The Saints

A Short History

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Simon Yarrow
  • London, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , December
     176 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Jakob Rinderknecht forthcoming.


The saints form a huge part of our world's history, on both a religious and secular level. Their shrines have attracted millions of pilgrims throughout the centuries, and their relics continue to be venerated today. In North America, even atheists and non-Christians know to bury a statue of St. Joseph in their yards for a quick sale of their property. On February 14th, the love-struck and lonely-hearted of the world declare their crushes with a card or gifts to the object of their affections, signing in the name of St. Valentine. But how did people become saints? What role does sainthood continue to play in our institutional beliefs and traditions? And how does their significance in the Christian ideology translate into other cultures and belief systems?

The Saints: A Short History explores the treatment of saints in literature and art and the way they have been used in politics, analyzing them as examples of idealized male and female heroism. Simon Yarrow considers the similarities between Christian Saints and holy figures in other religious cultures, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, and asks whether and how saints continue to be a powerful presence in the modern word.

In nine succinct chapters, Simon Yarrow introduces the origins of sainthood and sanctity and examines the part the saints have played in our society and culture, from the ancient world to the modern day.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Simon Yarrow graduated from the University of Newcastle in 1994 with a First in History. After staying on to take an MA, Simon moved to St Cross College, Oxford, where he completed his PhD under the supervision of Professor Henry Mayr-Harting in 1999. Since then, he has been Past and Present Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, London, and worked at St Mary's University College, Strawberry Hill, Birkbeck College, London, and the University of Liverpool before taking up a Lectureship at the University of Birmingham in 2004. He has published several articles and is the author of Saints and their Communities: Miracles Stories in Twelfth-Century England (OUP, 2006).


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