Much of European Medieval music has been lost over time; it seems that many names of composers have been lost as well. Although, most composers known are male, a few female composers’ identities have lasted through the centuries, one of which, is the composer known as Kassia or Kassiani. So, here are 6 facts about Kassia.
- She could have been empress.
Born around 810 CE in Constantinople, Kassia grew up to be a beautiful and intelligent woman in the Byzantine empire. Three Byzantine chroniclers claim that she was among other women to be chosen as the bride to emperor Theophilos. Taken by her beauty, Theophilos approached and exchanged a few words, but Kassia’s rebuttal wounded Theophilos’ pride and so he rejected her and chose Theodora as his wife.
- She was an abbess.
In 843, Kassia founded a convent in the west of Constantinople and became its first abbess. A close relationship with the nearby monastery motivated her for wanting a monastic life.
- At least twenty-three genuine hymns are ascribed to her.
The exact number of works is hard to assess, as many hymns and other works are ascribed to different authors in different manuscripts and are often identified as anonymous. Twenty-three of those hymns are ascribed to Kassia.
- She wrote Secular versus as well.
Kassia is notable as one of only two Eastern Roman women known to have written in their own names during the Middle Ages. She wrote many non-liturgical verses as well. Many of her epigrams consists of meaningful sayings put into verse to aid the memory. For example, “I hate the rich man moaning as if he were poor.”
- Kassia was courageous.
We already know that Kassia was not afraid to speak her mind, but 9th-century Constantinople was rocked by fierce debate over the legitimacy of religious images. Kassia stood up to defend the veneration of the icons, through writing and action.
- Kassia is the earliest known female composer in Europe.
Kassia is the earliest woman composer whose works survive. The monastery of Stoudios re-edited the Byzantine liturgical books in the 9th and 10th centuries, which would ensure the survival of her work. Many of her hymns are still used in the Byzantine liturgy to this day.
1. British Library/Mary Wellesley & Peter Toth. 2016. Kassia: A Bold and Beautiful Byzantine Poet. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2016/03/kassia.html. [Accessed 19 August 2018].
2. Feminism and Religion/Carol P. Christ. 2015. Kassiani: Placing a Woman at the Center of the Easter Drama. [ONLINE] Available at: https://feminismandreligion.com/2015/04/13/kassiani-placing-a-woman-at-the-center-of-the-easter-drama-by-carol-p-christ/. [Accessed 19 August 2018].
3. Naxos Records. 2018. Kassia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.naxos.com/person/_Kassia/106294.htm. [Accessed 19 August 2018].
4. Wikipedia. 2018. Kassia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kassia. [Accessed 19 August 2018]