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Prophets in Their Own Country: Living Saints and the Making of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages.

Here is "a study of sainthood as it was |practiced' in day-to-day encounters between living individuals considered saints by their contemporaries and other members of their communities" (1). After a brief historical introduction and an analysis of the writers and audiences, medieval and modern, of saints' Lives, Kleinberg focuses on four medieval saints.

Though K. recounts events in these saints' lives, his focus on their audience/community is most interesting. K. calls the sainthood of Christina of Stommeln into question because her biographer, Peter of Dacia, encouraged her to report miracles, because her supernatural phenomena stopped after Peter's death, and because her own community remained skeptical. Although Lukardis of Oberweimar and Douceline of Digne gained the admiration of their communities, their relationship to their communities - cooperative and detached - differed. Once again, however, the audience was active in the formation of public sainthood.

The relationship between Francis of Assisi and his audience was more complex because of his immense following. By expecting his examples to be followed literally, Francis complicated the work of his successors who wished to make the saint's ideals more practical. When Bonaventure became minister general of the Franciscan Order in 1257, he "understood that the only way to unfasten the grip of Francis's dead hand was to offer an alternative that would transform Francis's history into a new, less action-oriented, and less radical message" (147). Francis's insistence on literal imitation and limits on his successors' authority to interpret his actions, however, "made it impossible to accomplish smoothly the necessary metamorphosis of living to dead saint - a process that consisted of forgetting the saint of reality and recreating him in his successors' image" (148).

By focusing on the audience of these four saints, K. provides a fascinating and sometimes iconoclastic view of saints in the medieval period.
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Author:O'Neal, Sandra R.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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