SAI 427
Hagiography from Sacred Art to Liturgy
Term: Fall 2017


Chady Elias, E: celias@holyapostles.edu, T: (305) 753 5907

Rita Sawaya, E: rsawaya@holyapostles.edu, T: (416) 706-2290


This course explores the life of saints through their representation in figurative sacred art. It explains the relation between iconographic hagiography in its liturgical and scriptural contexts. Its main purpose is to enable the students to understand, appreciate, analyze and interpret hagiographic sacred art, to derive its essential meaning and avail within the sacred liturgical continuum.


The selective panorama of Holy Scriptures, hagiographic texts, saints’ vitae, visual texts and devotional sacred artwork we use throughout this course combined with the theoretical study of Christian hagiography will enable students to:


PART I – Meaning, History & Purpose of Hagiography

Week 1: Introduction

                “Every major religion exalts certain individuals who occupy a dual role. On the one hand they serve as exemplar of virtue to be imitated, and on the other hand they stand removed from other mortals, privileged and unique.

- (J. Kieckhefer & G. D. Bond, Sainthood: its manifestations in world religions, University of California Press, 1990, back cover page.)

This first week is a gateway to the world of hagiography and its relation with the Christian faith. While our main focus in this course is the relation of hagiography to Christian sacred art and liturgy, depart with from square one by defining the term “hagiography” in the broader sense, unveiling its etymology, origin, general history, purpose, and cross-religious manifestations. We will also learn related terminology including and not limited to hagiology, hagiolatry, and saint/sainthood, sanctity.


1. Suggested Reading: Richard, KIECKHEFER, and George DOHERTY BOND, Sainthood: its manifestations in world religions, University of California Press, 1990, pp. 69-218 (passim).

Week 2: Christian Hagiography

What is the significance of hagiography in Christianity? What is sainthood? Who are the saints? What purposes do sainthood and a saint’s life serve, and how useful is it to the Christian faith? When and how did it officially begin in Christianity? How does a person become saint? How is sainthood perceived within the diversity of Church rites and denominations? These are the main questions we will discuss in module 2.

Week 3: The Hagiographer and the Hagiologist

In Week 3 we will learn about the origins of Christian hagiography and hagiology, their respective meanings, history and purpose, and their historical development. Our focus in this module is on the hagiographer and the hagiologist, namely to identify and appreciate their type of work (job description), the material they work on, the methodological processes they use, related disciplines essential to their work, the finality and application of their work within and its official recognition by the Church.

Week 4: Hagiographic Documents Classification

We begin module 4 with an overview of the preliminary definitions of various types of literary documents such as imaginative tales, artificial compositions, romances, popular invention, myths, and legends. In the second part of this module emphasizes the classification of hagiographic documents, their types, literary genres, formats, and constitutive material support and media. In the third part, we zoom-in to get a closer look at core components characteristics of the hagiographic documents and conclude with illustrative examples thereof.

Week 5: Liturgical Media Communication Channels: Hagiography Sacred

In module 6 we investigate the relation between hagiography, sacred art and liturgy. We study the various “liturgical media communication channels” used in a Sacred Tradition context, and the translation of hagiography to iconography and hymnography as essential complementary modes of expression intrinsic to the liturgical system and practices.

  1. Hagiographic Document Authentication:

Cristian, GASPAR, “Recovering History from the Hagiograhic Record: Remarks on Methodology”, Department of Medieval Studies – Central European University, p. 1. Academia.com. URL: https://www.academia.edu/1652644/_Recovering_History_from_the_Hagiographic_Record_Remarks_on_Methodology

Week 6: The Hagiographic Document from Writing to Authentication

The Week 5 module is a walkthrough of the methodological approaches and process of hagiographic and hagiologic work: 1. The writing of an hagiographic document, and 2. The investigation of an existing document that is instrumental in determining its compliance with attested hagiographic criteria of authenticity. In the investigation component we learn about the authenticity criteria of an hagiographic document which comprises: Its relation to Scriptural and/or apocryphal sources, and officially acclaimed Church documents, authorship, followed by an exploration of what we call ‘hagiographic and hagiologic best practices’ which entail an exploration of the process from research to verification, source and content historicity authentication, to final application, to liturgy (within the sanctoral cycle), sacred art (iconography, hymnology, etc.).

