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

A sweeping, authoritative, and entertaining history of the Christian cult of the saints from its origin to the Reformation


Sep 15, 2015
6 x 9.25 in.
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.

Awards and Recognition

  • 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