special feast days be devoted to a particular saint, setting up his or her life as an inspiration and a model for the audience. A new Christian genre of writing exclusively devoted to the cult of saints was that of miracle stories that recorded remarkable occurrences at the cult site. The keepers of a shrine maintained a written log ofmiracles, selections ofwhichwouldbe recited when pilgrims assembled to celebrate a saint's feast day. Later redactors assembled these miracle stories, added a preface and then circulated them as edifying literature. An early example is found in the Miracles of St Thecla.

For the modern reader of these texts, it is vital to remember that they were not written with posterity in mind. Their aim was not to provide later generations with historical information about the life and times of their protagonists, nor to offer insights into the religious mentality of their followers. Rather, the hagiographers pursued the goal of generating instant discipleship on two levels: they assumed for themselves the stance of the prototypical follower and eyewitness to the holy man's accomplishments, while instilling in their audience the desire to imitate, admire and venerate the saint.47

Criticisms and doubts among contemporaries

The cult of saints attained enormous popularity, both in East and West. Not surprisingly, this opened the door to abuses. The greatest concerns were exploitation for personal gain and the authenticity of relics.

Pachomius, for example, demanded for himself an unmarked burial site, for fear that a martyrium would be erected over his tomb. Such practices he labelled outright as 'commercializing the bodies ofthe saints'.48 Personal greed could also lead to the creation of false relics: Gregory the Great reported that 'certain Greek monks' had dug up bones of dead men in the vicinity of the Church of St Paul in Rome in order to pass them off as relics back home.49

Scattered remarks in hagiographical texts show that even those who themselves had every expectation of being considered holy were weary of false relics: James of Cyrrhestica explained that he had stayed away from the adven-tus celebrations for the relics of St John the Baptist because he was worried that they belonged to another man by that name.50 And Martin of Tours unmasked the tomb of a supposed martyr as the burial site of a robber.51

47 C. Rapp, 'Storytelling as spiritual communication'; D. Krueger, Writingandholiness.

48 BohairicLifeofPachomius 122.

49 Gregory the Great, Registrum epistularum 4.30.

50 Theodoret, History of the monks in Syria 21.20.

51 Sulpicius Severus, Life of Martin 11.

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