Storia Della Santità Nel Cristianesimo occidentale/Il Tempo Dei Santi Tra Oriente E Occidente: Liturgia E Agiografia Dal Tardo Antico Al Concilio Di Trento

By Matter, E. Ann | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Storia Della Santità Nel Cristianesimo occidentale/Il Tempo Dei Santi Tra Oriente E Occidente: Liturgia E Agiografia Dal Tardo Antico Al Concilio Di Trento


Matter, E. Ann, The Catholic Historical Review


Storia della santità nel cristianesimo occidentale. By Anna Benvenuti, Sofia Boesch Gajano, Simon Ditchfield, Roberto Rusconi, Francesco Scorza Barcellona, and Gabriella Zarri. [Sacro/Santo, 9.] (Rome: Viella. 2005. Pp. 427. euro28.00 paperback.)

Il tempo dei santi tra Oriente e Occidente: Liturgia e agiografia dal tardo antico al concilio di Trento. Edited by Anna Benvenuti and Marcello Garzaniti. [Atti del IV Convegno di studio dell'Associazione italiana per Io studio della santità, dei culti e delTagiografia. Firenze, 26-28 ottobre 2000.] (Rome: Viella. 2005. Pp. viii, 501. euro39.00 paperback.)

No academic culture is more welcoming to the study of sanctity and holy people in Christian history than that of Italy, where even some secular universities have faculty chairs dedicated to hagiography and where faculty in general departments of history can make careers based on the study of saints and sainthood. Anna Benvenuti, the force behind these two volumes, a professor of medieval history at the University of Florence, has long been an expert on the role of holy people in medieval Italy, just as her colleague at Florence, Gabriella Zarri, has blazed a trail for the study of different forms of Christian sanctity in the early modern period. Sofia Boesch Gajano and Roberto Rusconi, who teach, respectively, medieval history and the history of Christianity at the Università di RomaTre, are also weE known for their work on Christian saints and the role of sanctity in Christian culture, especiaEy in medieval Italy. The first volume under review here, Storia delia santità nel cristianesimo occidentale (The History of Sanctity in Western Christianity) brings this remarkable quartet together with Francesco Scorza Barcellona, who teaches the history of Christianity at the Università di Roma Tor Vergata, and Simon Ditchfield, who teaches modern history at the University of York in England, to offer a detailed and thoughtful overview of changing ideas of holiness and the roles of those we call the saints in Christian history from the beginning of the Christian cultus to the pontificate of John Paul II.

The material is divided chronologically, and to some inevitable extent, by theme. Francesco Scorza Barcellona begins with a chapter entitled "Origins," that brings the discussion up to the beginning of the fourth century. This chapter starts with the idea of martyrdom in second Temple Judaism and earliest Christianity, and traces the development of the Christian holy person through the beginnings of church hierarchy, the rise of the ascetic communities, and the development of sacred biography, pilgrimage, cults, and iconography specifically associated with saints.

The second and third chapters cover the Middle Ages. In the second chapter, Sofia Boesch Gajano considers the "structuralization" of Christian hagiography after the development of Christian political states, from the fourth to the twelfth centuries, as seen in monastic reforms, the role of the Papacy, holiness associated with visionary activity, and the rise of new forms of sanctity associated with holy war. Anna Benvenuti then takes over for a chapter on her specialty, late medieval urban life, in which she develops themes of local patronage as opposed to the centralized authority of Rome, new forms of religiosity among the laity, the rise of the Mendicants, and the development of a formal system of canonization.

The fourth and fifth chapters focus on Renaissance and early modern Christianity. GabrieEa Zarri takes the story to the late sixteenth century, through the Council of Trent, focusing on the christianization of society and the rise of Christian Humanism, the development of formal hagiographical literature, the rise of Marian cults, and the role of political prophecy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, including the "Sante Vive" of Renaissance courts, and culminating in the figure of Girolamo Savonarola. In the fifth chapter, "The World of the Reform and the Counter-Reform," Simon Ditchfield considers how ideas of Christian sanctity were formed by confessional identity (considering briefly, and for the only time in this volume, Christian sanctity in a Protestant context). …

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