shaven . Defenders of the Latin tradition, therefore, predictably took a very different position from their Greek interlocutors. This expression ranged from the mild-mannered observation of the difference in practice made by the Norman Anonymous, writing around the turn of the twelfth century (“they observe a different custom in tonsure and habit […], for they are bearded”) to the vituperative Leo Tuscus half a century later (“Their priests, in a Jewish manner, permit their beards to grow, which are sodden with the Lord’s blood when it is drunk by them.”) .
So what of St. Nicholas? While the Greeks continued to portray him in the traditional manner, Latin artists (or perhaps iconographers?) chose to portray him not as he was, but as they felt he ought to have been. The Nicholas that emerges in the late Middle Ages looks every bit the part of a Latin bishop: in Latin clerical dress, complete with miter and crosier, and without a trace of a beard.
Of course, it is important to note that St. Nicholas was hardly alone in this treatment: it was entirely commonplace to update the saints of antiquity to suit the sartorial standards of the artist. At the same time, precious few saints with so wide a following in the Latin Church were known to be Greek, and the Greek preference for the beard was equally well known, so it’s difficult not to see some degree of deliberate Latinization in the portrayal of the saint.
In the end, East-West polemic shifted to other topics, clearing the way for the restoration of the beard. And, in a sense, in fixing the image of a bearded Santa Claus so firmly in the modern imagination, to the point that a beardless Santa Claus would be near anathema, perhaps the Coca-Cola Company has earned a small debt of gratitude from contemporary iconographers.
Nick Kamas PhD in Medieval Studies University of Notre Dame
 A. Edward Siecienski, “Holy Hair: Beards in the Patristic Tradition” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 58:1 (2014), 64.
 Clement of Alexandria, Paidogogus 3.3. PG 8.580.
 Photius of Constantinople, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, trans. Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Long Island City, NY: Studion Publishers, 1983), 45–46. For a discussion of this and many of the following sources, see A. Edward Siecienski, Beards, Azymes, and Purgatory: The Other Issues that Divided East and West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023), 38–78.
 PP Nicholas I, Epistola Hincmaro et Ceteris Confratribus Nostris Archiepiscopis et Episcopis in Regno Karoli Gloriosi Regis […], MGH Epistolae VI, 603.
 “Excommunicatio qua feriuntur Michael Caerularius atque ejus sectatores.” Acta et Scripta, ed. Cornelius Will (Frankfurt am Main: Minerva GMBH, 1963), 153–154.
 Giles Constable, The Reformation of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 195–196.
 Norman Anonymous. “De consecratione sacerdotis,” in Die Texte des Normannischen Anonymus, ed. Karl Pellens (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1966), 104. Leo Tuscus, Malae consuetudines Graecorum, PG 140.547D.