Kassia vs. Casimir

Welcome to the ONE AND ONLY weekend matchup of Lent Madness as Kassia takes on Casimir. Every other battle will take place on the weekdays of Lent - straight through until Spy Wednesday during Holy Week.

Yesterday, Hyacinth came up smelling like roses as he roundly defeated Rose of Lima 74% to 26% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

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We'll see you bright and early on Monday morning as Canaire takes on Barbara. Time to vote!


Writer, hymnist, poet, composer, and early feminist, Kassia is an important contributor to religious music, and is the only woman to have her works included in the Byzantine liturgy.

Kassia – also known as Cassia, Kassiani, Kasia, Kassiane, Kassiani, Casia, Ikasia, Cassia, Cassiane, Kassiana, Kassianh or Eikasia – was born to a wealthy Greek family sometime between 805 and 810 in Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, in Turkey. At that time, Constantinople was a thriving city of commerce, language, culture, and scholarship. Kassia was educated in the classics, the church, philosophy, and writing, and learned much from the many world-wide visitors frequenting Constantinople for business.

Kassia was known for her beauty. She was chosen to participate in a “Bride Show,” presented for Byzantine Emperor Theophilos to check out women for him to select as a wife. Although she caught his eye, Kassia’s interests and her feminist beliefs were not aligned with the emperor and his views on women. He chose another bride, and Kassia gladly turned to monastic living. She founded a convent in nearby Xerolophos where she served as abbess.

At that time, theological disagreements about religious images and icons placed her and Emperor Theophilos in opposite corners. Because of her beliefs, the same emperor whom she almost married subjected her to lashings and beatings. She was not swayed by his actions and continued to express her feminist views through her writings and music.

Kassia’s works, both music and poetry, focus on women in the gospels. She was the only composer of her time to write about redemption and salvation of women who had sinned.

Her creativity was evidenced in the many musical selections and hymns she wrote, with some still sung in the Byzantine church. Most well-known of her pieces is the “Hymn of Kassial,” also called the “Troparion of Kassiani,” still often chanted on Wednesday during Holy Week in the Orthodox churches. She also authored poems and non-religious literature, of which 261 have survived.

Kassia eventually made her way to the Greek island of Kasos, where she died between 867 and 890 and is buried.

She remains relevant and pops up in today’s culture, with her works performed by modern musicians Frank Turner, soprano Deborah Kayser and bassist/composer Nick Tsiavos and the American string quartet Kronos. Kassia also appeared as a character in the TV series The Vikings.

Her feast day is listed as September 7 in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2022 and the Orthodox Church.

Kassia is the patron saint of feminism and gender justice.

Collect for Kassia
O God of boundless mercy, whose handmaiden Kassiani brought forth poetry and song: Inspire in your church a new song, that following her most excellent example, we may boldly proclaim the truth of your Word; even Jesus Christ, our Savior and Deliverer. Amen. 

— Neva Rae Fox


Prince Casimir Jagiellon, prince of the kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was born at Wawel Castle in Kraków in October 1458. He was the second son of King Casimir IV, but when his elder brother was elected King of Bohemia, he became the heir apparent.

Throughout his life, he was known for his piety and his devotion to the poor and sick. It’s hard to know how he had time for religious devotion or charitable acts, because he spent a lot of his time learning languages. He was fluent in Lithuanian, Polish, German, and Latin.

As he grew older, Casimir’s reputation for religious piety began to spread. Once when he was awaiting entry at the gate of a church before dawn, he contracted an illness. Another time, he refused physicians’ advice to have sexual relations in order to cure his illness. Perhaps because of his own ill health, Casimir was known for his compassionate care of the sick and the poor.

But it wasn’t all piety and devotion for the prince. Casimir spent much of his life enmeshed in palace intrigue, both in his own realms and those of neighboring areas. When his father attempted to arrange a marriage between Casimir and the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III, Casimir refused. He said he preferred to remain celibate, perhaps sensing his own imminent death. Soon after, he developed tuberculosis, from which he died in March 1484 at the tender young age of 25.

