PhD Medieval Seminar—Comparative Approaches to Sainthood

Course Status: 
CEU credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
12 Jan 2011 - 1 Apr 2011
Gábor Klaniczay
Tijana Krstić

The Department of Medieval Studies sees the PhD Seminar as an opportunity for high-level academic exchange among the PhD-students (from all years) and faculty members; it aims at providing a stimulating atmosphere of amicable and animated discussions offering new ideas and innovative approaches for all participants. Everyone, especially advanced PhD candidates returning to CEU and Budapest during term time, are invited to participate and to present their recent research within the given thematic framework of the seminar. We hope in this way to foster an intensive and enduring research community which members will enjoy participating in.

The focus of this Winter PhD Seminar is on comparative approaches to sainthood, in late antique, Byzantine and medieval Christian and Islamic contexts. Key historiographic texts will be critically evaluated and discussions will target possible application of these approaches to the students’ own research. Two general presentations will open the course: one by a renowned British expert of hagiographic research, Robert Bartlett (St. Andrews), the other by the two directors of the course, presenting the comparative historical agenda (weeks 1-2). This will be followed by discussions arranged in three thematic blocks. The first will be dedicated to “texts and images - hagiographic genres,” the second to “holiness and the body - corporeal and gender dimensions of sainthood,” the third to “spaces and practices”. The thematic sessions would include presentations prepared by the participants, related to a critical analysis of the suggested readings. In addition each section would contain a special session dedicated to student presentations by those, whose individual specialization could allow the formulation of an own research-proposal within the given thematic field.

Learning Outcomes:  

A thorough introduction to the methodologies and comparative historical approaches of a vast but still consistent and circumscribed field ; ability to review complex historical texts critically and to apply these approaches to primary material of various kinds innovatively and independently; ability to present ideas orally and take part in academic discussions in English. – To be assessed through the quality of individual discussion points and presentations.

Assessment :  

Participants will be expected to attend sessions prepared and partake actively in discussions of compulsory readings. Additionally, each participant – including faculty – will be asked to contribute one twenty to thirty-minute presentation. Grading will be based on attendance (10 %), participation (35 %) and presentation (55 %).

General bibliography:

Denise Aigle, ed., Miracle et Kar­ama: Hagiographies médiévales comparées (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000)

Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981)

Ernst Gellner, Saints of the Atlas (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969).

Ignaz Goldziher, "Veneration of Saints in Islam," in idem., Muslim Studies, Vol. II, edited and translated by S. M. Stern, (London, 1971)

Sergei Hackel, ed., The Byzantine Saint (New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary, 2001)

Thomas Head, ed., Medieval Hagiography. An Anthology  (New York: Routledge,  2000)

James Howard-Johnston and Paul Antony Hayward, eds., The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: essays on the contribution of Peter Brown (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1999).

Richard Kieckhefer and George D. Bond, eds., Sainthood: Its Manifestations in World Religions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990)

Gábor Klaniczay, Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses: dynastic cults in medieval Central Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Aviad Kleinberg, Histoires des saints. Leur rôle dans la formation de l'Occident,  (Paris: Gallimard, 2005)

Grace Martin, ed., Carl W. Ernst, assoc. ed., Manifestations of Sainthood in Islam (Istanbul: The Isis Press, 1993)  

André Vauchez, Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) 

Stephen Wilson, ed., Saints and their cults: studies in religious sociology, folklore and history (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Weekly outline

Week 1 (Jan. 12) Saint-Making in the Middle Ages  - Guest presentation by Robert Bartlett

(Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Mediaeval History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and a Fellow of the British Academy)

Among his books see especially

The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory and Colonialism in the Middle Ages (Princeton, 2004)  

The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2008).  


Week 2 (Jan. 19): Introduction: Sainthood and Cult of Saints in Comparative Perspective  (Gábor and Tijana)


Peter Brown, "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, 1971-1997," Journal of Early Christian Studies  6:3 (1998), 353-376.

