The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianityby Peter Brown
Pub. Date: 02/28/1982
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, the cult of the saints was the dominant form of religion in Christian Europe. In this elegantly written work, Peter Brown explores the role of tombs, shrines, relics, and pilgrimages connected with the sacred bodies of the saints. He shows how men and women living in harsh and sometimes barbaric times relied upon the merciful intercession of the holy dead to obtain justice, forgiveness, and to find new ways to accept their fellows. Challenging the common treatment of the cult as an outbreak of superstition among the lower classes, Brown demonstrates how this form of religiousity engaged the finest minds of the Church and elicited from members of the educated upper classes some of their most splendid achievements in poetry, literature, and the patronage of the arts.
"Brown has an international reputation for his fine style, a style he here turns on to illuminate the cult of the saints. Christianity was born without such a cult; it took rise and that rise needs chronicling. Brown has a gift for the memorable phrase and sees what the passersby have often overlooked. An eye-opener on an important but neglected phase of Western development."—The Christian Century
"Brilliantly original and highly sophisticated . . . . [The Cult of the Saints] is based on great learning in several disciplines, and the story is told with an exceptional appreciation for the broad social context. Students of many aspects of medieval culture, especially popular religion, will want to consult this work."—Bennett D. Hill, Library Journal
Table of ContentsForeword Preface
1. The Holy and the Grave
2. "A Fine and Private Place"
3. The Invisible Companion
4. The Very Special Dead
6. Potentia Notes Index
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The Cult of the Saints is a scholarly look into how the saints, who were after all only human, came to occupy such exalted places in the minds of Catholics. The entire Christian world, it must be remembered, was nothing but Catholic for centuries. Peter Browns series of essays shows how, far from being a pagan holdover, the use of saints as mediators between earth and heaven became so popular and so accepted.
This is not a book to breeze through; rather, it requires careful, line by line reading. Recommended for readers who have the patience necessary to glean understanding from this scholarly material.