resulted in a miracle, such as healing from an illness, but these are rare.28 The actual messages in these letters are rather mundane: the exchange of news, confirmation ofthe receipt of certain materials, or requests for spiritual counsel and concrete advice. These documentary sources thus provide a valuable counterpoint to the hagiographers who constitute the bulk of our literary evidence and who tend to focus on the miraculous. In reality, miracles must have been an integral but minor part of a holy man's activities.

Central to the cult of saints are their relics.29 The saint's body, which had become the instrument of his personal perfection in the faith, was believed to carry the same powers of intercession with God after death as the living holy man had during his lifetime. Hence the cult at the burial site, where the body exuded sanctity in tangible form. The connection between the cult of the dead, the special veneration of martyrs and the inspirational effect of such practices is highlighted for the first time in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who died in 167. After he had been executed in the arena and his body cremated, the Christians were allowed access:

Thus at last, collecting the remains that were dearer to us than precious stones and finer than gold, we buried them in a fitting spot. Gathering here, so far as we can, in joy and gladness, we will be allowed by the Lord to celebrate the anniversary day of his martyrdom, both as a memorial for those who have already fought the contest [of martyrdom] and for the training and preparation of those who will do so one day.30

In subsequent centuries, the physical remains of martyrs and saints were eagerly sought after by bishops, monks and lay men and women alike, generating a lively activity of finding a saint's relics that were hitherto unknown (inventio), and an intense traffic in moving relics from one place to another (translatio)?1 The first translatio is that of Babylas, a martyr of the Decian persecution, in c. 351 from its burial place in the cemetery outside Antioch to a new church in the suburb of Daphne which had been constructed over a temple of Apollo. The first inventio similarly served to claim symbolic territory. It was performed by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who 'uncovered' the over-sized, bleeding skeletons of the local martyrs Gervasius and Protasius in 386, just in time to have them transported to his newly constructed basilica in a show of strength against the local Arian opposition. In his sermon to

28 C. Rapp, '"For next to God, you are my salvation"'.

29 A. Angenendt, Heilige und Reliquien.

30 Martyrdom of Polycarp 18.

31 M. Heinzelmann, Translationsberichte und andere Quellen des Reliquienkultes.

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