PART II – Vitae, Sacred Art & Liturgy

“whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.” – (1John: 2:6)


1. As of module 7 we begin to read selected hagiographic texts and saints’ vitae, and study their concordance with respective corresponding icons from different eras and different iconographic traditions, taking icons of Christ as paradigms, and those of the Virgin Mary the Theotokos, and most venerated among all saints. We analyze and comment on a selection of saints’ icons and other sacred art forms, based on their respective attested hagiographic vitae. Special attention is given to certain details such as their respective specific attributes, charisms, symbolisms, devotional characteristics and practices, role and place in the Divine Liturgy and sanctoral cycle.  

2. Case Studies and Examples: Themes that are not mentioned in the will be announced in the course.

Week 7: Verification of Sacred Art Concordance with Hagiographic Document  

Module 7 will focus on the method and process verifying the concordance of existing sacred art works with the corresponding official hagiographic text.

Week 8: Depiction Variations of an Hagiographic Text through Sacred Art

In module 8 we will explore the sacred arts dimension of hagiography, starting with one or more sacred art themes about Jesus Christ,  several hagiographic text in various sacred art forms and media using on or more sacred art themes of Jesus Christ.

Example: Jesus Christ

Week 9: Depiction Variations of an Hagiographic Document through Sacred Art (continued)

In module 9 we will apply the process we acquired in module 8 to rewrite an hagiographic text in various sacred art forms and media, delving into specific details and using several practices and technique to best represent the verbal vita.

Example: Virgin Mary

Week 10: The Great Feasts of the Lord Jesus Christ

The different sacred art themes that portray the Lord Jesus Christ especially those that evoke the main stages of His terrestrial life constitute the archetype to the all the Christian saints’ lives, hagiographic texts and hagiographic and liturgical sacred art, as Saints are continuously trying to be Christlike. Module 10 shows us the different sacred art themes of the Feasts of the Lord Jesus Christ based on canonical and sometime no canonical Scriptures, that have inspired hagiographers and sacred art artists since Early Christianity.

Week 11: Emergence of New Sacred Art Trends from Local Popular Devotions

There are several examples of non-official popula devotions to saints that have gained terrain over time and have trended. We will discover how some such devotions to saints manifested through sacred art and popular accounts have spread from a small local scale to a national, regional and sometimes international scale.

Week 12: Hagiography in Iconographic Program of the Roman Church Denomination

In module 12 we learn the different hagiographic themes that form the sacred art program of a Roman church and its internal and external architecture.

Week 13: Hagiography in Iconographic Program of the Eastern Church Tradition

Module 13 describes the different hagiographic themes that form the Eastern Tradition’s sacred art church program.

Week 14: Hagiography in Different Sacred Art Objects

What kind of sacred objets d’art, art forms and styles are hagiographic texts translated into? And how well and precisely do such object represent the hagiographic text?  

Week 15: Creation of New Sacred Art Work Based on Hagiographic Text

In our last module, we learn how a sacred art artist creates new sacred artwork based hagiographic documents, and how they assure maximum loyalty to the saint’s vita details. How creative can the sacred art artist be whilst maintaining perfect concordance to the hagiographic text? What factors and rules are to be considered? These are the main questions we are going to tackle during this conclusive session.


Citations in Discussion Posts

For the purposes of the Discussions in Populi, please do provide a full footnote for sources at the end of your post. You will have to type a special character (^) at the beginning and end of your numbers to make a superscript in Populi, e.g. ^1^, ^2^, etcetera. Use the special characters for superscript also in your footnote.

Example Footnote

^1^ Vincent Balaguer, Understanding the Gospels (New York, Scepter Publishers, Inc., 2005), 5, [Hereafter UG].

Also, to bold, italicize, or underline words in Populi, please refer to the “Formatting Guide” located below all discussion/comment fields in Populi.



  1. Hippolyte DELEHAYE, S.J., The Legends of the Saints: An Introduction to Hagioraphy, Bollandist, 19071, 19612, 146 pages, ASIN: B007FMWKYK. (Translated from French by V. M. Crawford. Format: eBook. Cost: $0.00). (Cf. Fordham University, New York. 2015. URL: http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/delehaye-legends.asp.)


