“‘As if in a vision of the night …": Authorising the healing Spring of Chonai

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    The popular story of St Michael the great archistrategos of Chonai (ancient Colossae) unreservedly relates the story of the defence of the sacred healing spring in an escalating three-fold drama of protection and vindication against manic antagonists from neighbouring Laodicea. Michael’s triumph bequeaths awe-inspiring marks on the landscape. Future pilgrims could not only use the topographical features as a guide to the site; those features provided a striking natural testimony to the truth of the supernatural story. The problem for the popular narrative of the mighty archangel’s munificent provision of the spring and warrant for a sacred hagiasma is the admission that both Christians and pagans enjoyed the benefits of the therapeutic waters. Indeed the story allows at one point that the spring was found rather than provided. This tension is clearly expressed in the various attempts to authenticate the existence of the site — from apostolic promise to a foundation story more familiar from earlier Greek models for the establishment of a sacred site — whether spring, grove, shrine or temple. The story attempts to compensate for its pagan origins by hesitating over the exact nature of the initiating encounter and by strengthening its orthodox Christian pedigree. In neither case is the narrative completely successful and yet we are left with a story that enabled a rural sanctuary, just outside of Colossae, to make the transition from pagan to Christian devotion and to survive the incursions of ecclesiastical reprobation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDreams, memory and imagination in Byzantium
    EditorsBronwen Neil, Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides
    Place of PublicationLeiden, Netherlands
    Number of pages28
    ISBN (Electronic)9789004375710
    ISBN (Print)9789004366862
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2018

    Publication series

    NameByzantina Australiensia
    ISSN (Print)0725-3079


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