A Brief History of Saints by Lawrence S. Cunningham

By Lawrence S. Cunningham

A short historical past of Saints follows the increase of the cult of saints in Christianity from its foundation within the age of the martyrs all the way down to the current day.

  • Refers to either recognized saints, resembling Joan of Arc, and lesser-known figures just like the ‘holy fools’ within the Orthodox tradition
  • Ranges over matters as various because the background of canonization procedures, the Reformation critique of the cult of saints, and the position of saints in different non secular traditions
  • Discusses the relevance of sainthood within the postmodern era
  • Two appendices describe purchaser saints and the iconography of saints in art.

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Ulrich was best known for his work as a bishop and his rebuilding of his episcopal city after it had been ravaged by the then-pagan Magyars. In his old age he retired to the famous monastery of Saint Gall in Switzerland. The Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, promulgated in 1234, stipulated that no person was to be canonized without the authority of the pope. By the early fourteenth century, a formal legal process of investigation was established before such a canonization would take place. Thus, when looking at the long lists of saints honored in the church, one must distinguish between those who have been formally canonized according to the jurisprudence of the Roman curia and those who are so honored by long custom.

It is well to remember that the greatest prestige that the bishops of Rome enjoyed in the early centuries of Christianity accrued to them precisely because they were guardians of the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul. Scholars of Irish monasticism point out that the round monastic enclosures consisted of rings. The outer ring was open to lay persons; the second ring was reserved for clerics; in the center ring was the “holy of holies” within which (preferably) the body of the sainted founder and other relics of the saints were kept.

These can be briefly described. The Menaion contains hymns and prayers for the celebrations of the feast days of the saints. The Menologion is a collection of the lives of the saints and, in some cases, selected homilies honoring the saint, organized for each month of the year. The entries for a given saint may be read at the liturgy in addition to the prayers found in the Menaion. The Synaxarion is a compilation of brief notices of saints and where they are honored, The Bureaucratization of Sanctity 45 as well as the details of their martyrdom.

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