Relics and Reliquaries in the Vita Germani Auctore Constantio : the Capsula

Relics and Reliquaries in the Vita Germani Auctore Constantio : the Capsula

Francesca Bezzone (Department of Classics, National University of Ireland, Galway)

The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe Issue 15 (October 2012)


The use of the word capsula in the Vita Germani appears to be unique for the late antique period. This paper will shed light not only on the originality of Constantius’s semantic choice, but also on how the term capsa—of which capsula is one of the variations—seems to have undergone an evident semantic shift during Constantius’s years, and how his text appears to be the first literary witness to this shift. It will be shown how the change in meaning of the term is rooted in the evolution and diffusion of the burgeoning cult of saints during the fourth and fifth centuries.

Holy objects are a favorite theme for Constantius, so much so that of the eighteen instances of miracles performed by Germanus in the Vita,1 a text which is relatively short with its forty-six paragraphs, nine are carried out with the aid of a blessed article. These nine examples can be roughly divided into objects the miraculous characteristics of which are actively created by Germanus by blessing, and others which have been passively, so to say, made holy by the saint: objects which have been in contact with his body and that have therefore developed extraordinary qualities.

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