Cult of Saints
Middle Ages

Practices growing up around the Roman Catholic doctrine that the saints in heaven can make intercession for the living and for the dead in purgatory.

Chest for holding relics of saints

Originally focussed on the martyrs, the cult of saints early grew to include others who had not died for the faith but who were nonetheless considered exemplary Christians. Such saints were held to have the power to intercede with Christ on behalf of both the living and the dead in purgatory. Formal canonization of the saints did not begin until the end of the tenth century, but as early as the time of Origen and John Chrysostom, there appear theological claims undergirding the cult of saints. The early church attempted to maintain a distinction between the worship due only to God and the veneration appropriate to the saints. Popular piety attached itself to places and relics associated with the saints and often ascribed miraculous powers to the saints. Popular piety often ignored the distinction between requesting the intercession of the saints and prayer directed to the saints for intervention in daily life.

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