'One cannot read early Christian history without running across Peter Brown again and again. A specialist in Western antiquity, Brown's distinction is being at once a scholar's scholar and a popular scholar. Here in six brief chapters he opens the social, political, and ecclesial cultures that birthed and nurtured Christianity's unique devotion to its ''special dead.'' At his most brilliant he reveals the psychology and spirituality of late antique Mediterranean persons. Prior to this study the cult of the saints was largely attributed to the superstitious lower classes, or to baptized pagan practices. But Brown shows how, in addition to surprising cultural and economic factors, its true origins lie in ''the working of an imaginative dialectic which led late-antique men to render their beliefs in the afterlife palpable and directly operative among the living by concentrating these on the privileged figure of the dead saint.'' The permanence of Brown's work-see also his seminal biography of Augustine (p. 43)- is his rare ability to combine wide, critical scholarship and a deep sympathy with lucid prose. His achievement renders the potentia of the saints both more historically accessible and more believable.
An Eighth Day View:
Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, the cult of the saints was the dominant form of religion in Christian Europe. In this elegantly written work, Peter Brown explores the role of tombs, shrines, relics, and pilgrimages connected with the sacred bodies of the saints. He shows how men and women living in harsh and sometimes barbaric times relied upon the merciful intercession of the holy dead to obtain justice, forgiveness, and to find new ways to accept their fellows. Challenging the common treatment of the cult as an outbreak of superstition among the lower classes, Brown demonstrates how this form of religiousity engaged the finest minds of the Church and elicited from members of the educated upper classes some of their most splendid achievements in poetry, literature, and the patronage of the arts.
"Brown has an international reputation for his fine style, a style he here turns on to illuminate the cult of the saints. Christianity was born without such a cult; it took rise and that rise needs chronicling. Brown has a gift for the memorable phrase and sees what the passersby have often overlooked. An eye-opener on an important but neglected phase of Western development."--"The Christian Century "
"Brilliantly original and highly sophisticated . . . . "The Cult of the Saints"] is based on great learning in several disciplines, and the story is told with an exceptional appreciation for the broad social context. Students of many aspects of medieval culture, especially popular religion, will want to consult this work."--Bennett D. Hill, "Library Journal "