The Golden Legend is one of the central texts of the Middle Ages, a superb summary of saints' lives and religious festivals which decisively influenced the imagery of poetry, painting and stained glass. By creating a single-volume sourcebook of all the core Christian stories, Jacobus de Voragine (c. 1229-98) attracted a huge audience right across Europe. Chaucer adapted the section on St Cecilia in his Canterbury Tales and Caxton published an expanded English version in 1483. This selection of over seventy biographies ranges from the first Apostles and Roman martyrs to near-contemporaries like St Dominic, St Francis of Assisi and St Elizabeth of Hungary. Witnesses to the true faith withstand terrible tortures and reduce their persecutors to mockery. Reformed prostitutes win divine forgiveness, while other women live disguised as monks or nobly resist lustful tyrants. Jacobus's book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand medieval imagery, art and thought.
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