So when and who in the Protestant beginnings threw out the saints?

I wish I could wrap up the saints in gold paper with a bow on top to give to our Protestant brothers and sisters.

When/who threw out the importance of and the inspiration and history of the saints in the Protestant world? All that is left are new-age inspirations from modern authors who have little more knowledge of the truth than their readers.

Now, I know the “why” to this question, and that is strictly because all saints were devoutly Catholic in all their works, writings, and mysticism. But, I would think the lives, examples, and martyrdom of these holy people would still make the ranks of inspiration for the Protestant faith.

Anyone know when/where/who abandoned these beautiful saints for the rest of Protestantism?

Thank you, and God’s many blessings be upon you!

As I understand it, the reformers din’t throw out the saints. They threw out the obligations that seemed to have surrounded the saints.

Of course, as most reforms go, sometimes the pendulum swings a bit to far, but in our defense, Lutherans do have a calendar of saints. My Lutheran church takes time every service to go over the lives of the saints right after the opening hymn.

I agree with benjohnson. It is not necessarily that the churches out of the Reformation threw out the saints, but that they were responding to a problem with the liturgical calendar. There were three cycles in the liturgical year: the Christmas cycle, the Easter cycle, and the sanctoral cycle (saint feast days). Saint feast days were slowly beginning to take over the liturgical calendar even interrupting important holy days such as Christmas and Easter. Many of the reformers dealt with this problem by removing most, if not all saints and feasts (including Marian feasts) that did not directly correlate with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

And the reformers were right about this problem, so soon after the Reformation, Catholics began to clean up the liturgical calendar and setting up a system to “rank” the importance of feast days and holy days.

However, since then some of churches out the Reformation (Lutherans in particular) have begun to re-add saints back into the liturgical year.

What is the current system for ranking feast days, holy days, memorials, optional, etc.?

…Scottish Monk

I’m going to have to dig a little deeper to find the specific information, but here is one website that outlines the liturgical calendar as it stands:

Nevermind, I just found the text I was looking for. This link will take you to Chapter 4: The Liturgical Year and Popular Piety: Four

This section details the basis and, essentially, the ranking of the liturgical calendar.

It wasn’t us.

In recent weeks our parish has celebrated the feast days of St. John the Baptist, and St. Mary Magdalene.

The Op is right in a way; we Lutherans, based on the testimony of our confessions, should do more to teach about and honor the saints.



Thank you very much for the links on the liturgy. They are very helpful!

…Scottish Monk

Scottish Monk,

You’re welcome! I’m glad I was able to find the links for you. :slight_smile:

Nearly all Protestants early on stopped prayers to the saints. It was considered against the solas which declared Glory to God alone, and salvation through Christ alone. Some Protestants believed that representations of the saints and of Christ were all right in themselves (e.g. Lutherans); other Protestants, of an iconoclastic bent, considered them idolatrous and sin against the graven image command of the Old Testament.

In England, many churches were stripped, relics discarded and rood screens defaced. The faces of saints were scraped off, as in this example: The saints evidently were not welcome in public worship at these churches at this time.

In 16th century France, the Huguenots destroyed several tombs of well-known saints. The shrine churches of St. Irenaeus and St. Martin of Tour were among those put to ruins.

Things are different today, although I believe those churches that went the path of iconoclasm are less likely to memorialize the saints than those churches that kept images or eventually tolerated them.

Most of the iconoclasm in England was at the hands of the Puritans, and took place later than the initial brek from Rome. The Book of Common Prayer which replaced the Sarum Use commemorates many Saints and has Collect Epistle and Gospel readings for their feast days.

I think a more important questions is, “Where did they come from in the first place?” My cursory understanding is that sainthood/canonization was not a part of the Church during the first centuries following Jesus Christ’s resurrection and ascension. When did it all start? Why did it all start?

It started with Justin, the first martyr in the bible.

I guess I was really asking when did the church decide there was a recognized title of “Saint” with particular characteristics for qualification and with the need or ability to be prayed to?

I understand that it did in fact start in the very beginnings when people would give titles to great holy men, such as Peter and Paul. I stole this from Jimmy Akin’s site so you might see where “Saint” came from:

“…how the term “Saint” evolved. Originally it was an adjective, meaning “holy” (Latin, sanctus). People started prefixing it to the names of notably holy individuals (holy Peter, holy Paul), and eventually it came to be used as an honorific–like “Mister” or “Doctor” (thus St. Peter, St. Paul).” - jimmyakin

And, just like we put sports heroes in the Hall of Fame, why wouldn’t we do the same for saints? Why not memoralize holy men and women and their lives as examples to the rest of us? We always do far greater when we have a role model who inspires us. I don’t think the question could at all be “Why have saints?” That would be like saying “Why have Jesus?” If Jesus works in his creatures, He needs to be identified in their works, so we all might attain to holiness.

God bless!

So very sad to throw out and destroy the images of our family that has gone before us! Ignorance of the role of saints in the Church led to such destruction and separation, and still to this day many have the misunderstanding that the Church somehow worships saints or places saints in the same intercessory role as Christ.

Thanks for the info!

Agreed! There is so much history and love to be shared from the lives of the saints to instruct us all, as examples, of how to be more like Christ. And, I think it a huge injustice to the Christian world wherever the saints have been removed, ignored, or disdained.

God bless!


As I understand, once the idea of venerating saints took hold, mostly it was by proclumation of the people to declare who was a “saint” and who was not.

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