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Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Saints' Lives

Editor: Paul Halsall

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is located at the
Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.

Guide to Contents

The structure of this section of the Sourcebook is as follows. You can browse through the entire list, or jump directly to the part that interests you by selecting the underlined links.

  • Main Page
    will take you back to Sourcebook main page.
  • Selected Sources  will take you to the index of selected and excerpted medieval sources.
  • Full Text Sources will take you to the page on non-hagiographal full etexts.
  • Search the Sourcebook will enable searches of the full texts of all the source texts at Fordham, at ORB, or selected ancient, late antique, and medieval text databases.


Saints' lives are a major resource for anyone concerned with the history of the late ancient world, Byzantium, or the Latin Middle ages. Just as whole genres of ancient literature vanished or diminished, the genre of hagiography became a major form of literary production. Such saint's Lives - or vitae - survive in astonishing numbers. Careful reading of them reveals, as one might expect, a great deal about the religious life of the periods that produced them. Frequently, however, such Lives are also our best sources for basic social and cultural history. They provide information on, among other things:- details of daily life; food and drink; organization of local rural and urban society; the impact of commerce; gender relations; class relations; and even, on occasion, specific dates for military and political history. This page's goal is to present ancient, Byzantine, and medieval hagiographic original texts - in translation and otherwise - along with basic data on the cult of saints. Modern Christians, especially Orthodox Christians, still read such lives for their religious value. They will find some of these texts profitable for that goal. But the emphasis here is on the historical understanding of the texts and the cult of saints. [The word cult, by the way, is a technical term referring to the religious practices surrounding devotion to saints.] Web Sites for Hagiography 

  • WEB Christian Hagiography
    The web site of the Bollandists, a society within the Jesuits which for three centuries has lead the way in the scientific investigation of hagiography and the cult of the saints.
  • WEB Hagiography Site [At ORB]
    Web site by Thomas Head, one of the leading experts on Western Hagiography. This site contains translations made by Prof. Head, truly excellent bibliographies, and an incipient encyclopedia of hagiography.
  • WEB St. Pachomius Library
    The St. Pachomius Library is a Greek Orthodox project to put Byzantine texts on the internet, including many saints' lives.
  • WEB Ecole Initiative: Vitae
    Comprehensive listing of online source texts (including those here) in alphabetical order.
  • WEB The Military Martyrs
    A web site by David Woods focused on the military martyrs.

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Non-Christian Biography

Hagiography is not "biography" as such, but the genres clearly overlap. A number of classical authors wrote "lives" which greatly influenced later Christian hagiographical writings. Moreover, the accounts of the Jewish martyrs under the Seleucids provided important themes to Christian writers.

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I: Apostolic Era Saints  The following texts - all accounts of the martyrdoms of the apostles - are apocryphal. See Vol. 8 of Ante-Nicene Fathers for further notes and details.

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II: Early Christian Martyrs 


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III: Early Monks [Eastern] 
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IV: Patristic Era Saints 
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V: Byzantine Saints 

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VI: Western Europe: Original Lives 


CAROLINGIAN ERA (9th-10th Centuries) HIGH MIDDLE AGES (11-13th Centuries) LATE MIDDLE AGES
  • John Lydgate: The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund, 15th century, [At U. Alberta]
    A web project presenting the [quite readable] late Middle English text.
  • Archbishop Richard le Scrope, d. 1405. [At CUA]
    [This page has been created not only as an archive of textual and pictorial materials pertaining to Archbishop Scrope, but also as an experiment to see how emerging technologies might serve the purposes of interdisciplinary projects in medieval studies. In short, Hyper/Hagiography is intended as a model of one way in which students of ecclesiastical, political, and literary history might developinterdisciplinary hypermedia sites relevant to their own research interests.]
  • St. Bridget of Sweden: Revelations to the Popes, d. 1373, Latin edition by Arne Jönsson, [and Microsoft Word Version],  
  • Heliga Birgittas: Uppenbarelser, [Revelations of St. Bridget], in Swedish [At Göteborg University]
  • The Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa [At CCEL]
    Includes a Life, The Spiritual Dialogue, and Treatise on Purgatory, all from a 1874, 1907 English version. It is unclear from the etext if this Life is a translation of the Libro de la vita mirabile e dottrina santa de la beta Caterinetta da Genoa, or a modern work.
  • Transcript of Trial of Joan of Arc, 1431
    Joan was not canonized until the 20th century.
  • Sieur Louis de Conte: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc [in fact, a fictional account by Mark Twain]
  • Image and Story of Anderl von Rinn: A Blood Libel Saint, supposedly 1462, but the cult is 17th-century.
  • A Legend of the Austrian Tyrol: St. Kümmernis [At this Site]
    A female saint who grows a beard.
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VII: Western Europe: Latin/Vernacular Versions of Older Saints' Lives 
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VIII: Celtic Saints 
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IX: Metaphrastes and The Golden Legend 

