Though it promises eternal life, Christianity was forged in death. Christianity is built upon the legacies of the apostles and martyrs who chose to die rather than renounce the name of their lord. In this innovative cultural history, Kyle Smith shows how a devotion to death has shaped Christianity for two thousand years.
For centuries, Christians have cared for their saints, curating their deaths as examples of holiness. Martyrs’ stories, lurid legends of torture, have been told and retold, translated and rewritten. Martyrs’ bones are alive in the world, relics pulsing with wonder. Martyrs’ shrines are still visited by pilgrims, many in search of a miracle. Martyrs have even shaped the Christian conception of time, with each day of the year celebrating the death of a saint. From Roman antiquity to the present, by way of medieval England and the Protestant Reformation, Cult of the Dead tells the fascinating story of how the world’s most widespread religion is steeped in the memory of its martyrs.