Europa Sacra: Raccolte Agiografiche E Identità Politiche in Europa Fra Medioevo Ed età Moderna

By Soergel, Philip M. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Europa Sacra: Raccolte Agiografiche E Identità Politiche in Europa Fra Medioevo Ed età Moderna


Soergel, Philip M., The Catholic Historical Review


Europa Sacra: Raccolte agiografiche e identità politiche in Europa fra Medioevo ed Età moderna. Edited by Sofia Boesch Gajano and Raimondo Michetti. (Rome: Carocci Editore. 2002. Pp. 432. euro26.40 paperback.)

The papers reproduced in this volume were originally presented at a symposium of the Associazione Italiana per lo studio dei Santi, dei Culti e delI'Agiografia (Italian Association for the Study of Sanctity, Cults, and Hagiography). The meeting was convened to discuss late-medieval and early-modern hagiographical collections and the role they played in the sanctification of states and territories. This volume consists of twenty-two essays and a foreword and introduction from the volume's co-editors Sofia Boesch Gajano and Raimondo Michetti. In total, it presents the research of twenty-six scholars in some 430 pages. Although the focus inevitably falls on Roman Catholicism, particularly on Italian Catholic Reformation works, the collection is also augmented with pieces on early-modern Protestantism and Orthodox Russia. The geographical limits of the study are quite broad, ranging from Ireland in the west to Central and Eastern Europe and to Calabria in the south. But while the geographical view is quite extensive, the chronological scope is relatively limited, with most of the papers being firmly fixed in the period of a little more than two hundred years between the late fifteenth and the early eighteenth centuries. One advantage of this particular time-frame has been to illuminate the continuities that exist between the hagiographical traditions of the later Middle Ages and the work of Caesar Baronius and other great early-modern hagiographers, who have long been identified as major forces in the Catholic Reformation's reassessments of hagiography. As a result, the accomplishments of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries now stand out, not so much in stark contrast to the earlier period, but as the logical continuation and extension of fifteenth-century change.

Given the large group of scholars that participated in these meetings, one would not expect to find a common viewpoint in a conference proceedings of this nature. The book does not present a single, or even several points of view. Instead the collection shows a variety of perspectives on the problem of hagiography and its use as a force in state and territorial sacralization in early-modern Europe. The wide-ranging approach is also mirrored in the volume's use of languages. Fourteen of the twenty-four papers are written in Italian, four each in English and French, one in German, and one in Spanish. Such inclusiveness, though,has an unhappy downside: this will likely be a collection used only by specialists. Those hoping to find a "state of the art" presentation of current issues in the study of hagiography will be disappointed. Instead the book is a bonanza for the expert who hopes to mine it for new approaches to the problems surrounding the late medieval and early-modern cult of the saints, for information about certain textual traditions, and for insights into the interrelated themes of hagiography and state sacralization.

To bring order to these pieces, the editors have arranged them into three sections. The first treats case studies in which hagiographical collections became a vehicle for elaborating upon the character of the late-medieval and earlymodern territorial state as a "Holy Land." The case studies here present examples from Irish, Belgian, Polish, Bavarian, Russian, Spanish, and Italian sources. For readers in the Anglo-American world, the contributions of Pádraig Ó Riain on late sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Ireland and that of Trevor Johnson on early-modern Bavaria may be of special interest. Ó Riain recounts the efforts of expatriate Irish scholars to collect and reconstruct the island's late-medieval hagiographical collections following the destructions of the country's monasteries as a result of English-sponsored dissolution. …

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