Reforming Saints: Saints Lives and Their Authors in Germany, 1470-1530

Hardcover | January 22, 2008

byDavid J. Collins

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In Reforming Saints, David J. Collins explains how and why Renaissance humanists composed Latin hagiography in Germany in the decades leading up to the Reformation. Contrary to the traditional wisdom, Collins's research uncovers a resurgence in the composition of saints' lives in the halfcentury leading up to 1520. German humanists, he finds, were among the most active authors and editors of these texts. Focusing on forty Latin depictions of German saints written between 1470 and 1520, Collins finds patterns both in how these humanists chose their subjects and how they presented their holiness. He argues that the humanist hagiographers took up the writing of saints' lives to investigate Germany'smedieval past, to reconstruct and exalt its greatness, and to advocate programs of religious and cultural reform. This literature, says Collins, left a legacy that polemicists and philologists in Catholic Europe would be using for their own purposes by the end of the sixteenth century. Thesehagiographic writings are thus both reflective and formative of the religious and cultural conflicts that defined this period of European history. To bolster his case, Collins draws not only on the Latin saints' lives, but also on vernacular lives, maps and chorographic documents, personal andprofessional letters, papal, urban, and municipal archives, painting, sculpture and broadside print, and medieval and early modern histories and chronicles. The result is a fresh, new portrait of the humanism of Renaissance Germany. With his surprising and insightful conclusions, Collins sheds new light on humanism's appropriation in Germany, particularly in its religious aspect. He approaches the humanists' writings on their own terms and recaptures the creative energy the humanists brought to the task of revising thelegends of the saints. His scholarly perspective includes the roles of emperors, princes, abbots, city councilmen, artists, librarians, soldiers, peasants, and pilgrims, showing how humanists reached larger and less learned audiences than many other kinds of writing ever could. The cult of thesaints and Renaissance humanism are two topics that have attracted considerable scholarly attention. Reforming Saints considers them as seldom before - at their intersection.

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In Reforming Saints, David J. Collins explains how and why Renaissance humanists composed Latin hagiography in Germany in the decades leading up to the Reformation. Contrary to the traditional wisdom, Collins's research uncovers a resurgence in the composition of saints' lives in the halfcentury leading up to 1520. German humanists, he...

David Collins is an Assistant Professor of Medieval and Early Modern European History at Georgetown University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:208 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:January 22, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195329538

ISBN - 13:9780195329537

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"In this brilliantly structured and meticulously researched study, Collins demonstrates the compelling interest of saints' lives authored by a range of northern intellectuals. Steering deftly between the Scylla of Erasmus's acclaimed life of St. Jerome and the Charybdis of Luther's equallyacclaimed mockery of the saints, Collins recovers the fascinating, nuanced contexts of hagiographic composition in the liminal period 1470-1530. The four central chapters bring to life holy bishops, eccentric hermits, patriotic authors, and demanding patrons. Anyone with an interest in how medievaldevotions survived Europe's passage to modernity will want to read this book." --Alison Knowles Frazier, author of Possible Lives: Authors And Saints In Renaissance Italy