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  • Des saints et des rois: l’hagiographie au service de l’histoire by Françoise Laurent, Laurence Mathey-Maille et Michelle Szkilnik
  • Huw Grange
Des saints et des rois: l’hagiographie au service de l’histoire. Textes réunis par Françoise Laurent, Laurence Mathey-Maille et Michelle Szkilnik. (Colloques, congrès et conférences sur le Moyen-Âge, 16.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2014. 228 pp.

Ever since the term gained common currency, hagiography has traditionally been considered the ‘other discourse’ of historiography (p. 21). History as a modern academic discipline partly defined itself against saints’ lives, deemed too lacking in historicity to warrant the attention of the historian (and indeed too lacking in literariness to be of interest to the scholar of literature). This collection of essays aims to further the rehabilitation of hagiography pursued since the 1970s, not by opposing saints’ lives to history-writing, but by exploring the complex relationship between the two discourses. The twelve contributions were originally presented during two study days held in Clermont-Ferrand in December 2010 and in Paris in April 2011. As the editors Françoise Laurent, Laurence Mathey-Maille, and Michelle Szkilnik make clear in their Introduction, the two main thematic strands addressed during the seminars are reflected in the volume’s division into two parts. Part 1 tackles the broader relationship between hagiography and politics, while Part 2 focuses on the figure of the royal saint. There is, unsurprisingly, a degree of overlap between the two. The opening essay by Martin Heinzelmann stands apart from the others, thought-provokingly muddying the terms of the debate by tracing the emergence of hagiographical discourse from ecclesiastical history, and its later fragmentation into national and genealogical narratives. The contributors to Part 1 subsequently explore the broadest of issues through well-chosen case studies, dealing, for instance, [End Page 379] with the hagiographical ‘contamination’ of historiographical discourse to political ends (Christiane Veyrard-Cosme on Paul the Deacon’s Historia Langobardorum), the overlap between sacred and secular milieus as reflected in hagiographical works (Anne Wagner on the relationship between bishop-saints and the Ottonian dynasty), and the political capital to be gained at a regional or local level from hagiographical writings (Denis Hüe on the Norman cult of the Virgin Mary). Part 2 examines how lay models of sanctity found expression in the figure of the ‘royal saint’. The political role played by lives of royal saints in bolstering dynastic claims is considered here (Edina Bozoky on lives of Edward the Confessor), alongside the ambiguous status of these figures (Marie-Madeleine Castellani on Rutebeuf’s Vie de sainte Elysabel) and of some of their genre-defying biographies (Élisabeth Gaucher-Rémond on Joinville’s Vie de saint Louis). ‘Hagiography is good for medievalists’, writes Simon Gaunt in Gender and Genre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 180), chiefly because it reminds us of the preponderance of pious material in the medieval literary landscape. It might also be said that hagiography, precisely because it so often slips between our modern disciplinary boundaries, provides an excellent forum for medievalists of different stripes to come together. As this volume shows, much good can arise from that.

Huw Grange
University of Cambridge


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pp. 379-380
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