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Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages

Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages

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Overview

The saint and animal story in medieval saints' Lives has a long tradition - explored in detail here. The volume ranges from the very beginning of the genre in the Late Antique east, through the early medieval western European adaptations, including in Ireland, to the twelfth century, to its conclusion with a new assessment of Saint Francis' dealings with animals. The author argues that stories of saints and animals drew from a variety of sources, including scripture and classical literature, and also elements of folklore; they had clear spiritual meanings, which were adapted to the development of the Church, and its relationship to the people in the medieval West. Almost as soon as the genre became standardised, its appearance in saints' Lives begin to show new influences rising from the fund of popular folklore. The relationship between Church and rural folklore is also explored, both through unusual examples of the genre of saint and animal story, and through a case study of twelfth-century miracle cults from the north of England. The study finishes with Saint Francis, where the social relations underpinning the tradition of the genre are shifting towards a new culture at the root of our own.

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