Against the Cult of the Saints: The Reinvention of the Roman Catacombs


ACLS Fellowship Program


Religious Studies


This book challenges the common understanding of late antique Christianity as dominated by the “Cult of the Saints.” Popularized by historian Peter Brown, the cult of the saints presupposes that a “corporeal turn” in the fourth century CE initiated a new sense of the body (even the corpse or bone) as holy. “Against the Cult of the Saints” argues that although present elsewhere in the late Roman Empire, no such corporeal turn happened in Rome until the early modern period. The prevailing assumption that it did, fostered by the apologetic concerns of early modern Catholic scholars, has led to a glossing over of important evidence to the contrary. This book delves deeper into the world of Roman late antique Christianity to explore how it differed from the set of practices and beliefs that were thought previously to have flourished in this crucial age of Christianization.