A Site of Blessings, Dreams, and Wonders: The Egyptian Saint's Shrine as Crucible of Christianization, ca. 400-700 CE

Prof. David Frankfurter

The 2009-2010 Weltin Lecture in Early Christianity

Since Peter Brown's evocative Cult of the Saints (1981), the saint's shrine has become a major topic in the study of early Christianity: pilgrims' goal, ceremonial center, meeting place for communities and their heavenly patrons. In most places across the late antique world, the saint's shrine defined Christianity. But in the process these shrines also became sites for the assertion of older religious traditions-for "syncretism." Focusing on late antique Egypt (while drawing on comparative materials), this lecture will look at ways that local cultures came to appropriate saints' shrines to express Christianity in traditional terms.

David Frankfurter, Professor of Religious Studies and History at the University of New Hampshire, is the author of numerous articles on apocalypticism, magic, Christianization, demonology, and violence in antiquity, especially in Roman and late antique Egypt, and is the recipient of Guggenheim, N.E.H., Radcliffe Institute, and Institute for Advanced Study fellowships. His books include Elijah in Upper Egypt (Fortress Press, 1993), Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance (Princeton University Press, 1998), and Evil Incarnate: Rumors of Demonic Conspiracy and Satanic Abuse in History (Princeton University Press, 2006), the last two of which each won the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion. His current research concerns the particular social worlds in which Christian ideas and symbols were brought together with native Egyptian traditions in late antiquity.