  1. “Saints’ Lives”, Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Fordham University, New York. 2015.
  2. Hagiographic Document Authentication:

Cristian, GASPAR, “Recovering History from the Hagiograhic Record: Remarks on Methodology”, Hagiografija: historiografija, izvori i metode, Department of Medieval Studies – Central European University, pp. 1. Academia.com. URL: https://www.academia.edu/1652644/_Recovering_History_from_the_Hagiographic_Record_Remarks_on_Methodology_


  1. Scriptures:
  1. Apocrypha:

Biblegateway.com.  URL: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionaries/dict_meaning.php?source=1&wid=T0000263

  1. Sacred Art:
  1. Examples of Traditional and Contemporary Iconography:
  1.  Chady Elias, HolyBrush.com.




(Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below). Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl).


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for Papers and Discussion Board Postings

1 (F)

2 (D)

3 (C)

4 (B)

5 (A)


Absence of Understanding

Posting shows no awareness of the concepts addressed in the topic by shifting off-topic


Posting demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic through an inability to re-explain them

Adequate Understanding

Posting demonstrates an adequate understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic by a re-explanation of them

Solid understanding

Posting demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic and uses that understanding effectively in the examples it provides

Insightful understanding

Posting demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts of the topic through the use of examples and by making connections to other concepts


Incomplete writing

Posting is only partially written or fails to address the topic

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Posting touches only on the surface of the topic and proceeds to talk about something else; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Posting is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment;  satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors

Solid writing with something interesting to say

Posting is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples;  level-appropriate syntax and diction;  mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error

command-level writing, making a clear impression

Posting is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development ; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage


Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

COMMUNITY INTERACTION (50-word response)

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post, e.g., “Excellent post! You really have thought of something there.”

Poor response

Response misses the point of the original posting or merely summarizes original posting to which it responds.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Chris Apodaca, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at capodaca@holyapostles.edu  or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the un-credited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.

12. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSORS2c7f19_26f47c967aaa4676aefa758b09302606

Chady Elias started his artistic life since early childhood and presented his first arts exhibition in Lebanon at the age of twelve. He studied Interior Design and Music. His passion for art led him in1993 to experiment with various renowned artist studios in Lebanon and Europe (Italy, France, Croatia and Slovenia) where he came to master several artistic techniques. After earning a B.A. in Theology from Saint Paul’s Pontifical Institute – Lebanon, he earned a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts from The University of the Holy Spirit (USEK) – Lebanon. His artwork can be found across the world both in private collections and public locations in France, Italy, Croatia, Mexico, Cyprus, Australia, Peru, Switzerland, the USA and Lebanon (ChadyElias.com). Chady’s strong belief in art and creativity as a tool of positive change compelled him to collaborate and partner with various community organizations in various community outreach projects, and to earn a certificate as Executive Professional Coaching from the University of Miami.

Among the subject matters he taught at the university level are Painting, Christian Iconography, Traditional and Ancient Painting and Iconography Techniques. From his studio in Miami, Florida Chady Elias continues to lead in-class and online arts workshops previously delivered in Lebanon, Mexico and the USA that cover various creative art techniques.

Rita Sawaya is currently the Director of Communications & Public Relations at Catholic Diocese and a visual, & fine & sacred arts artist (ritasavoia.com). She holds a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Sacred Art from the Institute of Sacred Art - Pontifical Theological Faculty at the University of the Holy Spirit (USEK) where she also taught several subjects, and a B.A. and Licentiate of Education in Arts and Archaeology from the Lebanese University, along with a number of certifications in the fields of communications & public relations, conflict transformation & peace-building, human rights and business. She previously taught several university level courses related to sacred art and archaeology at the University of the Holy Spirit (USEK) and at the Antonine University. Rita currently lives in Canada, where she previously worked at Salt and Light Television and Media Foundation - Toronto as News Anchor, Associate Producer, Television Shows & Live events Co-Host, as well as Journalist, Reporter, Blogger, and multi-lingual Translator. She also served as Policy Advisor within the Government of Ontario. She has broad based international experience in several areas including and not limited to culture and heritage management and preservation, human and humanitarian rights with a focus on women’s, children’s, environmental rights, and cultural and religious heritage management.