Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?
Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation
Robert Bartlett

Winner of the 2015 Otto Gründler Book Prize, The Medieval Institute of Western Michigan University
Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award in European and World History, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2015 | $24.95 | £16.95 | ISBN: 9780691169682
808 pp. | 6 x 9 | 8 color illus. 23 halftones. 3 line illus. 10 tables. 3 maps.
Hardcover | 2013 | $39.95 | ($27.97) / £27.95 | (£19.57) | ISBN: 9780691159133
808 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 color illus. 23 halftones. 3 line illus. 10 tables. 3 maps.
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From its earliest centuries, one of the most notable features of Christianity has been the veneration of the saints—the holy dead. This ambitious history 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. 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.

The book explores the central role played by the bodies and body parts of saints, and the special treatment these relics received. From the routes, dangers, and rewards of pilgrimage, to the saints’ impact on everyday life, Bartlett’s account is an unmatched examination of an important and intriguing part of the religious life of the past—as well as the present.

Robert Bartlett is professor of mediaeval history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


"[A]n indispensible point of departure for anyone interested in the cult of the saints in the Middle Ages. The book is based on an awe-inspiring familiarity with the hagiographical sources of both Eastern and Western churches, and is packed with intelligent, measured, and well-informed discussions of everything from the hierarchy of precedence of feasts in the old Roman calendar to the managerial problems of running a shrine. Students, scholars, and the general reader will all find it invaluable."--Eamon Duffy, New York Review of Books

"Robert Bartlett's monumental study provides a comprehensive account of the development of the cult of the saints from the cult of martyrs (those who had died as witnesses for their faith during the Roman persecutions) and illustrates the centrality of saintly devotion in the lives and beliefs of Christians across Europe over the whole medieval period. . . . Bartlett has a gift for succinct summary, both of complex (and confusing) narratives and for explaining theological controversy; his obvious abilities as a teacher appear throughout and his book will manifestly appeal to students. . . . Robert Bartlett's achievement lies in his capacity to draw out the distinctive, and often amusing, attributes of different saints while showing how the cult of saints operated in medieval Europe."--Sarah Foot, Times Literary Supplement

"[M]assive, erudite compendium of saint lore . . . For a book so deeply grounded in original research . . . The volume is remarkably accessible."--Barbara Newman, London Review of Books

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