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Under the aegis of the saints. Hagiography and power in early Carolingian northern Italy

Under the aegis of the saints. Hagiography and power in early Carolingian northern Italy


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Under the aegis of the saints. Hagiography and power in early Carolingian northern Italy

Giorgia Vocino

Early Medieval Europe: Volume 22, Issue 1, pages 26–52, February (2014)

Abstract

In the transition from the Lombard to the Carolingian period, hagiography came to play a fundamental role in the strategies of legitimation and representation of the episcopal churches of the regnum Langobardorum. This article gives an overview of the features, choices, tastes and models of sanctity characteristic of Italian hagiography, against the background of local contexts and political competition. It demonstrates that in the territories under Frankish rule, hagiography represented a chief instrument in the hands of the ecclesiastical elites to shape and use the past in light of the concerns of the present.

Being both close to God and present on earth, where their remains rest, saints have always played an important role in the world of the living. The possession of a holy body – or just a little portion of it – and the management of the cult around it were, and still are, instrumental in shaping the political, religious and social balance in a given space. The early Middle Ages provide many examples of politics, saints and relics in close connection with one another. This certainly holds true for the Carolingian period when interest in the saints’ holy bodies grew, just like the boundaries of the expanding Frankish kingdom.


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