Casimir was buried at Vilnius Cathedral. Almost immediately after his death, a cult of devotion arose. Complicated delays at the papacy hampered his cause, but Casimir was canonized as a saint in 1583. Among other miracles, he was said to have appeared to the Lithuanian army at the time of a miraculous victory.

You will often see the saint depicted with three hands, or at least two right hands. Some say this is the result of an early convention to depict Casimir’s ability to accomplish so much. How could someone with only two hands do all that?! But there is also a story that the painter of Casimir’s portrait in Vilnius Cathedral tried to move the hand in his painting, but the extra hand miraculously reappeared after being painted over. So if you ever see this saint depicted with the “wrong” hands, it's the result of a mistake, a pious symbol, or a miracle.

Today Casimir is recognized as the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. He should probably also be the patron saint of errors in portraiture.

Collect for Casimir
O God, who didst preserve thy servant Casimir constant and faithful in thy service amidst the delights of a court, and the attractive allurements of the world, grant, we beseech thee, that by his intercession thy people may despise the transitory things of the world and eagerly pursue things which are eternal: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A. Nonny-Muss


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174 comments on “Kassia vs. Casimir”

  1. So learnèd and lovely was Kassia
    That Theophilus once made a passia.
    She declined to submit
    To his chauvinist wit
    And her well-aimed retort was much classia.

    1. Me too! I love learning about strong women.
      What bravery she possessed.
      Love your witty poems, John!

  2. Where can I see the rating for the bracket competition. The link that was sent simply takes me to a blank bracket

  3. Today was the first time I found “Thank you for your vote” - I had not voted. I went to the website and had the same message. I have not been able to vote.

    1. Perhaps the writer was thinking of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") from Keeping Up Appearances.

      1. I loved the way she mangled "Huguenot" when she explained that her husband's family pronounced their name "Bouquet." They were just English Buckets.

  4. Although Casimir had his hands in many projects, and is still a Polish icon, the spirit of Kassia is especially needed in the cause of women.

  5. The site won’t let me vote! I want to vote for Kassia. This is the second time I’ve had trouble, but after trying and tapping everything last time, I finally was able to vote. Today I’m being thwarted no matter what I try.

  6. I voted for Kassia, although I was strongly drawn to a collect that contains words like "delights" and "attractive allurements." A woman composer in the early church seems like something to be celebrated. Perhaps Lent Madness could commission a new work, a "new song," like a new constellation in the sky: to be called KassiOpera.

  7. Neither Kassia or Casimir wowed me. I did vote for Kassia. I am not a feminist. So, I did not vote for that reason. Kassia’s contribution to the world seemed a bit more significant.

    1. Kassia for the win. Although I haven't knowing sing any of her works, the simple fact that after 1200 years we still can do so is remarkable. I wonder which hand she used to write them?

  8. What stands out to me, helping my choice is how Kassia was inspired and passionately motivated to continue to keep her awareness’ of the un justices she viewed consistently apart of society through her art and music. Touching and moving people still to this day on issues still relative and requiring our growth in our view of them.

  9. Like another commenter yesterday, I found that voting is “not allowed” on my IPad. Seems to work fine on my Windows laptop. What’s up?

  10. Cannot vote. Knows I’m not a robot. Refresh, refresh and try later. This really is part of the fun of Lent Madness. Very frustrated and may give up completely if happens on Monday. Worked yesterday.

  11. Just looked back. Major problems. I didn’t vote and got thanked. And my vote is for current loser.

  12. I am delighted to discover Kassia, an extraordinary woman from a time when women had little agency and few opportunities to fulfil their potential. Wonderful that we can read and listen to her work today. Obviously, Kassia has my vote.

  13. For the first time it told me i had already voted. So, I’ve read the instructions, cleared my browser, and tried to vote. It’s saying vote not allowed….what do i try now? Thanks!