The Cult of Saints in Early Christianity and the Middle Ages

Spring 2018
T 1:30-3:20pm
Area V
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

For all its reputed (and professed) disdain of the corporeal and earthly, Christianity lavished considerable attention and wealth on the material dimension of sainthood and the ‘holy’ during its formative periods in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.  Already in the second century Christian communities accorded special status to a select few “friends of God,” primarily martyrs put to death during Roman persecutions.  Subsequently the public and private veneration of saints and their earthly remains proliferated, intensified, and became an intrinsic aspect of Christian spirituality and life in both East and West until the Reformation.  To do so, it had to gradually develop a theology to accommodate everything from fingers of saints to controversial and miracle-working images. This course investigates the theology, origins, and development of the cult of saints in early Christianity and the Middle Ages with special attention to its material manifestations.  We will combine the examination of thematic issues, such as pilgrimage and the use and function of reliquaries (both portable and architectural), with a focus on such specific cases as the evolution of the cult of the Virgin Mary.

Background Expected: 

Basic knowledge of the Christian Bible

Basic knowledge of Christian History

Course Requirements: 

Discussion leadership in class, Presentation of research paper, Final research paper

Basis of Evaluation: 

Attendance, participation in discussions: 20%

Discussion leadership: 20%

Presentation of research paper: 20%

Final research paper (15 pp. minimum): 40%