Paul Antony Hayward, "Demystifying the role of sanctity in Western Christendom", in Howard-Johnston and Hayward, eds., The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 116-142.

Han J. W. Drijvers, "Hellenistic and Oriental Origins," in Hackel, ed., The Byzantine Saint, 25-33.

Carl Ernst et al., "Introduction," in Martin and Ernst, eds., Manifestations of Sainthood in Islam, xi-xxviii.

For further reading:

Robert L. Cohn, " Sainthood on the Periphery: The Case of Judaism," in Kieckhefer and Bond, eds., Sainthood, 43-68

Bernd Radtke and John Keane, trans., The Concept of Sainthood in Early Islamic Mysticism—Two Works by Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (Curzon Press, 1996).

William Chittick, The Seal of the Saints—Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn ‘Arabi (The Islamic Texts Society, 1993).


I.  Texts and Images: Hagiographic Genres in Comparative Perspective

Week 3 (Jan. 26): Legends, miracle-accounts, liturgy, sermons, iconography (Gábor) 


Thomas Head, “Introduction”, in Head, Medieval Hagiography. An Anthology. xiii-xxxviii.

Guy Philippart, "L'hagiographie, l'histoire sainte des « amis de Dieu »", in Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), vol. IV. 13-40.

Gábor Klaniczay, "Ritual and Narrative in Late Medieval Miracle Accounts. The Construction of the Miracle" - MS

Béla Zsolt Szakács, A Magyar Anjou Legendárium képi rendszerei [Pictorial Systems of the Hungarian Angevin Legendary] Budapest: Balassi, 2006. (English translation of chapter I - Ms.)

For further reading

Patrick Geary, Furta Sacra. Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages. (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1978).

Michael Goodich, Miracles and Wonders. The Development of the Concept of Miracle, 1150-1350, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

Cyrille Vogel, Medieval Liturgy - an Introduction to the Sources  (Washington: Pastoral Press, 1986), 61-134.

Beverly Mayne Kienzle, ed., Models of holiness in medieval sermons (Louvain-la-Neuve: FIDEM, 1996).

Engelbert Kirschbaum, Günter Bandmann [et al.] eds., Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie. I-VIII (Roma, 1984).

Week 4 (February. 2): Recording sainthood in Eastern Christianity and Islam (Tijana) 


Evelyne Patlagean, “Ancient Byzantine hagiography and social biography,” in Wilson, ed., Saints and their cults: studies in religious sociology, folklore and history, 101-122.

Paul Magdalino, “‘What we heard in the Lives of the saints we have seen with our own eyes’: the holy man as literary text in tenth-century Constantinople,” in Howard-Johnston and Hayward, eds., The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 83-112.

John Renard, "Literary Dimensions: Genre, Function, and Hermeneutics," in idem, Friends of God--Islamic Images of Piety, Commitment and Servanthood, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 237-58.

Omid Safi, “Bargaining with Baraka,” in idem, The Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam: Negotiating Ideology and Religious Inquiry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 125-157.

For further reading:

John Renard, ed., Tales of God’s Friends—Islamic Hagiography in Translation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).  

Derek Krueger, Writing and holiness: The practice of authorship in the early Christian East (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)

Stephanos Efthymiadis, “New Developments in Hagiography: the Rediscovery of Byzantine Hagiography” at

Katia Galatariotou, The making of a saint : the life, times, and sanctification of Neophytos the Recluse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

Week 5 (Feb. 9): Student presentations 


II. Holiness and the Body—Corporeal and Gender Dimensions of Sainthood

Week 6 (Feb. 16): Gábor


Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King's Two Bodies: a Study in Medieval Political Theology, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 42-86, 314-336.

Caroline Walker Bynum, "The Female Body and Religious Practice in the Later Middle Ages", in Michael Feher, Ramona Nadaff and N. Tazi, eds. Fragments for a History of the Human Body,  (Zone Books, New York, 1991) Part Three, 161-220.

Arnold Davidson, “Miracles of Bodily Transformation, or, How St. Francis Received the Stigmata”, in Caroline A. Jones, Peter Gallison and Amy Slaton, eds., Picturing Science, Producing Art, (London, 1998), 101-124.

