Holy People of the World
A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia
by Phyllis G. Jestice, Editor
December 2004, 999pp, 8 1/2x11
3 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-57607-355-1
$309, £238, 269€, A424
eBook Available: 978-1-85109-649-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Saints and shamans. Avatars and righteous men. Friends of God. In practically every religion and culture throughout history, individuals have been recognized for their uncommon connection to the divine or their exceptional service to faith and humanity. The stories of these “holy people” reflect both the spirituality of specific cultures and the universal impulse to find meaning through faith.

A cross-cultural encyclopedia of the most significant holy people in history, examining why people in a wide range of religious traditions throughout the world have been regarded as divinely inspired.

The first reference on the subject to span all the world’s major religions, Holy People of the World: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia examines the impact of individuals who, through personal charisma and inspirational deeds, served both as glorious examples of human potential and as envoys for the divine.

Holy People of the World contains nearly 1,100 biographical sketches of venerated men and women. Written by religious studies experts and historians, each article focuses on the basic question: How did this person come to be regarded as holy? In addition, the encyclopedia features 20 survey articles on views of holy people in the major religious traditions such as Islam, Buddhism, and African religions, as well as 64 comparative articles on aspects of holiness and veneration across cultures such as awakening and conversion experiences, heredity, gender, asceticism, and persecution. Whether exploring by religion, culture, or historic period, this extensively cross-referenced resource offers a wealth of insights into one of the most revealing—and least explored—common denominators of spiritual traditions.


  • Approximately 1,200 entries including biographical sketches of holy men and women, plus 20 overview articles and 64 comparative essays
  • 270 contributors include scholars from 20 countries—all leading authorities on the individuals and religions they write about
  • Hundreds of historical photographs, illustrations, and paintings depicting holy men and women
  • End-of entry bibliographic citations to guide readers to further sources on each topic
  • Exhaustive subject index
  • Rich cross-referencing structure that aids navigation among related entries
Phyllis G. Jestice, PhD, is associate professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS. Her published works include Wayward Monks and the Religious Revolution of the Eleventh Century and ABC-CLIO's Encyclopedia of Irish Spirituality.


"Nothing matches this work's coverage of women, people of color, and the breadth of world cultures."—Library Journal, March 15, 2005

"'Holy People of the World is truly a multicultural and diverse reference work . . . highly recommended for academic and public libraries."—MultiCultural Review, September 1, 2005
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