Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pg. 99: Robert Bartlett's "Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?: Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation by Robert Bartlett.

About the book, from the publisher:
From its earliest centuries, one of the most notable features of Christianity has been the veneration of the saints--the holy dead. This sweepingly ambitious history from one of the world's leading medieval historians 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. Drawing on sources from around the Christian world, 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.

As this engaging narrative shows, a wide variety of figures have been venerated as saints: men and women, kings and servant girls, legendary virgins and highly political bishops--and one dog. The book explores the central role played by the bodies and body parts of saints, and the special treatment these relics received: how they were treasured and enshrined, used in war and peace, and faked and traded. The shrines of the saints drew pilgrims, sometimes from hundreds of miles away, and the book describes the routes, dangers, and rewards of pilgrimage, including the thousands of reported miracles. The book surveys the rich literature and images that proliferated around the saints, as well as the saints' impact on everyday life--from the naming of people and places to the shaping of the calendar. Finally, the book considers how the Christian cult of saints compares with apparently similar aspects of other religions.

At once deeply informative and entertaining, this is an unmatched account of an immensely important and intriguing part of the religious life of the past--as well as the present.
Learn more about Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? at the Princeton University Press website.

Robert Bartlett is the Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Mediaeval History at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a fellow of the British Academy. His books include The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages, England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225, and The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages. He has also written and presented documentaries on the Middle Ages for BBC television.

The Page 99 Test: The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages.

The Page 99 Test: Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?.

--Marshal Zeringue