Holy Bones, Holy Dust : How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe

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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2011-05-24
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
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Relics were everywhere in medieval society. Saintly morsels such as bones, hair, teeth, blood, milk, and clothes, and items like the Crown of Thorns, coveted by Louis IX of France, were thought to bring the believer closer to the saint, who might intercede with God on his or her behalf. In the first comprehensive history in English of the rise of relic cults, Charles Freeman takes readers on a vivid, fast-paced journey from Constantinople to the northern Isles of Scotland over the course of a millennium. InHoly Bones, Holy Dust, Freeman illustrates that the pervasiveness and variety of relics answered very specific needs of ordinary people across a darkened Europe under threat of political upheavals, disease, and hellfire. But relics were not only venerated they were traded, collected, lost, stolen, duplicated, and destroyed. They were bargaining chips, good business and good propaganda, politically appropriated across Europe, and even used to wield military power. Freeman examines an expansive array of relics, showing how the mania for these objects deepens our understanding of the medieval world and why these relics continue to capture our imagination.

Author Biography

Charles Freeman is a specialist on the ancient world and its legacy. He has worked on archaeological digs on the continents surrounding the Mediterranean and develops study tour programs in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Freeman is Historical Consultant to the prestigious Blue Guides series and the author of numerous books, including the bestseller The Closing of the Western Mind and, most recently, A New History of Early Christianity. He lives in the UK.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xii
Prologue: The Making of a Martyrp. 1
How the Christian Relic Emergedp. 9
The Incorruptible Flesh of the Martyrsp. 15
Creating a Christian Landscapep. 24
The Battle for Acceptancep. 29
The View from Byzantiump. 37
Bishops, Magic and Relics in the Post-Roman Worldp. 48
‘A barbarous, fierce and unbelieving nation’p. 61
The Great Consolidatop. 69
Hope and Desperation in a Disordered Worldp. 80
Cults and the Rise of Anti-Semitismp. 89
Fervent Christian Pilgrimsp. 94
‘The eyes are fed with gold-bedecked reliquaries’p. 108
Looting the Eastp. 120
Louis IX and the Sainte-Chapellep. 131
Sacred Flesh Between Death and Resurrectionp. 139
‘Christ's recruits … fight back’p. 146
Protectors of il Popolop. 156
The Virgin Mary and the Penitent Whorep. 169
The Wondrous Blood of Christp. 186
Rescuers and Devilsp. 197
‘Of far-off saints, hallowed in sundry lands’p. 206
‘dead images that ... may not ... help any man of any disease’p. 219
Protestantism and the New Iconoclasmp. 228
Intimations of Realityp. 247
Reasserting the Miraculousp. 254
Within the Community of the Supernaturalp. 266
Notesp. 271
Select Bibliographyp. 288
Indexp. 297
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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