Golden Legend


Golden Legend
(Aurea Legenda)
   by Jacobus de Voragine
(ca. 1265)
   Jacobus (or James) de Voragine composed the Golden Legend as a collection of writings centered on the lives of the saints and their celebrations (see SAINTS’ LIVES). The text is composed largely of miraculous tales concerning popular saints and brief expositional notes about specific liturgical feasts linked to the cult of saints. James was a member of the Dominican Order, becoming vicar of the order ca. 1283. He was appointed archbishop of Genoa, ca. 1292. James created the text as a source for ecclesiastical preaching, but the Golden Legend was more popular within the vernacular culture of the day—a wider contemporary trend that is witnessed by a similar passion among the laity for other liturgical works such as the medieval books of hours.Hundreds of manuscripts containing the Golden Legend remain extant in numerous languages. Frequently, these manuscripts exhibit the special hagiographic interests of their individual audiences through the inclusion or emphasis of local saints. The text’s popularity was considered dangerous during the 16th century with both Catholic and Protestant writers condemning the fantastic nature of the Golden Legend and its ability to lead the rustic believer into superstition. The Golden Legend begins with a series of exegetical notices discussing the symbolic and historical meanings of common Catholic celebrations such as Easter, Pentecost, and the Circumcision of Our Lord. These discussions reflect a traditional approach to Christian Scripture that assumed Scripture to have a literal, symbolic and spiritual message. For instance, the entry for epiphany is constructed around the symbolic interpretations of earlier church authorities such as John Chrysostom, Remigius, and Jerome. James’s next section of entries outlines the careers of biblical heroes. These sections, entitled “histories,” cover the period from Adam to Job and are very close synopses of the biblical texts. The Legend demonstrates a preference for personal stories, however, that better provide material for sermons. Joshua is merely listed as having fought many battles for the Lord, while the more intimate story of Samuel’s miraculous birth and his calling is produced in full. After Job, the Legend shifts—providing accounts of Christian saints from late antiquity. Christian martyrs and saints such as St. Martin and St. Benedict who are found in most early medieval martyrologies appear alongside more modern saints such as St. FRANCIS OF ASSISI and St. Louis of France. Each of these entries emphasized the miraculous power, absolute purity, and singleminded devotion of the saint, as well as how these characteristics affected the lives of others around them. Much of the text is dedicated to affirming traditional Christian goals such as asceticism, poverty, chastity, and charity.
   The Legend’s contents are arranged according to relative importance and calendar order. Christ and the saints mentioned in biblical texts come first with the later saints following behind. The biblical heroes are listed in the order they appear within the Bible, but the days they should be celebrated within Christian worship are listed in each notice. Later martyrs and saints are placed in order as they appear throughout the Christian calendar year. This layout emphasizes the importance of Christ and the biblical text, while simultaneously strengthening the Legend’s role as a source for daily devotions. The result is a continuous chain of sanctity that links Adam through Jesus to James’s own period.Moreover, since saints were held to be alive in heaven and capable of wielding power on earth, James’s text introduced his audience to a powerful set of patrons.
   The Legend ends with a list of 12 criteria for correct belief, a sort of creed that instructs the reader on the fundamentals of Christianity. Much of the creed is written in the first person, as a confessional prayer. This may indicate James’s hope that readers would be drawn to Christianity through utilizing his collection. A grand history of Christian sanctity and its miraculous workings is presented for the reader’s edification. James’s other works include various series of sermons as well as a chronicle concerning the history of Genoa.
   Bibliography
   ■ “Golden Legend.” In Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
   ■ Gorlach,Manfred. The South English Legendary: Gilte Legende and Golden Legend. Manfred, Germany: Technische Univ. Carolo-Wilhelmina, Inst. für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1972.
   ■ “James of Voragine.” In Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
   ■ Jeremy,Mary.“Caxton’s Golden Legend and Varagine’s Legenda Aurea,” Speculum 21 (1946): 212–221.
   ■ Medieval Sourcebook: “The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda).” Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275. Translated by William Caxton, 1483. Available online. URL: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/goldenlegend/index.htm. Accessed February 1, 2005.
   ■ Reno, Christine M. “Christine de Pisan’s use of the Golden Legend in the Cite des dames,” Les Bonnes Feuilles 3 (1974): 89–99.
   Chris Craun

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Golden Legend — Golden Gold en (g[=o]ld n), a. [OE. golden; cf. OE. gulden, AS. gylden, from gold. See {Gold}, and cf. {Guilder}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Made of gold; consisting of gold. [1913 Webster] 2. Having the color of gold; as, the golden grain. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Golden legend — Legend Leg end (l[e^]j [e^]nd or l[=e] j[e^]nd; 277), n. [OE. legende, OF. legende, F. l[ e]gende, LL. legenda, fr. L. legendus to be read, fr. legere to read, gather; akin to Gr. le gein to gather, speak. Cf. {Collect}, {Dialogue}, {Lesson},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Golden Legend — noun (L Legenda Aurea) a celebrated medieval collection of saints lives, by Jacobus de Voragine (1230–98) • • • Main Entry: ↑golden …   Useful english dictionary

  • Golden Legend — The Golden Legend ( la. Legenda Aurea) by Jacopo da Varagine is a collection of fanciful hagiographies or lives of the saints, that became a late medieval bestseller. It was probably compiled around the year 1260. A medieval best sellerInitially… …   Wikipedia

  • GOLDEN LEGEND —    a collection of lives of saints and other tales, such as that of the Seven Sleepers and St. George and the Dragon, made in the 13th century by Jacques de Voragine, a Dominican monk, to the glory especially of his brotherhood …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Golden Legend Hotel — (Ханой,Вьетнам) Категория отеля: 2 звездочный отель Адрес: 10 Chan Cam Street, Х …   Каталог отелей

  • Golden legend by Jacobus da Voragine — (Legenda Aurea)    Jacobus da Voragine s Golden Legend is a collection he compiled in c. 1260 of legends of the saints worshiped during the Middle Ages. Its importance lies in the fact that it provides a glimpse of popular medieval religious… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • The Golden Legend (cantata) — The Golden Legend is a cantata by Arthur Sullivan with libretto by Joseph Bennett, who suggested the topic, based on the 1851 poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. At least 17 performances of the cantata were given in Britain… …   Wikipedia

  • Golden — Gold en (g[=o]ld n), a. [OE. golden; cf. OE. gulden, AS. gylden, from gold. See {Gold}, and cf. {Guilder}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Made of gold; consisting of gold. [1913 Webster] 2. Having the color of gold; as, the golden grain. [1913 Webster] 3.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Golden age — Golden Gold en (g[=o]ld n), a. [OE. golden; cf. OE. gulden, AS. gylden, from gold. See {Gold}, and cf. {Guilder}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Made of gold; consisting of gold. [1913 Webster] 2. Having the color of gold; as, the golden grain. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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