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Get A Head In Life: The Creation of Denis as a Cephalophoric Saint
AdvisorSchoolman, Edward M.
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Martyrdoms by beheading are not uncommon in hagiographic narratives. In fact, it is one of the most common forms of martyrdom. In 8th century Francia, the beheading of Saint Denis became rose to national prestige. Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris, engaged in a unique and original act. After Denis’ martyrdom, he was raised from the dead and carried his head in his hands two miles to the location where his basilica would be constructed. Thus Denis became the most famous cephalophoric - or head-bearing - saint. This study asserts the murder of Saint Boniface in 754 is directly linked to the creation of Denis as a cephalophoric saint in the later 8th century. The Franks of the 8th and early 9th centuries used the hagiographic trope of cephalophory in a politically motivated decision during the formative years before the emergence of the Frankish empire. This study also explores the framing of the perception of the medieval body as a political machine and a theological exercise. Thus, this study will primarily use two hagiographical texts which are ostensibly about the same event but contrast in language and purpose to discuss the political motivations behind the creation of Denis as a cephalophoric saint.