This project promises new insights into how societies make martyrs by looking to early medieval Iberia, which was home to a widespread and very active devotion to indigenous Christian martyr saints. Many of these had been killed by the Romans in the late-antique period, but a number of ‘new martyrs’ emerged in the ninth and tenth centuries as apparent victims of Muslim authorities. The project is the first to explore the cultural construction of Iberian martyrs across late antiquity into the early middle ages, in both the Christian northern kingdoms and in Al-Andalus, placing ritual commemoration at its heart: the regular celebration of martyr saints in the Christian liturgy. The project (with Kati Ihnat as PI) will examine how liturgical sources communicated the ideal of martyrdom but always in dialogue with material evidence (relics, churches, etc.).
Two subprojects stand central: one unlocking what the music of the liturgy tells us about martyr-building (Melanie Shaffer, post-doc), and one investigating the entanglement of religious practices between Christianity, Islam and Judaism in Al-Andalus (Cathrien Hoijinck, PhD). The interdisciplinary and comparative approach will contribute new methodologies to the study of religion by showing how ritual shapes society in different contexts through forming collective identities, cultural memory and religious ideals.
Read blogs about the project here.