Get access

Learning from the Saints: Ninth-Century Hagiography and the Carolingian Renaissance



In the early Middle Ages (c.500–1000) in Western Europe, the saints played a vital role in the lives of all Christians. Everyone regardless of status or gender believed in their power to cure the suffering, protect the faithful, and castigate the wicked. Hagiography, the stories of the holy dead, celebrated the saints and helped maintain and validate their cults. For historians, these texts provide insight not only into the practice of Christianity, but also into the social and political landscape of the time. During the ninth century, many authors of hagiography also participated in and benefitted from a royal program of reform centered on education and uniformity. Yet, the stories of the saints reflect the continuation and predominance of regional concerns and the limitations of the message of uniformity in the so-called Carolingian Renaissance.