"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Jesus' Granny and Friend Jimmy Go AWOL

There are many hilarious tales of the plight of relics in the early Church, revealing that even in regards to holy things human beings can be just as grasping and venal as we are with regard to more traditional objects of avaricious desire. Thus one hears of  relics stolen by monks in their mouths while pretending to kiss them; heads of saints or Baptizers forever disappearing and re-appearing; bits of bones being snatched away from one monastery to draw pilgrim traffic and money to another. In more anal-retentive hands, these might be occasions of outrage or scandal, but I find these tales at once funny and re-assuring.

Some of those tales are coming in for recent scholarly scrutiny in two books, beginning with Eirini Panou, The Cult of St Anne in Byzantium, which is set for release in May from Routledge (250pp.).

About this book the publisher tells us:
This is the first undertaking in Byzantine scholarship to focus on St Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary. St Anna is a completely underexposed figure in Byzantine studies, and the examination of the formation, establishment, and promotion of her veneration offers a fresh insights to the way saints were manipulated in Byzantium. By studying various aspects of Byzantine culture such as topography, visual evidence and material culture, social history, theology and a variety of texts such as homilies, hagiography and histories, this work highlights the importance of examining and using different types of material for the study of the cult of Byzantine saints from the sixth century through to the fifteenth. The scholarship presented here enriches our knowledge of otherwise unknown aspects of the Byzantine culture. The variety of topics discussed makes the book an essential tool for literature and art historians, students of social, liturgical and theological studies, of early Christian and Byzantine topography, of homiletics, relics, early Christian texts and Medieval Christianity.
A second book, also from Routledge, traces one of the best-known pilgrimages in Western Europe and the saint associated with it: Translating the Relics of St James: From Jerusalem to Compostela, edited by Antón M. Pazos (2016, 252pp.).

About this collection the publisher tells us:
Analysing the narration of the translation of the body of Saint James from Palestine to Santiago de Compostela and its impact on the historical and biblical construction of Jacobean pilgrimages, this book presents an interdisciplinary approach to the two cities at the centre of the legend: Jerusalem and Compostela. Using a range of political, anthropological, historical and sociological approaches, the contributors consider archaeological research into Palestine in the early centuries and explore the traditions, iconography, and literary and social impact of the translatio on the current reality of pilgrimages to Compostela.

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