UCR Professor Conrad Rudolph to Discuss the Need for Saints at Getty Center

"Why Do We Need Saints" panel on Oct. 30 is a part of "Miracles and Martyrs: Saints in the Middle Ages" exhibit

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Professor of Art History Conrad Rudolph will be part of a panel discussion titled "Why Do We Need Saints" at the Getty Center on Oct. 30. Photo by Ross French

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Conrad Rudolph, professor of medieval art history at the University of California, Riverside, will be part of a panel that will discuss “Why Do We Need Saints?” at the Harold M. Williams Auditorium at the Getty Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 at 7 p.m.

The presentation is a part of the Getty’s “Miracles and Martyrs: Saints in the Middle Ages,” an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts which is on display at the Getty Center through March 2, 2014. The panelists will discuss the origin and meaning of saints, how the cult of saints came to be, how popular and regional movements have created saints, and what saints have offered to those who love them.

Rudolph, whose interests include the social theory of medieval art, the ideological use of art, and art and social changes and whose book, “The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century,” is scheduled to be released in March 2014, will be joined on the panel by Candida Moss, professor of theology at Notre Dame University, and Leonard Primiano, professor of religious studies at Cabrini College. Documentary filmmaker Jody Hassett Sanchez will serve as moderator.

The discussion is free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended through the Getty Center website.

“As I see it, the question of whether or not we need saints really comes down to one of do we need role models?” he said. “A saint is a model for the faithful.”

He added that in the early days of Catholicism, individuals were named saints by the faithful in recognition of that their achievements.

“A saint was thought to go straight to heaven, to not have to wait for the final judgement, and it was the people who named him,” he said. “But over time, beginning in the 11th and 12th centuries, the church took over the process and had more of a say in who became a saint. It became a legal process and has stayed much the same since.”

Rudolph said that process continues today, as Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are expected to be canonized in the Spring of 2014.

Rudolph said he is looking forward to the presentation, with maybe just a bit of trepidation.

“As an art historian, my experience with the ‘Cult of Saints’ is hands-on. But as an academic, spontaneous conversations are mine fields,” he said, laughing.

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