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date: 17 October 2019

Saints’ liveslocked

  • Leslie Ross


Writings, often of a legendary nature, intended to honour the saints. These have inspired copious literary and artistic productions since the Early Christian period, when churches, shrines and martyria dedicated to saints became popular sites of pilgrimage. Although little evidence survives for the decoration of these monuments, it is clear that early picture cycles existed, depicting the honoured saints and/or episodes from their lives: S Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome appears to have contained a 5th-century fresco cycle with hagiographic scenes; episodes from the Passions of SS Peter and Paul appear on Early Christian sarcophagi and images of saints and apostles are found in catacomb paintings. Also from this period are the first lists of saints, a form of commemoration that developed into the manuscript type known as the Martyrology (an abbreviated listing of saints in order of their feast days). The writing of saintly ‘biography’, or hagiography, provided more information about the commemorated saint, whether apostle, martyr, confessor, virgin or hermit. This could take the form of a ...

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