The Book of Sainte Foy; The Song of Sainte Foy

The Book of Sainte Foy; The Song of Sainte Foy

The Book of Sainte Foy; The Song of Sainte Foy

The Book of Sainte Foy; The Song of Sainte Foy


The miracle stories surrounding Sainte Foy form one of the most complete sets of material relating to a medieval saint's cult and its practices. Pamela Sheingorn's superb translation from the Medieval Latin texts now makes this literature available in English. The Book of Sainte Foy recounts the virgin saint's martyrdom in the third century ( Passio), the theft of her relics in the late ninth century by the monks of the monastery at Conques ( Translatio), and her diverse miracles ( Liber miraculorum); also included is a rendering of the Provençal Chanson de Sainte Foy, translated by Robert L. A. Clark.

The miracles distinguish Sainte Foy as an unusual and highly individualistic child saint displaying a fondness for gold and pretty things, as well as a penchant for playing practical jokes on her worshippers. In his record of Sainte Foy, Bernard of Angers, the eleventh-century author of the first parts of the Liber miraculorum, emphasized the saint's "unheard of" miracles, such as replacing missing body parts and bringing dead animals back to life.

The introduction to the volume situates Sainte Foy in the history in the history of hagiography and places the saint and her monastery in the social context of the high Middle Ages. Sheingorn also evokes the rugged landscape of south central France, the picturesque village of Conques on the pilgrimage road, and, most important, the golden, jewel-encrusted reliquary statue that medieval believers saw as the embodiment of Sainte Foy's miracle-working power. In no other book will readers enjoy such a comprehensive portrait of Sainte Foy and the culture that nurtured her.


The golden majesty of Sainte Foy has fascinated me ever since Professor Marilyn Stokstad showed a slide of her reliquary-statue in my first art history class. As I learned more about relationships among art, liturgy, drama, and hagiography in graduate school and later, my thoughts often returned to a figure that seemed to stand at the intersection of so many strands of medieval culture. Ilene Forsyth's magisterial book Throne of Wisdom made me aware of the Liber miraculorum sancte Fidis, and her short quotations from it whetted my appetite for the whole. Surely, I thought, there is even more information about the reliquary-statue to be gleaned from that text. Being one of those people who begins at the beginning, I acquired a copy of the Latin text and, having made a commitment to keep my medieval Latin supple through use, I began to read it with my Latin reading parmer, Marcelle Thiébaux. Soon I was in Sainte Foy's thrall and kept translating until I had a draft of most of the text. Kathleen Ashley convinced me that I should put these entertaining, informative, and often surprising stories into publishable form and gave me crucial moral and intellectual support along the way. I also began to present papers in which I explored various aspects of Sainte Foy's impact on medieval culture, and Kathleen Ashley and I have since joined forces to work on interpretive studies of Sainte Foy's cult.

I am indebted to many people for the encouragement I needed to complete this volume. the Friends of the Saints, an informal gathering of scholars interested in various aspects of the saints, listened to samples from an early draft with forbearance and enthusiasm; over the years their meetings have been for me an on-going seminar in hagiography. Floyd Moreland and Rita Fleischer were the best possible teachers of Latin. Marcelle Thiébaux and I worked closely together on a first draft of portions of the Book of Miracles; she has generously allowed me to make use of her work. Mark Sheingorn and Carol Weisbrod reacted with graciousness and patience when I turned our summer home into "medieval camp" for weeks at a time. C. Clifford Flanigan generously and characteristically gave time and expertise to working through parts of the translation with me. It is an . . .

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