Cult of Saints in Medieval Central Europe

Academic Year: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Code: 
MEDS 5286-5287
Course Description: 

This seminar will provide an overview of the cult of the saints in medieval Central Europe from the point of view of their function as patrons of smaller or larger communities. It will first provide an overview of the formation of the cult of saints in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, and explore the principal types of saints venerated (martyr and confessor saints; hermits, bishops, abbots, virgins, saint kings, warrior saints, saintly laypeople). Then, in a second round, it will analyze the Christianization process in Central Europe and the role of the introduction of new cults in this domain. A comparative view will be cast on Western Europe, with the transformation of these cults from the 12th century on: the reappearance of the “charismatic” holy man, the “living saint”, the centralization of the right to initiate new cults by the Papacy, the introduction of the canonization processes. Another comparative look will be cast to the East, to Byzantine and Slavic Orthodoxy. The problem, how these cults reached Central European countries, and how local cults joined them, and how these cults reflected and shaped local, regional and national identities will be considered throughout this overview, and analyzed in a number of case studies.


The organization of our work: The course can be taken also without tutorial, but the tutorial cannot be taken without the course. The courses will consist of lectures and presentations of the written and iconographic source materials. The tutorials will consist of discussion of selected readings, relating to the lectures on the previous day. These discussions will be based on individual presentations by the participants of the course (a critical introduction with some questions to be further discussed, related to a chosen source of scholarly study)


The goals of the course – to make the students familiar with research problems of the central cult-form in medieval Christendom:

- the type of sources related to the cult of saints (hagiography, iconography, sermons, liturgical sources)

- a sociological/anthropological approach to sainthood and miracle belief

Learning Outcomes: 

The students will be asked to make individual enquiries in topics of their choice within these fields. There will be an attempt to chart with each student, how the general topic might intersect with their own MA thesis topics


- three class journals (40%)

- one in-class presentation at the Tutorial (30%)

- weekly reading of one of the assigned pieces from the reading list and regular participation in the common discussions (30%)


for those only taking the Lecture course

- An in-class presentation of c. 15-20 minutes on a topic selected after consultation with the instructors (40 %)

- A final paper of 3000 words on the basis of the in-class presentation (40 %)

- Participation: contribution to class discussions (20 %)