In the Hand of God: Sanctuary, Sacred Space, and the Cult of the Saints
This project will argue that the symbolic significance of sanctuary, which demonstrated undeniably the Church’s protective power, was naturally aligned with hagiographical literature (i.e., saint’s lives and related texts) in early medieval England. The project draws on recent work in literary and legal studies and religious history, but forges new ground in demonstrating the connection between the legal practice and religious traditions of sanctuary. Previous scholars of sanctuary have focused on the efficacy of sanctuary protection, its evolution within law codes, and the frequency and consequences of its violation. I will address sanctuary as it shaped and was shaped by the mentality of medieval Christians, particularly as they fashioned textual narratives that connected the privilege to individual or collective holy figures. The protection offered by churches and saints is dramatized in hagiography in such a way as to legitimate and reinforce church privileges in law. Medieval English sanctuary practice thus existed as a relationship between a legal tradition, a popular practice, and the religious literature in which both played a significant part.
Sexton, John P. (2008). In the Hand of God: Sanctuary, Sacred Space, and the Cult of the Saints. CARS Summer Grants. Item 44.