Historians interested in the "real lives" of individual saints value the earliest texts above all others. But for assessing the cult of saints in Byzantium and in Western Europe, two rewritten collections of saints' lives dominate the manuscript record. There are about 700 surviving manuscripts of the 10th-century Byzantine "re-phraser" St. Symeon Metaphrastes. As a result his work dominates the later Byzantine conception of sanctity. Jacobus de Voragine, writing about 1260, achieved a similar dominance in later western hagiographical literature - about 900 manuscripts of his Golden Legend survive. From 1470 to 1530 it was also the most often printed book in Europe. This section of the Saints' Lives page will list online translations, or texts, of Lives from these two major collections.



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X: Post Medieval Saints- 

With the advent of printing, and the massive increase in available source material of all types, hagiography after the middle ages becomes less central to historians researching non-religious topics. It remains of interest, however, for religious history. But the nature of hagiography also changes. For ancient, Byzantine, and early Western Medieval saints, the Life often provided the unique data on the saint. When the popes took control, especially after the mid-thirteenth century, and increasingly formalized the process of canonization, the nature of available materials about a saint changed. Catholic saints (as also, in a less methodical way Orthodox saints) now acquired at dossier organized as a legal brief.

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XI: Modern Lives of Medieval Saints 

With the following texts, available on the net, I have not been able to ascertain who wrote them, or when. As a result, they are listed as "modern" texts.

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Appendix I: Aspects of Sainthood: Modern Discussions 

CANONIZATION Canonization procedures varied over the centuries, and from one Christian Church to another. The Roman Catholic situation is summarized as follows: "In the first six centuries of the Church, the sanctity, at first of martyrs, then of confessors of the faith, and later of those of heroic Christian virtue and of those exemplary in their apostolic zeal for the Church -- doctors, bishops, missionaries -- was so acclaimed by the vox populi of the faithful. From the sixth to the tenth century the definitive pronouncement of approval on the part of the local bishop gradually became a necessary culmination of a process of inquiry into the validity of such a veneration, the cult of doulia on the part of the faithful. Canonization has By 973 formal approval of the Roman Pontiff was deemed a matter of greater prestige for the veneration of a venerated saint, St. Udalricus. Under Gregory IX (1234) papal canonization became the only and exclusive legitimate form of inquiry into the saints' lives and miracles according to newly established procedural formes and canonical processes. In 1588 Pope Sixtus V, by his Immensa Aeterni Dei, entrusted the process of papal canonization to the Congregation of Rites. In 1642 Urban VIII ordered all the decrees and studies of canonizations during his own pontificate to be published in one volume -- and a century later, Benedict XIV systematized in a clear and definitive manner the basic expectations of heroic virtue and the indispensable requirements of the canonical processes according to the evidences of the Congregation of Rites. Pius X (1914) divided this Congregation into two sections: one, the liturgical section, and the other assigned entirely to the causes for canonization. In 1930, Pius XI established the historical section devoted to the critical-historical scrutiny of the evidences put forth in the causes for canonization."
[from a critical book on Hans Kung by Joseph F. Costanzo S.J.: On the net at]

In 1917, the formal procedure was incorporated in the Church's Code of Canon Law. In 1982, Pope John Paul II introduced a new simplified process. After a rigorous examination of a candidate's life, work and writings, undertaken by the Postulator of the Cause, the Pope accepts that the Servant of God has practised the Christian virtues in a heroic degree, and declares them Venerable, the first of three steps on the road of sainthood.Following a physical miracle, such as an unexplained healing, the candidate is Beatified by the Pope, and declared Blessed. A further physical miracle is required before the person is Canonised and declared a Saint of the Church.
[Info supplied by The British Royal Mail, 27 Feb., 1997.


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APPENDIX II: Mystical Writings by, or Ascribed to, Saints 

These are links only to mystical writings by saints. For writings by the Church Fathers, most of whom are considered as saints, see the Medieval Sourcebook: Full Texts page.