Dyan Elliott, "Flesh and Spirit: The Female Body", in Alastair Minnis and Rosalyn Voaden,  Medieval Holy Women in the Christian Tradition, c. 1100-c. 1500,  (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010), 13-46.

For further reading:

Bynum, Caroline Walker: Holy Feast and Holy Fast. The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley/Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1987).

Coakley, John, Women, Men, and Spiritual Power. Female Saints and Their Male Collaborators (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).

Elliott, Dyan. Proving Woman. Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).

Sarah Kay & Miri Rubin, eds., Framing medieval bodies (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1994).

Week 7 (February 23): Tijana


Scott Kugle, “The Bones of Mawlay Idris,” in idem, Sufis & Saints’ Bodies—Mysticism, Corporeality & Sacred Power in Islam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 43-80.

Scott Kugle, “The Belly of Sayyida Amina,” in idem, Sufis & Saints’ Bodies, 81-122.

Alexander Kazhdan, "Byzantine Hagiography and Sex in the Fifth to Twelfth Centuries," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990): 131-43.

For further reading:

Scott Kugle, “Introduction,” in idem, Sufis & Saints’ Bodies, 1-41.

Myrto Hatzaki, Beauty and the Male Body in Byzantium (Palgrave McMillan, 2009).

Week 8 (March 2): Student Presentations


III Spaces and Practices

Week 9 (March 9): Tijana


Josef Meri, "Sacred Topography," in Cult of Saints among Muslims and Jews in Medieval Syria (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 12-58.

Fredrick Hasluck, Christianity and Islam under Sultans (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929) (on ambiguous shrines)

Robert M. Hayden, “Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites in South Asia and the Balkans,” Current Anthropology 43, 2 (2002): 205-231.

For further reading: 

John Renard, “Where God’s Friends Walked: Revered Sites and Ritual Settings,” in idem, Friends of God, 187-212.

Cristopher S. Taylor, In the Vicinity of the Righteous--Ziyara and Veneration of Saints in Late Medieval Egypt (Leyden: Brill, 1999)

Sara Wolper, Cities and Saints: Sufism and Transformation of Urban Space (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2003).

Week 10 (March 16): Gábor


Marianne Sághy, "La notion de «lieu saint» dans les premières vies des saints", in B. Caseau, J-C. Cheynet, V.Déroche, eds. Pèlerinages et lieux saints dans l'antiquité et le moyen âge : mélanges offerts à Pierre Maraval (Paris: Association des Amis du Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, 2006) 429-42.

Raymond Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 116-149.

M. Cecilia Gaposchkin, “Place, Status and Experience in the Miracles of Saint Louis,” CRMH - Cahiers de Recherches Médiévales et Humanistes. A Journal of Medieval and Humanistic Studies,  19 (2010), 249-266.

Kiril Petkov, “Where God’s Friends Walked: Revered Sites and Ritual Settings,” CRMH - Cahiers de Recherches Médiévales et Humanistes. A Journal of Medieval and Humanistic Studies,  19 (2010), 267-282.

For further reading:

Sofia Boesch Gajano and Lucetta Scaraffia, eds., Luoghi sacri e spazi della santità (Torino: Rosenberg & Sellier, 1990)

Diana Webb, Pilgrims and pilgrimage in the medieval West  (London: I. B. Tauris, 2001)

Dieter R. Bauer - Klaus Herbers - Hedwig Röckelein - Felicitas Schmieder, eds. Heilige - Liturgie - Raum   (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2010)

Week 11 (March 23): Student Presentations


Week 12 (March 30): Concluding Session


Richard Kieckhefer and George D. Bond, "Toward a Comparative Study of Sainthood," in Kieckhefer and Bond, eds., Sainthood: Its Manifestations in World Religions, 243-54.

Denise Aigle and Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen, "Miracle et Kar­ama. Une approche comparatiste," in Miracle et Karama,13-33.