Furta Sacra: Thefts Of Relics In The Central Middle Ages

Furta Sacra: Thefts Of Relics In The Central Middle Ages

  • Publish Date: 1991-02-01
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Patrick Geary
Brand: Princeton University Press
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To obtain sacred relics, medieval monks plundered tombs, avaricious merchants raided churches, and relic-mongers scoured the Roman catacombs. In a revised edition of Furta Sacra, Patrick Geary considers the social and cultural context for these acts, asking how the relics were perceived and why the thefts met with the approval of medieval Christians.

Saints are special kinds of heroes. They are of little interest as everyday people; their real significance lies in the way they exemplify universal values given by God. In Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, Patrick J. Geary devotes microscopic attention to the way medieval Christians and merchants raided tombs, plundered churches, and scoured the Roman catacombs in order to obtain sacred relics. Although Geary rejects the notion that cults of saints were "pure manifestations of religious devotions" devoid of cultural associations, he honors the religious impulses of some truly outrageous behavior. Geary's study is academic and a bit of a brain stretcher, but it's fairly short and worth close attention. In describing how hagiography mirrored the values of medieval society, he provides a helpful road map for alert readers interested in contemporary cults of saints. When Evangelicals honor C.S. Lewis, for instance, or South American Christians remember Eva Peron, or even when movie memorabilia collectors pay big bucks for Dorothy's ruby slippers, they relive a very old dream of bringing humanity's highest ideals down into earthly form. --Michael Joseph Gross

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