Под окриљем светости: култ светих владара и реликвија у средњовековној Србији

Предња корица
Српска академија наука и уметности, Балканолошки институт, 2006 - 363 страница

 THE SUBJECT OF THE studies assembled in this book are the cults, saints and relics that played a vital role in laying the sacral foundations of the dynasty and the state in medieval Serbia. As for the saints, the focus is on national cults, either of the rulers or of other prominent members of the Nemanjić family. As for the relics, the enquiries encompass both the illustrious all-Christian ones and those national – the relics of the Serbian holy kings. The latter are not only the common denominator but also the substance of the two thematic wholes. Needless to say, sanctity was a key category of medieval Christian civilization. Undoubtedly the saint is a true hero and role model of that long-gone epoch. The saint is a person who even in his lifetime, and as a rule very early, comes to be recognized as a “holy man”. What distinguishes him from other people is the strength of his faith and love, his irresistible urge to practise virtue, his remarkable endurance, and his willingness to put himself to severest of ordeals, even death, for his ideals. Seemingly paradoxical about the Christian saint is that his true existence is the posthumous one. Owing to a life spent in virtue and ascetic endeavour, he posthumously acquires a special status, both in this world and the next. In the former he becomes the object of deepest reverence, of a saintly cult, while in the transcendental realm he enjoys the privilege of joining the choir of saints surrounding the Lord’s throne. It is only in his posthumous life that the saint fulfills his basic function – to mediate between Earth and Heaven. On men he bestows, for devout remembrance and worship, and as a pledge of eternity, the objects and places associated with his physical existence. These are above all his tomb and relics, but also sacral spaces which, being charged with divine force, manifest miraculous powers. To medieval man the saint was a supreme spiritual authority and a reliable support: in their lifetime, he provided protection and healing, and granted their requests if made with faith, and after their death, he proficiently defended their case on the Day of Judgement. Of course, sanctity is not only a theological concept and a focus of Christian devotional practices. Throughout medieval times, in both East and West, it was a major social and ideological, in other words, historical phenomenon. After all, no saint can exist by himself or for himself: he comes to be recognized and acknowledged by others, just as it is the wellbeing and salvation of the individual, and of the whole community, that constitutes the ultimate purpose of his actions and the rationale of his existence. The inclusion of a person in the category of saints is necessarily connected with a particular historical moment and socio-political setting. It is expressive of a vast variety of needs, expectations and aspirations of a social group. It was within such concrete contexts that, in medieval times, criteria took shape for choosing a particular saint as patron – of a state or a city, of a guild or an individual. They also played a decisive role as to whether, in a given period or environment, the dominant saint type was that of martyr, confessor or warrior, ascetic or healer. The historical dimension of sanctity or, more precisely, its being socially determined and ideologically exploitable, is exceptionally clear in the case of holy rulers. Not at all unexpectedly, considering that the holy ruler was the sacral embodiment of the supreme principles and institutions of his state and dynasty. Hence all the complexity of his saintly image. The holy ruler’s aura was twofold: in addition to qualities common to all saintly lives, holy rulers had to have other things to their credit, those associated with major historical issues relevant to the safeguarding, prosperity and sacral legitimation of the state and nation. Sanctity, conceived of as the supreme fulfilment of the Christian way of life, had tremendous importance for the shaping of medieval man’s personal and collective identities. In a civilization decisively moulded by an eschatological outlook, saints’ lives provided a model to be followed and were regarded as affirming the possibility and reality of redemption. They encouraged people’s sustained effort to live up to the ideal and self-perfect in virtue for the sake of their own salvation, thereby assisting them in preserving the “true faith” and perpetuating the established ethical norms. On the other hand, the creation and observance of a saintly cult was a two-way process. And not only with respect to the reception of sanctity, which in itself reveals many essential aspects of medieval piety and mentality. Society’s active attitude towards sanctity finds its full expression in the process of sanctification or, more precisely, in a complex and delicate procedure that may be seen as the “making” of a saint. It comprises a series of doings and rituals which, arranged and controlled by the church but with the support and participation of the masses, progress through several stages. In principle, the ultimate goal of the process, as well as its outcome, is always the same: inclusion of a person, in accordance with clear-cut criteria, in the choir of saints. This “universality” and “ahistoricity”, or conformity to a universal model, was a prerequisite for a saint to be collectively recognized and institutionally acknowledged as such. What appears to be different in each particular case, thereby making every case of sanctity unique, is the actual mechanism of elevation to sainthood. It depended on an intricate conjunction of factors – from historical and cultural to daily-political. Consequently, a person’s promotion to saint sheds light on the true motivating and driving forces in a given community. The uncovering, study and interpretation of such mechanisms and motivations – to the extent, of course, that the available sources allow – is the main objective of the researcher eager to grasp the historical reality of saintly cults. 

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