Hagiographica Septentrionalia: Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea Area
Within the general development of the cult of saints the North of Europe is a very interesting region, and in many ways far less marginal than it might appear. Hagiographical research on the European North is, however, still very fragmented and scattered. In recent years there has been a renewed interest by younger researchers in the North, both for Scandinavian and Baltic sainthood, as well as for hagiographic topics not directly linked to the region. The cult of saints was introduced to Northern Europe together with the Christianisation, which proceeded in a long process from the 9th to the 14th Century and even later in the very north, in Lapland. There were major differences in the character of the Christianisation process, from mostly peaceful methods in Scandinavia to violent sword-mission in the Baltic, which affected also the cult of saints. This long process of Christianisation meant also that different layers of saint’s cults were imported and created. In contrast to “older” hagiographic regions, Scandinavia remained a rather active hagiographic region also after the Christianisation, up till the end of the Middle Ages, with female saints as a very interesting group too. Scandinavia played also an important and far from marginal role in the establishment and consolidation of the papal prerogative in canonization matters. Up till the Reformation there are no signs for a weakening in popular support for all aspects of the cult of saints. On the eastern shores of the Baltic sea, however, the sword-mission methods of Christianisation led during generations to active and passive resistance which explains also, at least partially, the absence or tiny amount of the indigenous element in local sources on Sainthood and Pilgrimages. The picture changed however towards the end of the Middle Ages also in the Baltic area.