Talking in Warsaw and Kraków about the Cult of Saints

Bryan Ward-Perkins writes: At the end of May I gave papers in Poland about our project, in Warsaw and in Kraków.  Warsaw is a research hub for the ‘Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity’, where our extensive Latin evidence is being worked on by Matthieu Pignot, helped by Marta Szada and Kasia Wojtalik, all under the direction of Robert Wiśniewski; it is also the home town of our epigraphist, Paweł Nowakowski.  So I was more or less guaranteed a friendly reception there; but I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a seminar table loaded with strawberries (it is apparently a very happy tradition to serve fruit and biscuits at the Warsaw seminar).  Kraków didn’t rise to strawberries, but it did provide an equally interesting and appreciative audience, and is a fascinating city for the study of saints, if of a slightly later period: high points being the shrine of St Stanisław in Wawel cathedral, and Veit Stoss’ amazing altarpiece of the Dormition of the Virgin in the church of St Mary.

I talked to the title ‘Levels of sainthood and of cult in the Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity project’, exploring the implicit (and sometimes) explicit hierarchy of the saints in Heaven, and the different levels of cult they attracted on earth (which did not necessarily tally with their heavenly importance).  It was a very general paper, aimed primarily at showcasing the huge richness and diversity of our evidence, and the value of our database – which we have decided to launch (before completion) on 1st November (All Saints Day) this year!