University of Warsaw

The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Description and organization

The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity project is a major 5-year ERC-funded research project, based primarily in Oxford, supported by a team in Warsaw. The project is mapping the cult of saints as a system of beliefs and practices in its earliest and most fluid form, from its origins until around AD 700. Central to the project is a searchable database, in which all the literary, epigraphic, papyrological and documentary evidence for the cult of saints is being collected, whether in Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Latin or Syriac. This database, which is continuously being added to, can already be accessed using this link:

On 27-29 September 2018 we are organising a final conference in Warsaw, before the project closes at the end of the year. The topic of the conference is as broad as the project – the cult of saints in Late Antiquity. What we hope to achieve is a broad picture of this phenomenon, and so, although we will welcome papers studying the cult of a specific saint, cultic activity or region, saints or regions , we will give priority to those that set cults and cult practices against the wide background of cultic behaviour and belief, now readily accessible through our database (already operational and filling up fast).

Among the confirmed key-note speakers we will have Luigi Canetti, Vincent Déroche, Stephanos Efthymiadis, Cynthia Hahn, Anne-Marie Helvétius, Xavier Lequeux, Maria Lidova, Julia Smith, Raymond Van Dam, and Ian Wood.

Those interested in presenting papers are requested to send title and short abstract (c. 100 words) to Robert Wiśniewski ( by 20 April 2018.

There is no registration fee, but please, note, we won’t be able to cover travel and accommodation expences.


Thursday, 27 September

12.00-14.30 – Registration/coffee

14.30-14.45 – Opening remarks

14.45-16.15 Visualising saints. Chair: Efthymios Rizos
Maria Lidova (University of Oxford): Placing martyrs in the Apse. Visual strategies for the promotion of saints in Late Antiquity
Robin Jensen (University of Notre Dame): Icons as relics: the role of the portrait in the early cult of saints
Luigi Canetti (Università di Bologna): Marks of glory. Material and immaterial traces of the divine between Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages

16.15-16.35 COFFEE BREAK

16.35-18.05 Material aspects. Chair: Adam Łajtar
Julia Smith (University of Oxford): From Material Blessings to Spiritual Pledges: Relics c. 400-c. 700
Cynthia Hahn (CUNY): Happy opportunity in the early cult of relics—reliquaries and shrines
Raymond Van Dam (University of Michigan) An environmental history of the cult of St. Martin

18.05-18.25 – COFFEE BREAK

18.25-19.00 – The Presbyters of the Late Antique West – launch of the database

19.00-19.30 – REFRESHMENTS

FRIDAY, 28 September

Constantinople. Chair: Bryan Ward-Perkins

Stephanos Efthymiadis (Open University of Cyprus): The cult of saints in Constantinople (sixth-twelfth c.): some questions
Vincent Déroche (Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance): Half forgotten saints: the abbots of the first centuries of Constantinople
Michał Pietranik (University of Warsaw): Emperor and sanctity at war: the case of Maurice (582-602)
Konstantin Klein (University of Bamberg): Wandering saints: the development of the cult of saints in Jerusalem and Constantinople

11.00-11.20 – COFFEE BREAK

Regions and migrations 1. Chair: Anne-Marie Helvétius

Aaltje Hidding (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich): From commemoration to martyr cult. Remembering the Great Persecution in late antique Egypt
Nikoloz Aleksidze (University of Oxford): Georgian sources for the study of the cult of saints in the Holy Land
Ian Wood (University of Leeds): The lives of episcopal saints in Gaul, c.470-550

12.50-14.15 – LUNCH BREAK

Regions and migrations 2. Chair: Vincent Déroche

Olga Špehar (University of Belgrade): Tracing late antique cults and rituals in the central Balkans: art, architecture and written testimonies
Anna Lampadaridi (University of Oxford): The origins of Italo-Greek hagiography: the cult of Sicilian martyrs
Bryan Ward-Perkins (University of Oxford): Unity and diversity in the late antique cult of saints

15.45-16.05 – COFFEE BREAK

Specific saints. Chair: Ian Wood
Efthymios Rizos (University of Oxford): Relationship between hagiography and institutions of Cult: remarks on the legends of Athenogenes of Pedachthoe and Julian of Cilicia
András Handl (KU Leuven): Invented, interwoven and interplayed: the evolution of the bishop-martyr Calixtus’ cult in late-antique Rome
Anna Salsano (la Sapienza, Rome): The Archangels Michael and Raphael in Coptic Acta Martyrum
Filippo Ronconi (EHESS, Paris): Sophronius of Jerusalem, Santa Passera, Santa Maria Antiqua and the beginning of the cult of Sts. Cyrus and John in Rome


SATURDAY, 29 September

Saints and senses. Chair: Robert Wiśniewski
Xavier Lequeux (Société des Bollandistes): Les saints myroblytes: des origines à l’an Mil
Martin Roch (Université de Genève): Significations et fonctions sociales de l’odeur suave des saints dans l’Antiquité tardive
Julia Doroszewska (University of Warsaw, CSLA Project): Apparitions of saints in late-antique literature

11.00-11.20 – COFFEE BREAK

Saints and monasteries. Chair: Julia Smith
Anne-Marie Helvétius (Université Paris 8): Monasteries and the cult of the saints in Gaul, c. 400-700
Evanthia Nikolaidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki): Conflicts among congregants and among monasteries: a demonstration of their cult and strong religious devotion to saints

12.20-12.40 COFFEE BREAK

Promotion and veneration. Chair: Elżbieta Jastrzębowska
Marlena Whiting (University of Amsterdam): Gendering the cult of saints: female worshippers for female saints?
Arik Avdokhin (Higher School of Economics, Moscow): Miraculous hymns and devotion to Saints in Late Antiquity: a perspective from the Greek-speaking Mediterranean

13.40 – A very brief conclusion

Organizers: Julia Doroszewska, Bryan Ward-Perkins, Robert Wiśniewski


(Text by the organizers)