In early medieval Europe the cult of the saints emerged as a prominent focus for the construction of political identity. Corporeal relics became objects of importance, conferring status on their possessor; and, like other precious commodities, they frequently served as prestigious diplomatic gifts, useful for the fostering of political affiliations between donor and recipient. This strategic use of saints' cults is here examined with special regard to the region of the northern Adriatic. In the first decade of the ninth century, Byzantine attempts to maintain the allegiance of Venice and urban centres along the Dalmatian coast may have prompted the translations to the region of the relics of saints such as Anastasia, Tryphon and Theodore, all of whom became important civic patrons. Later in the century, the Byzantine mission to Moravia was focused on the relics of St Clement, while archaeological and other evidence suggests that Frankish missions into the Balkans may have stressed the cult of St Martin, a native of Pannonia. Ultimately, Venetian independence from both powers was made possible by their adoption of a new patron saint, Mark, whose cult arrived from Alexandria unencumbered by implicit political debts.

Early Medieval Europe
Department of History

Osborne, J. L. (1999). Politics, diplomacy and the cult of relics in Venice and the northern Adriatic in the first half of the ninth century. Early Medieval Europe, 8(3), 369–386.