Culte des saints et littérature hagiographique: accords et désaccords

The Cult of Saints project in association with the Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance in Paris is co-organising a workshop entitled:

Culte des saints et littérature hagiographique : accords et désaccords

Studies on hagiographical dossiers usually emphasise the interdependence between cultic practice and literary production, seeing them as mutually reinforcing each other. However some cults and some hagiographies – not numerous but highly interesting – do not follow this general rule, and display a disjunction between cultic practices and literary production. This workshop aims at studying such cases. On the one hand, we will consider texts, such as the Lives of Mary of Egypt and Simeon the Holy Fool, which initially did not give rise to cult. Under this category we will also discuss ‘strange sanctity’ or sonderbare Heilige (as H. Usener termed it), the paradoxical sanctity which seems to defy not only theology, but even common sense, and yet was extremely successful in creating literary heroes. On the other hand, we will examine well-established cults in which hagiography appeared relatively late, and even then was often borrowed from the dossier of other saints of a similar kind (as in the case of warrior saints). We hope that examining the links, and disjunctions, between the dynamics of cult and the dynamics of hagiographical production will help to identify the mechanism which drove both the former and the latter.


Nikolos Aleksidze (Cult of Saints, Oxford University)

Anne-Catherine Baudoin (Paris, École Normale Supérieure)

Phil Booth (Oxford University)

Pascal Boulhol (University of Aix-Marseille)

Ildiko Csepregi (Central European University)

Koen De Temmerman (University of Gent)

Vincent Déroche (Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance)

Marina Detoraki (University of Crete)

Bernard Flusin (École Pratique des Hautes Études /Paris IV-Sorbonne)

Damien Labadie (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

Flavia Ruani (University of Gent)

Arietta Papaconstantinou (Cult of Saints, University of Reading)

Bryan Ward-Perkins (Cult of Saints, University of Oxford)

Michael Williams (University of Maynooth)

Robert Wiśniewski (Cult of Saints, University of Warsaw)

Venue: Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, rue Cardinal Lemoine 52, Paris.

25 – 26 September 2015.

After Rome Seminar

One of our Coptic specialists, Gesa Schenke, will give a lecture at the After Rome Seminar, with the title:

‘The healing shrines of St Phoibammon: Evidence of cult activity in Coptic legal documents’

Time: 11 June 2015, 5 pm

Venue: Trinity College Oxford, Danson Room

Colloquium: The Saints Envisioned

On Friday 12 June, the Cult of Saints Project, in association with the Empires of Faith Project, is co-organisinga colloquium dedicated to the iconography of saints in late antique art:

The Saints Envisioned: Visual Representations of Saints in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

Six talks will be given by members of the two project teams (Jaś Elsner, Bryan Ward-Perkins, Maria Lidova, and Efthymios Rizos) and guest speakers (John Mitchell and Ine Jacobs), discussing aspects of the emergent iconography of saints in Christian art.


Time: 12 June 2015, 9.00 – 17.00

Venue: Ertegun House, 37a St. Giles’, Oxford.

Attendance is free, but space is limited, so registration is essential. To book a place, please, write to:


Project presented at key conferences in Vienna and Paris

Principal Investigator, Bryan Ward-Perkins, recently took part in two conferences (one in Vienna and one in Paris) at which he presented aspects of the Cult of Saints project.  The Vienna conference, held on 11-13 December 2014, was around the theme of ‘Linking the Mediterranean’ within the period 300-800 CE, and he opened the conference with a key-note lecture entitled ‘Did saints link the post-Roman world?’.  In this lecture he stressed that, while some saints successfully straddled wide geographical areas, the sphere of influence of most saints was purely local, or regional at best.  He also pointed out that the successful movement of saints was primarily from East to West and South to North, very seldom in the opposite directions.

At the Paris conference, on ‘Approches topographiques du fait religieux’ (which examined the topography of religious practice from archaic times to Late Antiquity), he outlined how the Cult of Saints database, currently under construction, will allow scholars and the interested public to track the spread of saints’ cults throughout the Christian world, including into regions that are sometimes wrongly considered peripheral by western scholarship.  He also explored some of the problems in defining ‘cult’ and in differentiating it from what might be termed ‘encyclopaedic’ interest in the saints of other regions.’

Recent conference presentations

Project team members Marta Tycner and Robert Wiśniewski took part in the conference `Miracles and Wonders in Antiquity and Byzantium’ at the University of Cyprus (Nicosia, 16-18 October 2014). Marta was talking on the “Solomon’s throne of the Byzantine emperors: Wonder, miracle and technology” and Robert on “Spreading the belief in miracles toward the West”.

Robert Wiśniewski also presented two papers at the Central European University in Budapest: “Handling the bones. How did the late antique Christians start to touch relics?” (Institue for Advanced Study, 29 October 2014) and “And we saw it with our own eyes… The sense of vision and the cult relics in Late Antiquity” (The Cult of saints Colloquia, Department of Medieval Studies, 25 November 2014).

Forthcoming events of interest