- Monumenta sanctorum: Rom und Mailand als Zentren des frühen Christentums: Märtyrerkult und Kirchenbau unter den Bischöfen Damasus und Ambrosius by Markus Löx
Monumenta sanctorum: Rom und Mailand als Zentren des frühen Christentums: Märtyrerkult und Kirchenbau unter den Bischöfen Damasus und Ambrosius
Spätantike-Frühes Christentum-Byzanz, Reihe B: Studien und Perspektiven 39
Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2013
Pp. 352. €68.99.
In this volume Löx examines the ways in which, in the late fourth century, Damasus in Rome and Ambrose in Milan promoted the cult of the saints. The work opens with a chapter providing a fairly standard, though up-to-date, biography of both individuals, which manages to highlight nicely the contrast between the two men’s rise to the episcopacy. The next chapter looks at the cult of the saints in both Rome and Milan in terms of the architectural projects of both bishops in light of the differing conditions in the two cities, particularly the ways in which they did not engage in new building works but drew attention to existing sites. This flows into Chapter Three, in which there is consideration of the epigrams erected to promote the cult. Löx notes the ways in which Damasus used inscriptions to authenticate the sites of martyrs’ burials, while Ambrose commented [End Page 140] upon the symbolic meanings of the buildings in which they were buried and his own role in their discovery.
Chapter Four provides for me the most dramatic contrast between the activities of these two bishops: Damasus was content to leave martyrs buried where they were outside the city walls and organize itineraries for pilgrims to visit, while Ambrose, particularly in the case of Gervasius and Protasius, moved their remains if not into the city then into one site in his Basilica Apostolorum, in a clear violation of imperial law. The final chapter looks at how even in their own deaths and burials, Damasus and Ambrose sought to promote and utilize the cult of saints. The argument is made that Damasus’s interest in papal primacy was tied up with his promotion of the saints, while for Ambrose it was about being buried in his basilica surrounded by the saints he had discovered.
Marianne Sághy’s articles over the past decade or so have examined the ways in which Damasus promoted the cult of the saints not to promote papal primacy but ecclesial unity in the face of schism and division. I find that a more compelling argument than the one put forward in this volume, although it must be admitted that there is a tradition of reading Damasus this way, as evidenced by Henry Chadwick and Ann van Dijk and even Sághy herself on occasion. However, a close reading of Damasus’s epigram for Peter and Paul does not stress their primacy among the saints, so I think arguments about papal primacy drawn out from the inscriptions are somewhat fanciful.
The fact that these two contemporary bishops are contrasted guarantees the usefulness of this volume for scholars. That two bishops facing two different types of challenges both used Christian veneration of the martyrs and other saints to try and reinforce their authority should not surprise us. Attention to material culture in the volume widens and deepens our historical, political, and ecclesiastical appreciation of these two late antique bishops.