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Yale University Press
Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe

Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe

by Charles FreemanCharles Freeman
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A richly textured history spanning a thousand years of holy relics across Europe

Relics were everywhere in medieval society. Saintly morsels such as bones, hair, teeth, blood, milk, and clothes, and items like the Crown of Thorns, coveted by Louis IX of France, were thought to bring the believer closer to the saint, who might intercede with God on his or her behalf. In the first comprehensive history in English of the rise of relic cults, Charles Freeman takes readers on a vivid, fast-paced journey from Constantinople to the northern Isles of Scotland over the course of a millennium.

In Holy Bones, Holy Dust, Freeman illustrates that the pervasiveness and variety of relics answered very specific needs of ordinary people across a darkened Europe under threat of political upheavals, disease, and hellfire. But relics were not only venerated—they were traded, collected, lost, stolen, duplicated, and destroyed. They were bargaining chips, good business and good propaganda, politically appropriated across Europe, and even used to wield military power. Freeman examines an expansive array of relics, showing how the mania for these objects deepens our understanding of the medieval world and why these relics continue to capture our imagination.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300184303
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 11/20/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 324
Sales rank: 694,605
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Charles Freeman is a specialist on the ancient world and its legacy. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestseller The Closing of the Western Mind.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xii

Prologue: The Making of a Martyr 1

1 How the Christian Relic Emerged 9

2 The Incorruptible Flesh of the Martyrs 15

3 Creating a Christian Landscape 24

4 The Battle for Acceptance 29

5 The View from Byzantium 37

6 Bishops, Magic and Relics in the Post-Roman World 48

7 'A barbarous, fierce and unbelieving nation' 61

8 The Great Consolidator 69

9 Hope and Desperation in a Disordered World 80

10 Cults and the Rise of Anti-Semitism 89

11 Fervent Christian Pilgrims 94

12 'The eyes are fed with gold-bedecked reliquaries' 108

13 Looting the East 120

14 Louis LX and the Sainte-Chapelle 131

15 Sacred Flesh Between Death and Resurrection 139

16 'Christ's recruits … fight back' 146

17 Protectors of il Popolo 156

18 The Virgin Mary and the Penitent Whore 169

19 The Wondrous Blood of Christ 186

20 Rescuers and Devils 197

21 'Of far-off saints, hallowed in sundry lands' 206

22 'dead images that… may not… help any man of any disease' 219

23 Protestantism and the New Iconoclasm 228

24 Intimations of Reality 247

25 Reasserting the Miraculous 254

26 Within the Community of the Supernatural 266

Notes 271

Select Bibliography 288

Index 297

What People are Saying About This

John Cornwell

Charles Freeman's new book is absorbing, wide-ranging and rigorous, while remaining constantly accessible. There is much original material here and many fresh insights; Freeman's eye for intriguing stories never wavers.—John Cornwell, author of Newman's Unquiet Grave: the Reluctant Saint

Paul Fouracre

In Holy Bones, Holy Dust, Charles Freeman presents the massive history of relic veneration in a way that is at the same time comprehensive, compulsive and accessible. This is no mean achievement.—Paul Fouracre, Frankland: The Franks and the World of Medieval Europe

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