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Saints are more than distant figures from legends and wall paintings. Their lives and cults have been rewritten over and over again to suit changing cultural preconceptions and social and political agendas. The obscure Cambro-Breton saint Armel became a badge of loyalty to the Tudor dynasty; Eastern European countries have competed to lay claim to Cyril and Methodius, founding fathers of eastern Christianity; the Indian mystic and poet Kabir came from a Muslim background but was appropriated by both Hindus and Sikhs. And perhaps most bizarrely, right-wing groups in England march under the badge of the Middle Eastern saint George.
While these ideas are familiar to historians of "popular" religion (that slippery term) in western Europe, they have a clear relevance to the study of religion in other continents and other faith traditions. Ranging from Ireland to India and from the first to the third millennium, this collection brings together essays written from the perspective of gender, politics and national and cultural identities as well as the sociology of religion. The main thrust is medieval and Christian but it also considers more recent developments in Sikh, Hindu and Muslim cults and in the heritagisation of religion. A substantial introduction offers an overview of the literature, sets out theoretical frameworks and suggests further avenues for exploration.
Madeleine Gray is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of South Wales.
Contributors: Diane Auslander, Slavia Barlieva, Karen Casebier, Adam Coward, James M. Hegarty, Kate Helsen, Andrew Hughes, John R. Black, Madeleine Gray, Svitlana Kobets, Samantha Riches, Anne Schuchman, Jayita Sinha,