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The Holy Fools Symposium

International Symposium, Munich, 11th and 12th September 2015

Holy foolery is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the context of human religiosity. Our symposium will look at this phenomenon for the first time from an intercultural perspective, and thus contribute to its deeper understanding. The holy fool intentionally ignores social conventions and behaves provocatively in public, thus leading his fellow men to the true knowledge of God. An essential component of this behaviour is also a conscious self-abasement by living in poverty, on the streets, and often by nudity. The symposium aims at a comparative investigation of holy foolery in Europe, the Middle East and in non-European cultures, and its continued presence in the modern world.

Internationales Begegnungszentrum, Amalienstraße 38, 80799 München

The Organizers:  Albrecht Berger (LMU University of Munich, Munich) – Sergey Ivanov (National Research University "Higher School of Economics", Moscow)

Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.


Andrew John Thomas The city became a desert: forcing the first holy fools into a context
Derek Krueger From comedy to martyrdom: the shifting theology of the holy fool from Symeon of Emesa to Andrew
Sergey Ivanov Holy foolery as an ambiguous sanctity by Nicon of the Black Mount
Vincent Déroche Les saints fous de l’époque mésobyzantine et tardobyzantine: archaïsme délibéré ou tradition vivante?
Isabella Gagliardi Holy fools in Medieval Western Europe: from practice to theory (XIII–XVI Cent.)
Alexandra Bergholm Saints and fools in early medieval Ireland
Ashk Dahlén The Holy Fool in Persian Literature: The qalandariyyāt genre
June McDaniel Divine Madness and Holy Fools in India: The Bengali Traditions of Paglami and Divyonmada
Franz-Karl Ehrhard Holy fools in Tibet and the Himalayas
Tihana Maravić Theatrical and performative elements in the phenomenon of the holy fool
Mario Rodríguez Polo Recent manifestations of yurodstvo
Albrecht Berger Holy fools in modern Greece


 For a more detailed programme, see here.

Abstracts are here.