Caelestis Hierusalem Cives.
The Role and Function of the Latin Hagiographic Epic
in Early Modern Saint-Making



Principal investigator

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Wolfgang Kofler


Dr. MMag. Patryk Michał Ryczkowski

Mariia Hrynevych, MA


Partner institution

Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, Innsbruck


Key Data

FWF project number: P 33258-G
Term: 01.04.2020–31.03.2024
Funding: € 355.314,00



Jozafat Kuncewicz, the protagonist of the poem
Josaphatidos libri tres by Jozafat Isakowicz (1628)
[copperplate by Aleksander Tarasowicz, ca. 1660
–1700; Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa, G.2209]


The project concerns early modern hagiographic epics devoted to saints and candidates for sanctity, which remain clearly neglected in research so far. This not only applies to the studies of epic poems (preferring the biblical epic and especially the historical epic), but also to studies of hagiography (focusing on prose and iconography) and studies on the post-Trent cult of saints. A particular research issue is the function performed by strongly conventionalized epic texts in saint-making. Three categories of poems will be considered, each of which comes into play at a different stage of the respective proceedings. The first group consists of epics which try to establish a new cult or to spread abroad a local one – either without or with delayed success; the texts of the second group engaged in ultimately, and rapidly, successful procedures; the epics of the last group seek to promote newly established cults.

Hagiographic epics were not only an expression of praise enjoyed by saints and those considered to be such, but played an important role in the process of saint-making, proving opinions regarding the sanctity of the persons concerned and thus supporting their canonization. They thus drew attention to the candidate for sanctity; they were to aid in bringing about the initiation of the canonization procedure or to spread the cult and knowledge of the newly proclaimed saint. Moreover, as poems of respected genre form, they were directed primarily to those who were able to actively support, including financially, the canonization efforts, although they also addressed wider groups of society.

In questioning the function of these texts, their literary form will also play a role. The project will explore how the tradition of ancient epic, which is very much visible in them, and the hagiographic background are being made usable for new propagandist purposes oscillating between the politics and the religion. Not least because of this approach, combining both pragmatics and aesthetics of the texts studied, the project will make an important contribution to closing a major research gap. So far, scholarship has paid little attention to Neo-Latin hagiographic epic poetry, which is why new insights are not only desirable per se, but will also lead to a deeper understanding of the religious culture of the early modern period.


