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The fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers (Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus) are famous primarily for their contributions to Trinitarian theology. Scholars have also been interested in the Cappadocians' experiments in communal asceticism, which had a lasting impact on Christian theology and monastic vocation. Vasiliki Limberis has discovered a hitherto untold element in the history of these seminal figures. Simply stated, for the Cappadocians all aspects of Christian life were best communicated, understood, and indeed lived, through the prism of martyr piety. Limberis shows that the cult of the martyrs was absolutely central to the formation of Christian life for them and the laity. The local martyr cults were so powerful that the Cappadocians promoted their own kin as martyrs. This ensured that their families, soon after their deaths, would be imitated by the local people, and in future generations they would be honored as saints by all. Limberis documents the rich variety of ways the Cappodocians made use of the martyrs. Of particular interest are the complex rituals of the panegyris, a yearly celebration that honored the martyrs, creating social ties that spanned class barriers. Building projects also honored the martyrs, housed their loved ones, and created sacred space in their communities. Limberis calls attention to the pivotal roles played by the mothers and sisters of the Cappadocians in promoting martyr piety and examines the importance in their lives of material vehicles of sanctity such as eulogia breads and holy oil, and practices such as fasting, vigils, vows and prayers. The Cappadocians were of the generation that bridged the Church of the martyrs and the Church triumphant of the Roman state. This book shows how they reshaped martyr piety to suit the needs of this changing landscape, and made it the basis of a new understanding of Christian identity., This book provides a new way of understanding the role of the cult of the martyrs for the Cappadocian Fathers and their families. The study shows that the cult of the martyrs was so popular among all social levels of Christians, including the Cappadocian Fathers, that it formed the rudimentary framework for Christian piety in the fourth century. When Christianity became the state religion in 325, the fundamental presupposition of martyrdom as Christian identity became ambiguous. Thus it was paramount for the Cappadocians to preserve, evolve, and represent how martyr piety fit into the Christian life after the Constantinian settlement. The book reveals the Cappadocians' tireless promotion of martyr piety through careful expositions of the ritual of the panegyris and importance of the calendar, their pastoral teachings through panegyrics to the martyrs, and the triumphs and frustrations of building a martyrium. Limberis also demonstrates how the Cappadocians fixed the image of the martyrs on their families' identities forever, showing how the veneration of the martyrs contributed to practicing Christian faith in a familial context. The study demonstrates that the local martyr cults were so powerful that the Cappadocian Fathers promoted their own kin as martyrs, and claimed other martyrs as their ancestors. The study also engages how gender and theories of kinship complicate their texts, both for the Cappadocians and for us.

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