Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Classics

First Advisor

Noel Lenski

Abstract

This study examines the late ancient cult of St. Michael the Archangel, focusing on its emergence in the eastern Roman Empire during the closing centuries of antiquity and ensuing transfer into the western Mediterranean world by the early medieval period. Chapter I surveys portrayals of angels and Michael in the biblical canon and reviews basic patristic interpretations of these scriptural sources. Chapter II reconstructs intertwined fourth-century Christological and angelological doctrinal controversies, the resolution of which established fundamental ontological and cosmological understandings about angels, including Michael, on literary planes of Christian doctrine. Chapter III recounts the blossoming of imperially sanctioned Michaeline veneration within cultic and ritual settings throughout the late ancient eastern empire. Finally, Chapter IV explores the gradual spread of the cult of St. Michael the Archangel from Greek East to Latin West over the course of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries. Together, these chapters argue that by the closing centuries of Late Antiquity the tense religious environment of the eastern Roman Empire had forged Michael’s nascent cult into a doctrinally elucidated and imperially sanctioned religious system equipped for “export” to the western Mediterranean. Subsequently, over the course of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries the eastern cult of the Archangel was successfully introduced into the Latin West. Therefore, the vibrant setting of the late ancient Greek East proved to be the crucible of St. Michael’s later efflorescence as a figure of sanctioned veneration in the cultic and liturgical practices of the Roman Church in Western Europe.

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