Robert Wisniewski

Senior Fellow
Medieval Studies
University of Warsaw, Poland
Project Title: 
Touching Relics
Project Abstract: 

The project, which is a part of a wider study on the beginning of the late antique cult of relics, will focus on the question of physical contact with relics. Its purpose is to answer a string of questions: Why, where and how Christians came to touch and kiss the fragments of saints' corporal remains? What mechanisms permitted the breaking of the taboo of touching dead bodies, widespread in the Mediterranean? How strong and widespread the new custom was? These questions will be addressed by means of a wide and systematic search through the literary and archaeological evidence from diverse regions of the late antique Christendom. The literary evidence will involve narrative sources, sermons, letters and other forms of literary production. The material evidence will consist in cult places, reliquaries and, sometimes, their contents.

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