Project-related publications and activities

  • Patryk Ryczkowski, The Triumph Of the Saint: St. Casimir Jagiellon and the Militant Motifs in Baroque Hagiographical Poetry, in: Baroque Latinity: Studies in the Neo-Latin Literature of the European Baroque, ed. by Jacqueline Glomski, Gesine Manuwald, Andrew Taylor, London 2023, p. 51–67.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Novus sol? The Cult of Josaphat Kuntsevych between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Rome in Latin Hagiographical Sources of the 17th Century, invited presentation at the international conference: Identity and Cult: Theological, Cultural and Historical Dimensions of Josaphat Kuntsevych, Ukrainian Catholic University Lviv / The Pontifical Oriental Institute Rome / The Catholic University of America / Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat / Embassy of Lithuania to the Holy See / Church Heritage Museum in Vilnius, Rome, 14.11.2023.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Making a Saint through the Lenses of Poetry: Kuntsevych’s First processus in partibus and His Verse Hagiography, invited presentation at the international conference: Josaphat Kuntsevych: History, Heritage, Memory. Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Josaphat, Vilnius University / Ukrainian Catholic University Lviv / Department of Cultural Heritage, under Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, Vilnius, 13.10.2023.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Hagiographischer Austausch zwischen Italien und Böhmen. Matteo Eudocio Persicos Epos auf Johannes von Nepomuk (ca. 1759/1773) und seine Quellen, presentation at the international conference: 400 Anniversarium Provinciae Bohemiae Societatis Jesu, Charles University Prague, 21.09.2023.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Warum kommt das Blut aus der Erde hervor? Jesuitische Instrumentalisierung der hagiographischen Legende über die Reliquien der Thebanischen Legion in der Mauritias von Louis Cellot (1628), paper at the international conference: The Poetics of Things Past: Transmission of Knowledge in Verse from Antiquity to Early Modern Times / Gedichtete Geschichtsdinge. Wissensvermittlung in Versen von Antike bis Früher Neuzeit, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel / Cluster ROOTS, 13 July 2023.
  • How to Write (About) a Saint? Strategies of Profiling Saints and Candidates to Sanctity in Early Modern Literature, project conference (in collaboration with Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies), Biblioteca Angelica, Rome, 21–23 June 2023.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Like a Phoenix into the Ashes: Christological and Jesuit Profile of Uniate Martyrdom in Andrzej Młodzianowski’s Emblematic Vita (1675) of Josaphat Kuntsevych (1580–1623), in: Profiling Saints: Images of Modern Sanctity in a Global World, ed. by Elisa Frei, Eleonora Rai, Göttingen 2023, p. 345–370.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Found in translation? One martyrdom, two redactions of the Basilian menology, and two versions of Josaphat Kuntsevych’s vita, guest lecture within the framework of the seminars on the Old Lithuanian literature (XXVI senosios literatūros seminaras) of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore (Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas), Vilnius, 10.05.2023.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Is there a Limit to Suffering? St. Jerome and the Basilian Approach to Early Modern Martyrdom and Devotion, paper at the 7th international conference Antiquitas viva. Encounters across languages, texts, cultures, University of Latvia, Riga, 28.04.2023.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Consortia palmae. Die referentielle Inszenierung der Aufnahme des Johannes von Nepomuk in den Heiligenkreis in der Nepomuceneis von Matteo Eudocio Persico, in: Johannes von Nepomuk. Kult – Künste – Kommunikation, ed. by Ramona Hocker, Werner Telesko, Wien 2023, p. 171–189.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Wie macht man einen Heiligen? Die Darstellung von Josaphat Kuntsevych in seiner emblematischen Vita von Andrzej Młodzianowski (1675), guest lecture within the lecture series: Positionen der Literaturwissenschaft (organised by Prof. Dr. Sebastian Donat), Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, 29.11.2022.
  • CHC meets GLOBECOSAL. Workshop on early modern sanctity, online workshop with the members of the ERC/SNSF project: Global Economies of Salvation. Art and the Negotiation of Sanctity in the Early Modern Period hosted by the University of Zurich (https://globecosal.ch/), 20 October 2022.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Why did early modern epic poetry glorify the medieval saints? St. John of Nepomuk in the Nepomuceneis Persico's, paper at the International Medieval Latin Congress Medialatinitas IX: Nostalgia in/and the Middle Ages, Charles University, Prague, 23.09.2022.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, The Role of Epic Poetry in Early Modern Saint-Making (Sébastien Rouillard, Hagiopoea, 1611), paper at the 18th IANLS Congress: Half a Century of Neo-Latin Studies, Leuven, 01.08.2022.
  • Wolfgang Kofler, Ein Gedicht macht selig: Das Nachleben der Quinque martyres von Francesco Benci SJ, paper at the 18th IANLS Congress: Half a Century of Neo-Latin Studies, Leuven, 01.08.2022.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Hagiographische Epik im Barock. Die Josaphatis (1628) und Sarbiewskis Theorie des Epos, paper at the international conference: Lateinische Literatur des Barock, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, 07.07.2022.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Saint’s Body and Soul Separated: Approaches to the Hagiographical Motif, paper at the 11th annual REFORC conference on early modern Christianity: Body and Soul. Comparative Studies on the Body-Soul Concept in the Pre-Modern Era, Berlin, 05.05.2022.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Guerrieris Ignatias und die Tradition der Ignatius-Epik, paper at the annual conference of the Jesuitica association, Bad Schönbrunn ob Zug, 11.03.2022.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Caelestis Hierusalem Cives. The Role and Function of the Latin Hagiographic Epic in Early Modern Saint-Making: An Introduction to a New Research Project, in: Neulateinisches Jahrbuch 23 (2021), p. 292–299.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Before the Metropolia: The Epic Narrative of Jozafat Kuncewicz and the Transition to the Uniate Church in Poland-Lithuania, paper at the workshop: The Kyiv Church Metropolia Searching for Its Identity in the 16th–18th Centuries, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (online), 06.11.2021.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Verse Hagiography in the Baroque: The Case of St. Casimir Jagiellon, paper at the international conference: Baroque Latinity, The Society for Neo-Latin Studies & The Cambridge Society for Neo-Latin Studies, Cambridge/ London (online), 18.09.2021.
  • Florian Schaffenrath, Wie macht man einen Heiligen? Matthäus Raders Lebensbeschreibung des Hl. Petrus Canisius aus dem Jahr 1614, guest lecture at the Dompfarre St. Jakob (in cooperation with the LBI for Neo-Latin Studies), Innsbruck, 01.07.2021– see the printed version in: Ianus 42 (2021), p. 13–20.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Die Inszenierung der Heiligkeit des Johannes von Nepomuk in der Nepomuceneis Persicos, paper at the international conference: Johannes von Nepomuk. Kult - Künste - Kommunikation, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (online), 09.06.2021.
  • Patryk Ryczkowski, Epidemic, Saint, and Epic Poetry: Verse Hagiography in the Baroque Period, blog issue for: Baroque Latinity AHRC-funded research network, May 2020 (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/research/research-projects/baroque-latinity; 06.06.2020).
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