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Medieval Saints’ Cults as International Networks: The Example of the Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2016

Christine Walsh
Affiliation:
London
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Extract

Veneration of the saints was an important element of medieval piety and was pervasive throughout all levels of medieval society. In the early centuries of Christianity there was no formal process for declaring someone a saint and many cults were purely local affairs. However there were a number of saints who enjoyed an international cult. These were often major figures from the early days of Christianity, such as the apostles, the most famous perhaps being Peter, whose cult was centred in Rome at the heart of the western Christian establishment. For those cults that developed an international dimension, it is possible to view the transmission of the cult as creating a network or networks of individuals linked by their devotion to that particular saint. At one level this concept of a network is more metaphorical than actual. Individuals, unknown to each other, could share a common veneration for a particular saint. They were linked by their shared knowledge of the saint’s story, which provoked a common reverence. Indeed the actual transmission of the saint’s story can be considered to create a network of sorts as it passes from person to person, either by word of mouth or through the movement of written texts. A network of this sort can be considered to span both time and space.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 1994

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References

1 Broadly speaking, there are two main kinds of saints’ stories, Vitae and Passiones. A saint’s Vita normally contains details of the saint’s life and death, and sometimes of miracles worked after death. A Passio is a tale of a saint’s martyrdom. Most saints would have a Vita but only some would have a Passio.

2 See Walsh, C., The Cult of Saint Katherine of Alexandria in Early Medieval Europe (Aldershot, 2007)Google Scholar, for a fuller discussion of the origins of the cult.

3 Metaphrastes’ Passio of Katherine with an accompanying Latin translation can be found in PG 116, cols 275–302

4 Høgel, C., Symeon Metaphrastes: Reuniting and Canonization (Copenhagen, 2002);Google Scholar Ševčenko, N. P., Illustrated Manuscripts of the Metaphrastian Menologion (Chicago, IL, and London, 1990);Google Scholar Ehrhard, A., Überlieferung und Bestand der hagiographisches und homiletischen Literatur dergriechischen Kirche von den Anfdngen bis zum Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols (Leipzig, 1938), vol. 3.Google Scholar

5 See Høgel, , Symeon Metaphrastes, 1506.Google Scholar

6 de Voragine, Jacobus, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, ed. and transl. Ryan, W. G., 2 vols (Princeton, NJ, 1993) 2: 33441.Google Scholar

7 ‘Vita S. Pauli Iunioris in Monte Latro cum interpretatione Latina Iacobi Sirmondi S. I.’, ed. Delehaye, H., An Boll 11 (1892), 5–74 136–82 at 1534.Google Scholar Latros is in modern Turkey.

8 Niccolò da Poggibonsi, Libro d’Oltramare (1346–1350), 2 vols, Publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscorum (Jerusalem, 1945), text in vol 1 ed. A. Bacchi della Lega, rev. and annotated by Bellarmino Bagatti, ET in vol. 2 by T. Bellorini and E. Hoade as A Voyage beyond the Seas (1346–1350), 1: 123, 2: 104. See also Jacoby, D., ‘Christian Pilgrimage to Sinai until the Late Fifteenth Century’, in Nelson, R. S. and Collins, K. M., eds, Holy Image and Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai (Los Angeles, CA, 2006), 7993.Google Scholar

9 The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. and transl. Windeatt, B. A. (London, 1985), 75.Google Scholar

10 See Blamires, A., ‘Women and Preaching in Medieval Orthodoxy, Heresy and Saints’ Lives’, Viator 26 (1995), 135–52 esp. 1445.Google Scholar

11 Rome, BAV, MS Vat. gr. 1613, known as the ‘Menologium Basilianum’. The entry for Katherine is on page 207.

12 I. Ševčenko, ‘Illuminators of the Menologium of Basil II’, DOP 16 (1962), 245–76 at 272–3

13 Ibid. 253.

14 London, BL, MS Add. 19352.

15 Lowden, J., ‘An Inquiry into the Role of Theodore in the Making of the Theodore Psalter’, Essay Two in The Theodore Psalter [CD-ROM facsimile of BL, MS Add. 19352], ed. Barber, C. (Champaign, IL, 2000).Google Scholar

16 Jacoby, ,’ Christian Pilgrimage to Sinai’, 81.Google Scholar

17 Voyage beyond the Seas, transl. Bellorini and Hoade, 2: xv-xviii.

18 Ibid. xv-xvi. The guide claimed to have escorted 66 groups of pilgrims to Sinai and the Holy Sepulchre.

19 van de Walle, B.,’ Sur les traces des pelerins flamands, hennuyers et liegeois au Monastere Sainte-Catherine du Sinai”, in Annates de la Societe D’Emutation de Bruges/Handlingen van het Genootschap voor Geschiedenis 101 (1964), 119–42, at 127;Google Scholar Heers, J. and de Groer, G., Itineraire d’Anselme Adorno en Terre Sainte (1470–1471 (Paris, 1978), 13.Google Scholar

20 See Heers, and de Groer, , Itineraire, 69 Google Scholar, for an outline of the careers of Anselme and his son.

21 Van de Walle, , ‘Sur les traces des pèlerins’, 128.Google Scholar

22 Ibid. 132; Heers and de Groer, Itinèraire, 8.

23 For a summary of the development of the Norman cult, see: Walsh, C., ‘The Role of the Normans in the Development of the Cult of St Katherine’, in Jenkins, J. and Lewis, K., eds, St Katherine of Alexandria: Texts and Contexts in Western Medieval Europe (Turnhout, 2003), 1935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

24 The Cartulary of Blyth Priory, ed. R. T. Timson (London, 1973), xiv;‘Cartulaire de L’Abbaye de la Saint-Trinité-du-Mont-de-Rouen’, ed. Deville, A., in Cartulaire de L’Abbaye de Saint-Bertin, ed. Guérard, M. (Paris, 1840)Google Scholar, 4.44 (charter 43).

25 Ibid, xxxiii-xxxiv; charters 133, 135, 189. See also Walsh, , Cult of Saint Katherine, 1268.Google Scholar

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