Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ages of Saints Conference

FWD from Derek Kruger, UNC Greensboro

An Age of Saints? Sainthood, scepticism and the authority of the Church in
the Mediterranean koiné, AD 200-900

Two-day Graduate Conference: University of Cambridge, United Kingdom,
1st-2nd September 2007.

Since the publication of Peter Brown’s famous ‘Holy Man’ article in 1971,
the cult of saints has been a prime marker for religious change between
the ancient and medieval worlds. The saint has thus been crucial to
scholarly efforts to delineate not only the religious, but also the
social, cultural and political identity of late antiquity. In this sense,
the rise of the holy man has been unstoppable and meteoric. But is there
scope to revisit the significance of the holy man in late antiquity? How
might historians take account not only of the positive evidence for the
change in religious sensibilities the rise of the cult of saints is
supposed to represent, but also of the significant and too often
overlooked areas of resistance to it that were expressed during this
period? How was the cult of the saints, their relics and their icons, used
either to consolidate or challenge the authority of the institutional
Church and its bishops? What was the influence exerted upon these
developments throughout the late antique and early medieval periods by
surviving non-Christian traditions, especially Greek and Hellenistic
philosophy? Was the articulation of religious authority experienced
differently in different parts of the Mediterranean and its hinterland?
If so, why?

>From the outset, it is important to note that, despite the emphasis on the
cult of the saints, scepticism and authority are loosely defined. Within
the overarching interest in secular or sacred opposition to, or
competition with, the cult of the saints, possible themes include: the
sceptical position towards sainthood established within contemporary
literature; tensions between public and private modes of interaction with
the divine; opposition to ecclesiastical involvement within the cult of
the saints, or the establishment of ecclesiastical paradigms of cultic
practice; opposition to asceticism as the 'spiritual ultimate'; medical,
philosophical or theological objections or corrections to contemporary
models of sainthood; the literary topos of the hagiographic doubter;
variant models of authority constructed within and around the cult of the
saints in general; tensions created by ascetic groups in relation to the
ecclesiastical and imperial institutions; heresy; iconoclasm; etc.

However, these themes are by no means exhaustive.

The conference is aimed particularly at doctoral students in the first,
second or third years of their research, with an emphasis on the friendly
and interested sharing of ideas. Papers which offer some perspective on
the unity, or divergence, of East and West are particularly welcome, but,
of course, this is not essential. The conference is not limited to the
Greco-Roman tradition, and we will look to include scholars of the
post-Roman West (including Visigothic Spain, Frankish Gaul and Anglo-Saxon
England) and of the non-Greek East (Syriac and Coptic Christianity,
Judaism and Islam).

We are endeavouring to provide two nights’ accommodation and meals,
probably at Trinity College. We must warn in advance, however, that we
shall unfortunately be unable to offer travel expenses. No registration
fee is currently envisaged.

Currently we are looking for the submission of abstracts (c.500 words).
Papers (30mins) will ideally be presented in English – but this is not
mandatory, as those in French, German and Italian will also be considered.

Please forward your abstracts by e-mail attachment to Mr Phil Booth
( or Mr Matthew dal Santo (,
preferably by 30th June 2007.

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