Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Golden Legend

The Golden Legend, by Jacobus de Voraigne

I am quite proud of myself for reading this whole thing!  The Golden Legend is a giant collection of saints' legends and histories.  My copy is just a selection of only 71 stories, which was quite enough.   The stories are interesting, but gory.  And somewhat repetitive.  And often more vengeful than a modern Christian might prefer, but after all much of it is medieval embroidery.

For example, about St. Martin (My version is in modern English, thank goodness):
And as he went he saw in a water birds that plunged in the water, which awaited and espied fishes and ate them, and then he said: In this manner devils espy fools, they espy them that be not ware, they take them that know not, but be ignorant, and devour them that be taken, and they may not be fulfilled ne satiate with them that they devour. And then he commanded them to leave the water, and that they should go into desert countries, and they assembled them and went into the woods and mountains.

So, St. Martin didn't like ducks and told them to go live in the desert.  Hm. It's a great illustration of the medieval belief in everything being an allegory for a spiritual truth, but I hope it didn't really happen.

Anyway, here we have saints famous and unknown, historical and legendary.  The story of Sts. Barlaam and Josaphat is clearly the story of Prince Gautama Buddha transported over many lands (this is a link I found at Catholic Forum).   Most of the major saints are included in the collection, and the medieval people who founded monastic orders get good long biographies because much more was known about them.

I liked Perpetua's Passion better, because it's an actual first-person account from a Christian martyr, but it was a good book to read.


theclassicsclubblog said...

Very interesting... I'm glad this was at least in modern English for you! I think the histories of the saints would be fascinating, if the writing is accessible. -Sarah

Jean said...

Oh yes, they are fascinating. But they do pile up rather if you try to read all of them at once. :)

JNCL said...

My goodness, you've been far more faithfully pursuing my medieval challenge than I have! Good for you! *slight blush of embarrassment* Despite the health problems that slowed me down earlier in the year, though, I have not given up the fight! I'm just really, really behind on it right now, that's all. :D