Relics carried great significance in medieval Christianity. Generally these relics, or at least first-class relics, were fragmented bodies, literal pieces of saints, where a part or parts represented the whole. This idea reverberates with what Robyn Malo has called “relic discourse.” She argues that as saints’ bodies became more and more elaborately enshrined in fancy reliquaries, they became less accessible to the people; similarly, the language of hagiographies and other devotional writings, with their characteristic rhetoric of treasure and brightness, provided a substitute for direct experience of the relic. Extending Malo’s idea to anchoritic literature, Sauer argues that anchorites, who are alive yet dead to the world, can themselves be read as living relics; therefore, anchoritic literature uses vocabulary and rhetoric that calls to mind relics and reliquaries. In this way, the position of the anchorite as a living relic, and thus a mediator among the living and the dead and the divine, is manifest.


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pp. 51-70
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