This volume arises from a conference held in Edinburgh in September 2007 to mark the conclusion of an AHRC-funded project, The Survey of Dedications to Saints in Medieval Scotland. The publication includes chapters based on papers delivered at that conference, supplemented by a number of invited contributions. This is the second edited volume arising from the ‘Dedications to Saints' project, the first, Saints' Cults in the Celtic World, having been published by Boydell and Brewer in 2009. The database compiled by the project team can be consulted at http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/saints/. The main aim of the project is to stimulate and facilitate research into the cult of saints and the associated themes of piety and religious enthusiasm in medieval Scotland.
The present volume contributes to this endeavour in two discrete, but interlinked, ways. First, the contributions of Clancy and Ditchburn have been designed as wide-ranging reviews, providing general comment on, and challenges to, the paradigms governing the scholarly study of saints and their cults in the early and late middle ages. Clancy's article concentrates on the various ways in which place-name evidence has been used to trace or analyse the development of saints' cults in early medieval Celtic societies. Clancy suggests that the investigation of place-names, church dedications, and hagiographical material relating to saints has too often been moulded to fit established scholarly paradigms, particularly through the tendency of earlier historians to treat these sources as useful guides to the ‘real’ lives and achievements of early medieval missionary saints in northern Britain or by the privileging, in both the surviving evidence and modern scholarship based on it, of those cults adopted and propagated by powerful ecclesiastical figures or institutions.