A Brief History of Saints (Blackwell Brief Histories of by Lawrence S. Cunningham

By Lawrence S. Cunningham

A quick heritage of Saints follows the increase of the cult of saints in Christianity from its foundation within the age of the martyrs right down to the current day.Refers to either recognized saints, comparable to Joan of Arc, and lesser-known figures just like the ‘holy fools’ within the Orthodox traditionRanges over matters as different because the background of canonization strategies, the Reformation critique of the cult of saints, and the function of saints in different non secular traditionsDiscusses the relevance of sainthood within the postmodern eraTwo appendices describe client saints and the iconography of saints in artwork.

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Athanasius’ Life of Antony had an enormous impact on the rise of monasticism. Augustine, in the Confessions, tells us how much his Life attracted young people who sought out the ascetic life. Antony was widely venerated in the Middle Ages, becoming the subject of any number of famous paintings which delighted in depicting the demonic temptations he suffered in the most vivid fashion. Hieronymus Bosch devoted a famous triptych to this subject, while Matthias Grünewald devoted a panel of his famous Isenheim altarpiece to the same subject.

Prayers and liturgies at the tombs of the martyrs were considered to be extremely efficacious and the bodies and other relics of the saints were thought to be loci of sacred power. The veneration of martyrs’ relics had already been noted in the second-century Martyrium Polycarpi, where the remains of Polycarp were described as more precious than gems or gold. Both Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine would later argue for the legitimacy of such veneration. Augustine, in his Confessions, famously describes his own mother, Monica, as a regular visitor to the shrine of the third-century martyr Saint Cyprian in Carthage.

1 Likewise, the cult of the sixth-century Irish Saint Brigid of Kildare, who was head of a double monastery of men and women and about whom many elements of druidic customs accrued, was honored in Italy because a ninth-century Irish pilgrim, Bishop Donatus of Fiesole (near Florence) introduced her cult there and also wrote her life in Latin hexameters. Another Irishman, Sedulius Scotus (Scotus = Irishman), introduced her cult in Liège (in Belgium) from where her cult spread to Austria, Germany, and Brittany.

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