‘Your industrious fellow townsman’ The Cult of Saints and Civic Identity in Late Antiquity and Byzantium
This paper will discuss the cult of saints in its civic setting, and its role in building communal identity and cohesion in the late antique and Byzantine city. Homilies, hagiographic texts, and visual sources reveal how bishops and communities used rhetoric and ritual, in order to build a Christian urban paradigm centred on the saints. Exuberant feasts and processions celebrated the city as the shared home of the living people and their (not really) dead saints. The saints provided a Christian alternative for civic religion, and facilitated a compromise between the Church and the traditions of the Greco-Roman city. The message was clear: the saints were at home in their earthly cities no less than in their heavenly mansions, and so could the Christians feel as well.
Efthymios Rizos is an archaeologist and historian, trained at the Universities of Thessaloniki and Oxford. His research has focused on late antique urbanism, military building, and the cult of saints. He is the editor of the volume New Cities in Late Antiquity (Bilbiotheque de l’Antiquite Tardive 35) and one of the authors of the Oxford Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity database (http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/). He has worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Koç University Istanbul and the University of Oxford. He is currently a Research Associate at the Monumental Art of the Christian and Early Islamic East project at the University of Oxford.