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APPENDIX III: Saintly Miscellany 
There are quite a number of web sites which are of interest for studying the saints and hagiograph-hese sites often contain first rate source material, but they intermix it with a good deal of overtly modern religious commentary. They are listed here - with an indication of their value - but need to be used with care by those engaging in scholarship.
  • Anastasis
    Home Page of the Monastery of Saint Andrew the First Called, in Manchester, England. Another confessional page with information on Orthodox saints. Each month it hopes to publish the Troparia for the Saints of the month as they are found in the Greek editions of the Mega Horologion, or Book of Hours. The text of the canon to All Saints is of interest.
  • Bishop Nicholas Orthodox Library
    A huge list of Orthodox saints, but basically ahistorical. The links are to a highly variety of pages, with no indication of what kind of material is pointed to. Perhaps best for the site's own collection of Lives of North American Orthodox saints. Unfortunately these are also modern texts, and with no indication of sources.
  • Nikolai Velimirovic: The Prologue from Ochrid
    The Prologue from Ochrid comprises very short modern synaxarion-type entries for the Orthodox saints of each day (or, to be exact, two of three of the many possibilities). To use this web page, one has to enter a month and date, and saints for that day are shown. It is not possible to find a saint if you do not know the saint's feast day. The page is connected to the Serbian Orthodox Church: Diocese of Western America site. This also contains an Orthodox Calendar (with Julian Era dates), and a short list of Serbian Saints with attractive icons. [It must be noted that the Prologue from Ochrid site is itself located at the URL of the Serbian Unity Congress. Although the SUC site contains much of interest to Byzantinists and those interested in the Medieval Balkans, also promotes a modern Nationalist agenda.]
  • Encyclopedia Coptica
    With a great deal of information on Coptic Christianity, and some on Coptic saints.
  • The Roman Martyrology. [At Mater Dei]
    The pages says it is going to put the entire 1962 version online, but only September and October are up as yet.
  • The Theology Library: Saints' Page
    [Used to be "CatholicMobile"] Useful guide to Roman Catholic resources on sainthood at one of the most intelligent of the general Catholic websites.
  • Catholic Online Saints [At]
    Extensive, but mostly short, entries in what amounts to an online Dictionary of Saints. Not entirely reliable - it does not always make clear, for instance, that there may be many martyrs with the same name.
  • Catholic Information Network: Saints and Martyrs. [At]
    Extensive, but mostly short, entries in what amounts to an online Dictionary of Saints. Uses many texts from Alban Butler.
  • Index of Saints. [At]
    By Katherine Rabenstein. An effort to write short biographies of all the saints of the old Roman Calendar. In general takes a pious view of the saints. Good popular bibliography.
  • The Celtic Saints. [At]
    from Edward C. Sellner: Wisdom of the Celtic Saints
  • Celtic and Old English Saints of the Orthodox Church. [At Internet Archive]
    On an Orthdox website in Canada.
  • Augustinian Saints and Beati. [At geocities]
    These are the saints and beati specially commemorated by the Augustinian Order. This text is a copy of the biographies contained in the Augustinian Missal, 1979, with additional information.
  • A Benedictine Martyrology. [At]
    A revision of Rev. Peter Lechner's Ausfuehrliches Martyrologium des Benedictiner-Ordens und seiner Verzweigungen by Alexius Hoffmann, O.S.B. (Collegeville, MN: St. John's Abbey, 1922).
  • Carmelite Saints, with short biographies.
  • Dominican Saints. [At]
    Modern short biographies of the main Dominican Order saints.
  • Jesuit Saints. [At]
  • Calendar of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Saints.
  • Peregrina Press: Translations
    Not, alas, full texts, but a catalogue of the many translations of the lives of women saints published by Peregrina.
  • Genealogy of Popes and Saints.
    Attempts to show the family relationships of medieval saints and popes.
  • WEB Companions of The Prophet [At Witness Pioneer]
    A sort of Muslim hagiography. Unfortunately, with no sources cited.

NOTE: The date of inception of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook was 1/20/1996. Links to files at other site are indicated by [At <some indication of the site name or location>]. No indication means that the text file is local. WEB indicates a link to one of small number of high quality web sites which provide either more texts or an especially valuable overview.

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is part of the Internet History Sourcebooks Project. The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.   Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021