Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity
- Dr Bryan Ward-Perkins
(from the project website, accessed 2018-09-26):
The Cult of Saints is a major five-year project, based at the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford, in partnership with the University of Reading and the University of Warsaw, and funded by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council, which will investigate the origins and development of the cult of Christian saints in Late Antiquity across the entire Christian world.
The project maps the cult of saints as a system of beliefs and practices in its earliest and most fluid form, from its origins until around AD 700 (by which date most cult practices were firmly established): the evolution from honouring the memory of martyrs, to their veneration as intercessors and miracle-workers; the different ways that saints were honoured and their help solicited; the devotion for relics, sacred sites and images; the miracles expected from the saints.
Central to the project is a searchable database, in which all the early evidence for the cult of the saints is being collected, whether in Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Latin or Syriac, with summaries of long texts and full quotation of key passages, both in the original language and in English translation. Every piece of evidence is accompanied by a brief discussion, considering issues such as its dating and the details of cult that it reveals. This database is fully searchable, making it simple to access all the evidence for the early cult of a single saint, such as Martin of Tours, or to narrow the search down – for instance, to evidence for churches dedicated to Martin in 6th-century Italy. It will also be possible to narrow searches to specific types of evidence (for instance, images only), or to specific cult practices (such as the creation of contact relics or the practice of incubation).