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Western Orthodox Saints: Literature, Society, and Veneration

In the Orthodox Church we often hear mention of the “the lives of the saints,” but what exactly are the lives of the saints? How do we know about the lives, deeds, and miracles of the saints? How have their stories been preserved and handed down? The lives of the saints are known to us through a genre of literature known as hagiography which was produced and transmitted by various individuals throughout the history of the Church. Hagiography literally means “holy” or “saint writing” and it is through this literature that Christians and the Church learns about and commemorates the saints.

In this course we will be reading various hagiographical texts of Western Orthodox Saints (Western here is defined as the lands of the Western Mediterranean, North Africa, The Italian and Iberian Peninsulas, Continental Western Europe, and the British Isles as well as the Americas.) By studying hagiography, we will learn of the various ways which the saints lived as exemplary Christians. We will learn about the roles that the saints played in the history of the Orthodox Church and the societies in which they lived. Along with reading hagiographical texts, we will be looking at and analyzing various examples of art and archaeology to learn about and understand the various ways which Orthodox Christians venerated the saints following their deaths. Additionally, we will learn about how scholars use hagiography to better understand the cultural, social, and religious history of the places where the saints lived and the people whom they served.


By the end of this course, you will be able to demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of various types of Western Orthodox saints and an understanding of the nature and purpose of hagiographical literature, and the various means of which Christian venerated the saints.
  • The ability to explain the roles of Western Orthodox saints in church history as well as in late antique, medieval and early modern history, and an understanding of the use of hagiographical literature and the archaeology of saints as historical primary sources.
  • Enhanced skills of critical thinking, reading, writing, and communication by training in the interpretation of ancient primary sources the execution of writing assignments, and oral presentations.



Required Materials:

  • Mr. Karagiannis will be providing PDFs of most of the texts we will be reading and studying for this class. Please purchase the book below.

  • Saints: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Yarrow ISBN-13: 978-0199676514

*Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.

Nickolas Karagiannis joins Saint Raphael School as an Upper School Humanities and New Testament Greek teacher. Nickolas holds a B.A. in History and Classics from Montclair State University in New Jersey, a M.A and a M.Phil. in Ancient and Medieval History from the Graduate Center of The City University of New York. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate working on a dissertation on early Byzantine hagiography.

Nickolas has taught various history and humanities courses at both two-year and four-year colleges throughout New York City. He is very excited to join Saint Raphael School and share his love of history, literature, the Greek language, and his Orthodox faith with Saint Raphael’s students.

Nickolas currently lives in New York City with his lovely wife Marianela. In his spare time he enjoys reading history, theology, and mythology, visiting the museums, parks and churches in New York City, traveling to his wife’s beautiful home country of Panama, watching NFL football, and drinking far too much coffee.

Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with processor with a speed of 1 Ghz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do NOT recommending using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with an download/upload speed of 5/1Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebCam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer.
WebCam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class.
Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use.
To download Zoom:

  1. Visit
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.


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