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10. The Saint As Icon: Transformation Of Biblical Imagery In Early Medieval Hagiography

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Chapter Summary

In early Christian and early medieval hagiography, the saint appears as a character who cleanses his pagan environment with the passion of Old Testament prophets and who replaces the cultic objects with the Christian symbols of churches, chapels, sacraments and relics. This chapter analyses the activity of image building from a number of angles and focuses primarily on the themes of iconoclasm and iconoclash. In the case of each saint and its accompanying author, the chapter questions in which way iconoclasm is represented in a fairly literal sense. It discusses passages about the concrete missionary activities of the saints, as described in the vitae. Literal iconoclasm generally involves the destruction of pagan symbols, such as images, altars and trees. In a metaphorical sense, the chapter considers the theme of conflict in these texts. It then shows how the saint becomes in a sense the icon of this conflict.

Keywords: biblical imagery; iconoclash; iconoclasm; medieval hagiography; missionary activities; pagan symbols; saint; vitae



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