SCSC Session 55: Concepts of Sainthood in Early Modern Christianity


Sabine Hiebsch (VU University Amsterdam) organized session 55 at the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference October 25 in San Juan (Puerto Rico) on the theme: "Concepts of Sainthood in Early Modern Christianity". The session was co-sponsored by VU University Amsterdam and Refo500. Amy Nelson Burnett (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) was the chair.

Topic of the session

The reformations of the Sixteenth Century challenged the established theological opinions, interacted with each other and this resulted in a transformation that drew a new theological map of Early Modern Christianity. The concept of Sainthood was one of the theological concepts that was challenged. But within the Roman Church as well as in Luther‘s theology and in the Lutheran churches of the first generations, the examplarity of the Saints remained a central and important factor.


Rady Roldán-Figueroa (Boston University) showed through the case study of Fray Marcelo Ribadeneira (O.F.M.) how Saints were enlisted for the cause of Catholic missions in Japan, the Philippines and other locations throughout the Pacific. He specifically examined the role of the examplarity of the Saints in Ribadeneira’s writings.

Sabine Hiebsch
(VU University) discussed how Martin Luther challenged the customary cult of the Saints of his time and how, as a result, Luther also developed a new theology of the Saints. Instead of being the object of veneration or acting as intercessors before God, Luther viewed Saints als examples of faith, love and cross. Hiebsch explored how Luther constructed this examplarity and how it fits in his theological framework.

Tarald Rasmussen
(University of Oslo) examined the second generation of Lutheran pastors in Saxony and how Lutheran clerical sanctity was constructed within and around this group. He showed why sanctity remained an important concept and demonstrated the theological and religious impact of this concept and the examplarity of these Lutheran pastors through their writings, funeral sermons and epitaphs.

Although the early morning sessions had to deal with the competition of three swimming-pools and a private beach, the VU/Refo500 session drew an interested audience that engaged in a lively discussion with the participants and the chair.

Visual, left to right: Amy Nelson-Burnett, Rady Roldán-Figueroa, Tarald Rasmussen and Sabine Hiebsch.

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