The Mysterious Mr. Heineccius
In 2012, the Dumbarton Oaks Library purchased an early study on the Greek Orthodox Church: Johann Michael Heineccius (1674-1722), Eigentliche und wahrhafftige Abbildung der alten und neuen Griechischen Kirche, nach ihrer Historie, Glaubens-Lehren und Kirchen-Gebräuchen. Leipzig: Bey Joh. Friedrich Gleditsch und Sohn, 1711. [HOLLIS] With it came a few questions.
During the 18th century, the thick tome was treasured as the most comprehensive study of the Greek Orthodox church, covering the history of the church, Orthodox theology, and contemporary practices such as liturgies, offices, dress, architecture, and furnishings. At the time of the book’s publication, Heineccius was serving as a pastor in Halle, and his expertise on the Greek and other eastern churches influenced the growing ecumenical movement that was centered there. The study’s importance in 18th-century affairs is demonstrated by the fact that the future empress Catherine the Great relied on the book when, as a teenage bride, she faced conversion from Lutheranism to her husband’s Russian Orthodox faith. Yet, the significance of Heineccius’s study waned in the middle of the 19th century, and it is rarely cited by later scholarship.
Heineccius does not disguise the fact that his book is a synthesis of previous scholarship. Throughout the text, he cites patristic and Byzantine authors (presumably available to him through manuscripts or printed editions) as well as the works of earlier church historians and scholars, such as Leo Allatius and Jacques Goar. Heineccius was unquestionably well-read but not well-traveled, which prompted Deb Brown, Byzantine Studies Librarian, to wonder about the sources for the illustrations in his book. Many of the images seem to combine the techniques of etching and engraving to depict bearded men in ecclesiastical garb (with keys to identify elements of the dress and equipment), generic plans of Greek churches, various furnishings and equipment, and even the patriarchal residence in Constantinople (see image above). Deb discovered that many (but not all) of the illustrations resemble engravings that appeared in Jacques Goar’s [Euchologion], sive, Rituale Graecorum . Lutetiae Parisiorum : apud Simeonem Piget, 1647. [HOLLIS]
These images are not produced from the same plates. They differ in small details, in proportion, and in terms of technique.
Goar’s own landmark study was based on his reading of Byzantine liturgical manuscripts (some now lost) and on his own observations of the Greek Orthodox Church while he served as the Dominican prior for the Church of San Sebastien on Chios, 1631-1637. His book includes editions of the liturgy attributed to St. John Chrysostom and that of St. Basil. His accompanying commentary on church practices laid the foundations for the discipline of historical liturgics, and, as one of the first systematic studies of Greek Orthodox practices, it retains its significance in modern scholarship.
Deb, Sarah Cahalan, and Wendy Johnson from the Library have looked carefully at the Library’s copies of Goar’s 1647 book, Heineccius’s 1711 book, and a modern facsimile of the 1730 revised edition of Goar’s study. They realized that the engravings in Goar’s editions bear the names of saints; yet, the saints have nothing to do with the content of Goar’s text. Instead, the engravings are used to illustrate Goar’s commentary on equipment or dress, much as the comparable illustrations do in Heineccius’s study.
Are the illustrations in Heineccius modeled on the illustrations in Goar? Or, perhaps, do Heineccius and Goar share a prototype? Why do the engravings in Goar bear little resemblance to Byzantine depictions of saints? Why did Goar’s publishers and illustrators not omit the names of the saints from the plates? We invite you to scrutinize the illustrations for yourselves. Perhaps together we can solve some of the mysteries.