Imperial sainthood? Justinian’s body between the Terrestrial and Heavenly spheres

Borsch, Jonas (10 July 2020). Imperial sainthood? Justinian’s body between the Terrestrial and Heavenly spheres (Unpublished). In: Virtual International Medieval Congress. Leeds. 06.07. - 09.07.2020.

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In a memorable episode from his panegyric buildings, Procopius of Caesarea describes how a chest with martyr relics found in the foundations of Hagia Eirene is opened on the knees of the sick Emperor Justinian: The ruler himself experiences immediate healing, and as proof of the divine power a holy oil flows out of the vessel, moistening the emperor's purple robe and turning it into a remedy for all who will be hopelessly sick in the future (Procop. aed. I 7,7-11). The theme that Procopius uses here has its roots in hagiographic wonder episodes. At the same time, the passage is only one out of several contemporary testimonies that approach Justinian's bodily appearance and habitus to that of an ascetic taking part in wondrous deeds-i.e., a holy man. The body of the ruler in his purple ornate, embodying, in the early Byzantine empire, the monarchy itself, here seems to transcend the limits between the terrestrial and the heavenly sphere. The paper strives to investigate this phenomenon in the context of contemporary Christian discourse and to investigate in how far the orientation towards models of holiness, visible here in an exemplary manner, shaped the evolvement of the Byzantine monarchy.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Ancient History and Reception History of the Ancient World

UniBE Contributor:

Borsch, Jonas


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
900 History > 940 History of Europe


[42] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds




Jonas Borsch

Date Deposited:

16 Feb 2021 16:08

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:36

Additional Information:

Panel: Boundaries of Holiness, Frontiers of Sanctity, I
Projekt: Herrscherkörper in den Monarchien der Spätantike und des frühen Mittelalters

Uncontrolled Keywords:

late antiquity, monarchy, hagiography, body history




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