To understand European culture and society in the MiddleAges, it is essential to undestand the role of Christianity. And there is no better way to understand that role than to study that religion's greatest human heroes, the saints. For if Christians regarded God as their king, then the saints were the Christian nobility, human members of the divine court. To use one-much-repeated phrase, they served as 'soldiers of Christ.' The purpose of this volume is to present in English translation some of the most significant records of the lives of those people consdiered to be saints. In exploring these works, the reader will be presented with rich evidence about the development orf religion and society in western Europe from the late Roman Empire to the great changes that transformed European society around the year 1000.
Both during their lives and after their deaths, the saints were key members not only of the Christian community but also of Western society as a whole. As soldiers of Christ, saints were given enormous power from God. This power enabled them to cure disease, counter famine, quell storms, extinguish fires, and defeat enemies. Even the prayers of a holy man or woman were believed to be more effective than those of ordinary Christians. After their deaths, saints became residents of the divine kingdom, where they could directly present petitions to God on behalf of the living in order to win favor for them in God's court. The stories in this volume, therefore, are fascinating not only for what they tell us about the saints themselves but also for what they tell us about the men and women who venerated them during this turbulent and formative period in the history of Europe.