I nearly let this inspirational woman pass me by. After a lovely weekend relaxing together, my partner and I were watching (me with a mind half elsewhere) a documentary on the history of music, when he turned to me and said, “You could blog about her.”
He was right. The segment was about a beautiful Byzantine woman who lived and died in the 800s, and the more little pieces I pick up about her online, the more I’m glad I didn’t miss her completely.
So much of history seems to be dominated by males. Indeed, this documentary introduced us to man after man who pioneered harmonies, back-up vocals, musical notation, all against a backdrop of a male choir. Their stories were fascinating, but Kassia was the first woman who popped up.
Kassia was from Constantinople – beautiful, intelligent, talented and wealthy. She was one of only two woman who could write their own names in the Byzantine period. She was an abbess, hymn writer and poet, and my favourite story of her happened thousands of years ago, which some women can still relate to today.
A young emperor (I’ll leave you to find the details) was choosing between her and another beautiful choice of bride. He did not, however, want a bride whose intellect would fade his own.
“Through a woman came the baser things,” the dashing emperor told her, perhaps trying to cause her to cower and submit in memory of the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden, letting sin have its first way in the world.
I love to imagine this beautiful, smart woman match his gaze steadily as she replied without skipping a beat, “And through a woman came forth the better things” referring to Mary who gave birth to her saviour Jesus.
The young emperor chose the other girl.
Kassia went on to a musical and godly career, known for being her own woman, not merely someone’s wife.