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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

Researcher

MMag. Patryk Michał Ryczkowski

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: € 314.454,00

 

iosaphat

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]

Abstract

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, 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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