From its earliest centuries, one of the most notable features of Christianity has been the veneration of the saints--the holy dead. This sweepingly ambitious history from one of the world's leading medieval historians tells the fascinating story of the cult of the saints from its origins in the second-century days of the Christian martyrs to the Protestant Reformation. Drawing on sources from around the Christian world, Robert Bartlett examines all of the most important aspects of the saints--including miracles, relics, pilgrimages, shrines, and the saints' role in the calendar, literature, and art.
As this engaging narrative shows, a wide variety of figures have been venerated as saints: men and women, kings and servant girls, legendary virgins and highly political bishops--and one dog. The book explores the central role played by the bodies and body parts of saints, and the special treatment these relics received: how they were treasured and enshrined, used in war and peace, and faked and traded. The shrines of the saints drew pilgrims, sometimes from hundreds of miles away, and the book describes the routes, dangers, and rewards of pilgrimage, including the thousands of reported miracles. The book surveys the rich literature and images that proliferated around the saints, as well as the saints' impact on everyday life--from the naming of people and places to the shaping of the calendar. Finally, the book considers how the Christian cult of saints compares with apparently similar aspects of other religions.
At once deeply informative and entertaining, this is an unmatched account of an immensely important and intriguing part of the religious life of the past--as well as the present.
Robert Bartlett is the Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Mediaeval History at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a fellow of the British Academy. His books include The Making of Europe, joint winner of the Wolfson History Prize, and The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages (Princeton). He has also written and presented documentaries on the Middle Ages for BBC television.
"The whole of medieval life is contained in Robert Bartlett's history of the cult of saints. Wisely combining a chronological account and thematic explorations, Bartlett surveys the whole of Europe and its vastly diverse people. This is a remarkable feat that takes the medieval passion for saints and their relics not as a given, but as an intellectual challenge. Bartlett shows that as Christian Europe lost the ancient gods of nature it gained a landscape marked by those great things that only very special dead people could do."--Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London
"This massive and encyclopedic survey is a remarkable guide to the complexities of medieval sanctity. It is so hard for modern readers to understand the role of medieval saints from within; this book makes it possible."--Chris Wickham, University of Oxford
"This is a great book, a bold work by an outstanding scholar and writer. Tackling the vast subject of medieval sainthood, Robert Bartlett has managed to produce a distinctly original account that is also an enjoyable and entertaining read, seasoned with humor. Bartlett has a keen eye for significant, and often paradoxical, quotations, situations, and personalities. I know of no other book that has attempted to grasp the entire subject of medieval sainthood. Its publication is a major event."--Gábor Klaniczay, Central European University
"Comprehensive, up-to-date, and highly readable, this ambitious survey of medieval sainthood is, in its scale and range, unlike any other book on the subject. Robert Bartlett successfully balances an astute analysis of the underlying and universal dynamics driving the medieval conception of, and response to, sanctity, with an imaginative depiction of chronological and regional variation and particularity. And he has a remarkable eye for telling and offbeat details. This is major book."--Alan Thacker, University of London
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Robert Bartlett: