1st Edition

Studies on the Cult of Relics in Byzantium up to 1204

By John Wortley Copyright 2009
    300 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Constantinople was well known in its heyday for the enormous collection of relics housed in its churches: bones, even whole bodies and intimate possessions of holy men and women. Almost all these objects had been imported from various parts of the Roman Empire between the late 4th to the 10th centuries. They had been acquired because they were believed to have miraculous powers to ward off enemies, to heal sicknesses and to ensure that the capital was indeed the "God-guarded" (Theophylaktos) city it believed itself to be. These studies examine the means by which relics were acquired, the ways in which they were used and some of the reasons why for so long they were believed to be effective. The role of relics in the development of the cult of the Mother of God (Theotokos) is discussed as well as the curious relationship between relics and icons. The so-called 'deviation' of the Fourth Crusade and the subsequent sacking of Constantinople in 1204 may also in part be explained by an unbridled yearning to possess her relics; they were certainly pillaged and disseminated to the west, thus concluding an era of relic-history at Byzantium and initiating a different one in the west.

    Contents: Preface, Cyril Mango; Introduction; Part 1General: The origins of Christian veneration of body parts. Part 2 Building the Byzantine Hoard: The Byzantine component of the relic-hoard of Constantinople; The legend of Constantine the relic-provider; The earliest relic-importations to Constantinople; The 'sacred remains' of Constantine and Helena; The wood of the True Cross. Icons and Relics: Iconoclasm and Leipsanoclasm: Leo III, Constantine V and the relics; Icons and relics: a comparison. Part 3 How the Relics Worked: Three not-so-miraculous miracles; De latrone converso: the tale of the converted robber. Part 4 Some Relics in Particular: The Marian relics at Constantinople; Hagia Skepê and Pokrov Bogoroditsi: a curious coincidence; The oration of Theodore Syncellus (BHG 1058) and the siege of 860; Relics of 'the friends of Jesus' at Constantinople; The relics of Our Lord's Passion in The Russian Primary Chronicle. Part 5 A Curious Omission: Relics and the Great Church; Index.


    John Wortley is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of History, University of Manitoba, Canada

    ’Quelle excellente idée de rééditer John Wortley!’ Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique