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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Balanced, informative, and interesting summary of available information on approximately 1300 saints, with useful system of indexing and cross-referencing.
In summarizing the lives of the saints, some sources seem to want to gloss over the more fantastic, fairy-tale aspects of some stories, while other sources will drift off into a Daily Meditation self-help format. This text takes an even-handed and academic approach, that allows the reader to draw his own conclusions.
As a Californian, it is a little frustrating to deal with the British bias on saints, and find nothing about saints who were chosen for California place names like San Dimas, San Luis Obispo, San Diego (Didacus?), and San Ysidro. But overall this is an excellent source for hagiographic trivia and history.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
An entertaining and informative dictionary of saints that not only gives the lives of the saints but also a history of their folklore, veneration and relics. Farmer includes "popular" saints like St. Werner (who was never formally canonized), desanctified saints like Barbara, and a few saints of the Orthodox traditions. Appendices list patron saints and symbols associated with the saints. You will not find every saint in this work, but the ones you do find are described in rich detail. I bought this book for a narrow purpose and soon found myself reading it from cover to cover in bed. The only bothersome thing, for me, is Farmer's Anglophilia: he gives space to many obscure English and Irish saints while ignoring some key figures from other parts of the world, like St. Diego of Alcala (for whom San Diego is named). Nonetheless, it is a useful book for either reference or entertainment.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book really is a superbly researched work by an author who has a real feel for the subject. It contains in-depth, well researched information which has been succintly put together. Where there is doubt about the authenticity of any source material, this is clearly stated in the text. This book is definitely the best place to start for anyone with an interest in the subject of saints.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is an interesting and engrossing catalogue of saints, primarily from the British Isles. Far from exhibiting the "bias" of which other reviewers accuse it, that focus on British/Irish saints was the_intent_of the book. Although the major saints of the universal Church are included, this book fills a vacuum by concentrating on the saints of the British Isles, the majority of which are obscure and of purely local interest and devotion. In the lives of these forgotten saints, Mr. Farmer has dug deeply through the layers of history to give us a fascinating snapshot of British piety and devotion since the earliest times. Although the tone of this book is scholarly rather than devotional, and some of the early legends and beliefs tend to amuse rather than edify, on the whole the lives of these saints cannot but inspire the faithful.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
An excellent source for information on saints of the Roman Catholic Church and the Ortodox Church up through the Schism. It does not include saints of the Episcopal Church, but does include those popular saints such as Barbara and Christopher removed in the 1968-69 time frame. I use it in writing my monthly column for my parish newsletter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Other reviewers have cogently noted Farmer's English bias in his otherwise witty and eminently readable accounts of Saints' lives, but I might add that this fills a necessary niche in a crowded field. English and Welsh saints are lacking in many major references of this kind, and Farmer, publishing under the appropriate Oxford imprint, provides a welcome reprieve from this omission.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints will not disappoint you, no matter what your reasons are for buying it.

It's an excellent reference book. David Hugh Farmer has a real gift for summarizing large amounts of material without sacrificing either natural language or the particularity of the information being summarized. He's especially good at conveying the nuances of sources and their reliability.

Also: no matter what your religious and educational background may be, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints is one of the very best bathroom books ever printed: endlessly varied, always interesting. It's a trove of self-contained little stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
. . . reasoned, and readable presentation of many, many of the saints of the Church, with particular emphasis on those saints important in the British Isles.

Other reviewers have pointed out the balanced nature of the author's presentation, balancing known fact, pious tradition, legend and just plain superstition with scholarship and tact. I have to completely concur. I was also particularly impressed with the primary source material used and referenced, so that the interested reader can dig more deeply into those particular lives of interest (and perhaps come to conclusions different from those of the author!) The introduction, giving a brief background of the "history" of the making of saints was also helpful.

Very highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
If you are not a Catholic (and even if you are, for many people), the question may be 'Why do I want or need this book?' To the Protestants of the world, I say that if you look at the list of 'Festivals and Commemorations', even for the oldest of the denominations, such as the Anglicans and Lutherans, you will see a lot of gaps.

So, if you are constructing bulletins or any kind of dated reverential materials, there are many days where you have no one about whom to speak. That is where I use this book to fill in so many days which the reformers have left blank. The material is useful even for those 'big names' such as Ambrose, Augustine, Clement, Jerome, Aquinas, and Occam, which both the Catholics and Protestants revere.

This comes in handy when you cycle around to a second year, and you don't want to use the same stuff you used last year. To this end, I have yet to find any day of the year where this book did not fill a gap left by the Lutheran calendar of commemorations. And, it is simply useful and enlightening to know about so many of these lesser figures such as Papylus, Agathonice, and Carpus, who were martyred in Asia Minor (170 CE) for refusing to honor the Roman emperor as a god. It is truly amazing to see how much we do know about some of these very early figures, and this book is pretty careful in separating historical fact from legend, but the legends are good to know as well.
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on July 3, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Perfectly described! Exactly what I expected. A good theological reference book.
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