This ERC project investigates the origins and early development of the cult of Christian saints in Late Antiquity. In mapping the cult of saints as a system of beliefs and practices in its earliest and most fluid form, the project will help us to understand the emergence of a central plank of Christianity, which once united Christendom and now divides it. At the heart of the project is a searchable database, on which all the evidence for the cult of saints up to around AD 700 is being collected, presented (in its original languages and English translation), and succinctly discussed, whether it is in Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Latin or Syriac. Towards the end of 2017, this database will be made freely available on line for other scholars, and the wider public, to use. For the first time it will be possible to view and search all the evidence for the early cult of saints, from the Atlantic seaboard of Europe to the Caucasus and Mesopotamia.
The ERC is the only body that can provide funding on the scale needed for such a substantial, ambitious and complex project, that requires six expert researchers, drawn from all over Europe and working over a five-year period, to locate and consider all the evidence for the early cult of saints, written in six different languages and recorded in a bewildering variety of literary and physical mediums: inscriptions in stone, mosaic and paint; sacred images; ecclesiastical and secular texts; papyrus documents, ranging from private letters to tax receipts; martyrdom accounts; saints' lives; and collections of miracles.
Podcast: Bryan Ward-Perkins introduces the project