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001: The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Vol. 1 (Volume 1) Paperback – April 9, 1995
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"Art historians depend on it....Medievalists should know it inside-out.... [F]or the rest of us it remains a treasure-house of European culture, crammed full of the things which everyone, once upon a time, used to know."--Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph
"[The Golden Legend] came to serve as the literary equivalent of wall-paintings and stained glass.... [F]or the translation of the work in its entirety into English we have had to wait 700 years for the energy and learning of a distinguished American academic, William Granger Ryan."--Gerard Irvine, The Times Literary Supplement
"A labor of love, as well as a product of great erudition. The translation is a complete, thoughtful, and judicious one."--Thomas Head, The Catholic Historical Review
"An unequaled source book for the study of the art and literature of the high Middle Ages.... [de Voragine] showed himself to be a narrative artist of the first rank, and in Ryan's fine English version we have a splendid volume that can take its place somewhere between Butler's Lives of the Saints and Aesop's Fables."--George Sim Johnston, The New Criterion
"To the labor of Father Ryan, whose stylish translation now affords us the means [to eye Voragine's purpose and method], we owe an enormous debt."--Brian Masters, Literary Review
"This new translation by William Granger Ryan . . . offers the modern reader a window into popular piety of the High Middle Ages and sharpens the fuzzy recollection most of us have of the stories passed down in the Christian oral tradition of the fantastic feats of ancient and medieval saints."--America
About the Author
William Granger Ryan, a priest of the diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, is President Emeritus of Seton Hill College and a research scholar at the Institute of Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts, Yale University. This new translation of The Golden Legend (Ryan translated portions of the work in a volume published in 1941) is the first complete rendering of the Graesse edition in English.
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I will admit that reading the whole thing end-to-end starts to get a little bit different different same same with all the stories. I think that a friend of mine had the best strategy with this work-- reading one or two of the stories before you go to bed at night. On the other hand, that could lead to some mighty disturbing nightmares. I'll probably give myself some time before I pick up Volume 2.
Certain themes come back again and again-- joyful martyrdom, the willingness of the saints to die, attempts to explain local legend in the light of saints and near-scientific attempts to reconcile the system of the world (there is a pretty great section late in the book that talks about the different kinds of magic and miracles).
To the modern reader, these stories are fantastic, often funny and sometimes thought-provoking, moving and even shocking. I really enjoyed the book and I will confess that I wasn't at all sure that this would be the case. I'm actually glad that I didn't chose the selections-- I think that I would have missed a bit of the pattern-building in the legends if I hadn't read the whole thing.
There is a complete, paperback edition here: The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints