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The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Vol. 1 (Volume 1) Paperback – April 9, 1995

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; y First edition thus edition (March 20, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691001537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691001531
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Blessed Jacobus's compilation of the miraculous, "Golden Legend" carries you along as it brings you through the image-filled lives of the saints. Crowded, in a most woundrous fashion, with miracles, long martyrdoms, impossible but believable feats, quotable lines, long explanations of extreme intricacy, intriguing dialogue and a most enjoyable theme, it is enjoyable for those who read page after page and enjoy the long story, ending in triumph. It can also be accessible to those who enjoy anecdotes, except here they are pious. They begin the same way, usually--"A friar minor..." or such. It's hard to stop paging through it
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Although I cannot speak to the accuracy of the translation, I recommend this work of the Middle Ages for anyone with a more-than-passing curiosity about the cult of saints, and the way legends and stories expand even with previous written source material. The apologetics written about the birth-names of each saint are at times whimsical and at others intriguing. The Church calendar is also given some explanation here, sometimes why a saint's day was moved by the ecclesiastical authorities, unfazed that the person's true birthday or martyrdom was no longer commemorated. There are two volumes, of which this is one.
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Format: Paperback
The Golden Legend by Blessed Jacobus de Voragine wrote about saints that I heard and never heard while I was growing up with my Catholic Faith. It was interesting to learn saints with names that I never knew of: St. Quentin, St. Mary of Egypt, and St. Praxedes.

The Golden Legend was more than a legend. It was one of the most popular books to be read after the Holy Bible during the Medieval and Renaissance Era.
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I enjoy reading anything that will give me additional insights into the world of Saints. It is an excellent addition to the wealth of books on Saints that I already own, one of which is Vol 1 of the Golden Legend.
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As a lay person on many levels-- not a scholar of religious studies, not a scholar of medieval history-- this was still a fascinating book to read. It was compiled in the 13th century and is made up a collection of the legends and stories that rose up about the saints, largely outside of scripture. de Voragine attempts to help the reader distinguish between the true and false-- noting which stories are clearly apocryphal and which are (in his opinion) likely to be the truth. He tries to build a link between the saints' names and the stories about their lives (often to inadvertently funny results to the modern reader). It reads as an amalgamation of folklore, older traditions, local myth and wishful thinking tied up into an often astonishing collection of stories.

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.
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This is one of the best "Saints Lives" books I've seen. The translation is lively, and the entries read more as stories and less as a catalog of horrors (as sometimes happens with the lives of saints). There's just one problem - this is just one of a set. You'll need to buy the other volume to get the full effect.
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