Royal Sanctity and the Writing of History on the Peripheries of Latin Christendom, c. 1000 - 1200 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Hasseler, Elizabeth
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the edges of Latin Christendom were expanding outwards as new peoples along its northern and eastern peripheries converted to the Christian faith, including the Danes, Norwegians, and Hungarians. Closely related to this process of Christianization was the centralization of traditionally disunited peoples into unitary polities under the rule of new royal dynasties. These early kings used their novel political authority to patronize religious men and houses, found episcopal institutions, and enforce Christian observance amongst their peoples, and in turn they wielded the spiritual legitimacy offered by their new faith to bolster their dynastic ambitions. Founder-kings such as Knútr IV of Denmark, Óláfr II Haraldsson of Norway, Stephen I of Hungary, and Ladislaus I of Hungary were central to the emergence of their Christian kingdoms: and in death, they came to be venerated as their peoples’ first Christian saints. This dissertation explores the centrality of royal sanctity to the historical traditions of medieval Norway, Denmark, and Hungary. It asks what role was attributed to holy kings in the foundation of the northern and eastern kingdoms by native historians who, for the first time, were textually codifying their peoples’ pasts in chronicles, sagas, and saints’ lives. Royal sanctity was both a powerful and fraught category in that it united two types of authority, secular and spiritual, which had had a fraught interrelationship within the tradition of western Christian thought. Throughout the early Middle Ages, kings who had achieved posthumous sanctification had traditionally done so by renouncing their royal office in order to perfect themselves spiritually. This dissertation argues that the eleventh and twelfth century represents a distinct historical moment during which the concept of royal sanctity provided a particularly useful vocabulary for conceptualizing the emergence of new Christian polities on the edges of Latin Christendom. It did so because of, rather than in spite of, the internal tension between the identities of the king and the saint. Its duality allowed historians on the Christian peripheries to speak to both the religious and political transformation of their societies, and to explore in subtle ways the interrelations between kingship and salvation.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Whalen, Brett
  • Boon, Jessica
  • Cassen, Flora
  • Malegam, Jehangir
  • Bull, Marcus
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2018

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