Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?: Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation

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9780691159133: Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?: Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation
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Winner of the 2015 Otto Gründler Book Prize, The Medieval Institute of Western Michigan University
Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award in European and World History, Association of American Publishers
"[A]n indispensible point of departure for anyone interested in the cult of the saints in the Middle Ages. The book is based on an awe-inspiring familiarity with the hagiographical sources of both Eastern and Western churches, and is packed with intelligent, measured, and well-informed discussions of everything from the hierarchy of precedence of feasts in the old Roman calendar to the managerial problems of running a shrine. Students, scholars, and the general reader will all find it invaluable."--Eamon Duffy, New York Review of Books

"Robert Bartlett's monumental study provides a comprehensive account of the development of the cult of the saints from the cult of martyrs (those who had died as witnesses for their faith during the Roman persecutions) and illustrates the centrality of saintly devotion in the lives and beliefs of Christians across Europe over the whole medieval period. . . . Bartlett has a gift for succinct summary, both of complex (and confusing) narratives and for explaining theological controversy; his obvious abilities as a teacher appear throughout and his book will manifestly appeal to students. . . . Robert Bartlett's achievement lies in his capacity to draw out the distinctive, and often amusing, attributes of different saints while showing how the cult of saints operated in medieval Europe."--Sarah Foot, Times Literary Supplement

"[M]assive, erudite compendium of saint lore . . . For a book so deeply grounded in original research . . . The volume is remarkably accessible."--Barbara Newman, London Review of Books

"It is a treat . . . to see such erudition amassed this way; it is hard to imagine any aspect of the cult of the saints that Bartlett has left out in this extraordinarily comprehensive text. Yet there is enormous entertainment here as well. . . . [W]ho, and when and where--this enormous and humane reference work gives all that, along with stories that are appalling and ghoulish and mysterious and funny."--Rob Hardy, The (Columbus, OH) Dispatch

"[T]here is much to enjoy in the array of human behaviour, sacred and by our standards profane or just downright mad, chronicled in Bartlett's excellent study."--Diarmaid MacCulloch, Guardian

"[T]his magisterial work of scholarship."--Richard Holloway, Independent

"Devotion to the saints is manifestly still alive and well in the Catholic Church, and Bartlett's impressive compendium will serve to explain the cult's historical origins and evolution."--John Cornwell, Financial Times

"Rich in original research, full of illuminating case studies, Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? is a major achievement from a distinguished medieval historian and a gold mine for those interested in religious history."--Helen Fulton, Times Higher Education

"Bartlett convincingly explains how the 12th-century papacy sought to control a potentially anarchic process by demanding strict examination of cases, of which only about half were successful. . . . With great thoroughness, Bartlett examines issues such as types of saint, relics, miracles, hagiography and doubt, more as an observer than as judge. . . . Some of Bartlett's most valuable insights relate to the diversity of ways in which saints were revered and what they reveal about visions of the social order."--Constant Mews, Sydney Morning Herald

Reseña del editor:


From its earliest centuries, one of the most notable features of Christianity has been the veneration of the saints--the holy dead. This ambitious history 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. 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.


The book explores the central role played by the bodies and body parts of saints, and the special treatment these relics received. From the routes, dangers, and rewards of pilgrimage, to the saints' impact on everyday life, Bartlett's account is an unmatched examination of an important and intriguing part of the religious life of the past--as well as the present.


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9780691169682: Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things?: Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation

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ISBN 10:  0691169683 ISBN 13:  9780691169682
Editorial: Princeton University Press, 2015
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