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, 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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