Signs and Wonders: Saints, Miracles and Prayer from the 4th Century to the 14th, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Signs and Wonders

Saints, Miracles and Prayer from the 4th Century to the 14th, 1st Edition

By Benedicta Ward


320 pages

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Hardback: 9780860783169
pub: 1992-02-20

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This book is concerned with the concepts of Christian holiness and spirituality, from Late Antiquity through to the Middle Ages. The first group of articles focuses on the Desert Fathers, the following ones examine key figures in the monastic history of the medieval West, dealing above all with England and with Bede and Anselm of Canterbury. Throughout, Benedicta Ward's aim has been to find an approach that makes full sense of Christian writings, notably the hagiography, miracles and all. This should not be seen, she argues, simply as biography, nor as a quarry for information on social history, valuable though it may be for those purposes. The primary object of these Lives - as of the people about whom they were written - was religious; to neglect this meaning is to risk fundamentally misunderstanding these texts. Ce volume traite des concepts de la sainteté et de la spiritualité chrétiennes, de l’Antiquité tardive jusqu’au Moyen Age. Le premier groupe d’études se concentre sur les Pères du Désert, les suivants font l’examen de personnages-clefs dans l’histoire monastique de l’Occident médiéval, s’attachant avant tout à l’Angleterre et à Bède et Anselme de Cantorbéry. Benedicta Ward à pour propos constant de trouver une approche rendent tout son sens à la litterature chrétienne et notamment à la littérature hagiographique, miracles et autres. Bien que valable à ces deux niveaux, ceci ne devrait pas être perçu, souligne-t’elle, en tant que simple biographie, ni en tant que source d’information sur l’histoire sociale. L’objet premier de ces Vies est d’ordre religieux; toute négligence de ce sens peut mener à une mécompréhension fondamentale de ces textes.

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Hagiography and history: an introduction; Apophthegmata Matrum; Signs and wonders: miracles in the Desert tradition; The desert of the heart: importance of the Desert Fathers today; The image of the prostitute, from the 4th to the 12th centuries; Traditions of spiritual guidance: spiritual direction in the Desert Fathers; Discernment: a rare bird; A Tractarian inheritance: the religious life in a Patristic perspective; The miracles of St Benedict; Miracles and history: a reconsideration of the miracle stories used by Bede; The spirituality of St Cuthbert; Theodore of Tarsus: a Greek archbishop of Canterbury; Bede and the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons; A converting ordinance: Bede and the hymns of Charles Wesley; Translator's charity; Anselm of Canterbury: a monastic scholar; The place of Anselm in the development of Christian prayer; "Inward feeling and deep thinking": the prayers and meditations of St Anselm revisited; The Desert myth: reflections on the Desert ideal in early Cistercian monasticism; St Bernard and the Anglican Divines; The relationship between hermits and communities in the 12th century; The wounds of Christ: a medieval devotion and the Methodist revival; Laudabiliter vixit: the death of the Saints in some 12th-century sources; Saints and Sibyls: from Hildegard of Bingen to Teresa of Avila; "Faith seeking understanding": Anselm of Canterbury and Julian of Norwich; Julian the Solitary; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General