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What is the Golden Legend?

A knight rescuing a princess from a dragon…fearless voyagers crossing strange seas…courage in the face of harrowing torments…it’s the stuff dreams are made of.

The Golden Legend was one of the most widely read books of the Middle Ages. Compiled by the Dominican Blessed Jacobus de Voragine in the 13th century, it gained enormous popularity, assisted by the invention of the printing press in 1450, and was translated into every major European language. Artists and art scholars have found in it an invaluable resource for their work.

But what is it?

The Golden Legend is a collection of hagiographies—stories about the saints. Arranged chronologically according to feast day, it was written as an aid for preachers but became hugely popular among the laity for its delightful, inspiring, and thrilling tales of our forebears in the Faith.

The Legend recounts some of the most famous exploits of the saints—such as the valiant St. George slaying the dragon and saving a princess. When depicting saints, artists have drawn their inspiration from the deeds and descriptions found in the Legend, and scholars use it as a way of identifying saints in art.

Excerpt from a 14th C. French edition

The heroic deeds of the saints are of incalculable importance to us as Catholics, especially for children. Nothing fills a young heart with love and inspiration for the Faith like stories of brave knights who fought dragons, beautiful queens who fed the poor with their own hands, or stalwart martyrs who laughed in the face of death. Adventure is around every corner, danger is only a footstep behind, friendship and faith are put to the ultimate test again and again. Who wouldn’t want to jump into such page-turners?

Indeed, children want to emulate what they read and see. Little boys grab wooden swords when they read about knights and little girls grab their moms’ dresses and shoes when they read about princesses. Perhaps there are parents among you who have smiled upon hearing, “Dad, I’m St. George!” Or “Mom, I’m St. Margaret!” Yes, dear children, you will be another St. George or St. Margaret if you keep that spirit!

Help your children develop that holy spirit by filling their bookshelves with stories of the heroes of our faith. Butler’s Lives of the Saints is a classic collection of riveting tales of holiness, heroism, and valor. A great gift for young and old alike. Get your copy right here!

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