Saints' cults, with their focus on miraculous healings and pilgrimages, were not only a distinctive feature of Christian religion in fifth-and sixth-century Gaul but also a vital force in political and social life. Here Raymond Van Dam uses accounts of miracles performed by SS. Martin, Julian, and Hilary to provide a vivid and comprehensive depiction of some of the most influential saints' cults. Viewed within the context of ongoing tensions between paganism and Christianity and between Frankish kings and bishops, these cults tell much about the struggle for authority, the forming of communities, and the concept of sin and redemption in late Roman Gaul.
Van Dam begins by describing the origins of the three cults, and discusses the career of Bishop Gregory of Tours, who benefited from the support of various patron saints and in turn promoted their cults. He then treats the political and religious dimensions of healing miracles--including their relation to Catholic theology and their use by bishops to challenge royal authority--and of pilgrimages to saints' shrines. The miracle stories, collected mainly by Gregory of Tours, appear in their first complete English translations.
"By dwelling on the ways in which local politics, culture, geography, and even individual personalities contributed to the uneven development of 'saints' cults in Gaul, Van Dam shows us their sheer 'unpredictability.' In the process, he has given us an unquestionably richer picture that can only enhance our understanding of the times."--Journal of Early Christian Studies
"The sharpness of focus, the integrity, and the deep sympathy for Gregory of Tours and his imaginative world make this book a real advance in the subject. Above all, Raymond Van Dam's work brings to an end--for Gaul, at least--a decade of debate on the nature and function of the cult of saints in late antiquity."--Peter Brown, Princeton University
File created: 7/11/2014