The Golden Legend is a collection of Christian legends and hagiographies written around the year 1260 by a Dominican monk Jacobus de Varagine (1230–1298).

It was one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages. In 14th–16th centuries it was second after Bible in popularity, it was often copied (more than a thousand manuscripts of the text have survived), and in the second half of the 15th century (after the invention of the movable type) it was published more than 70 times only in Latin. By this time, the Golden Legend was translated in many European languages.

Jacobus de Varagine, the bishop of Genoa, used both written sources and oral legends. He based his works on canon Gospels and apocryphal ones (e. g. the Gospel according to Nicodemus), stories from Vitae Patrum by St. Jerome, Chronikon by Eusebius of Caesarea and many medieval texts. 130 written sources of the Golden Legend have been identified. Besides, Jacobus used oral stories and legends. The final text was a compilation of entertaining stories that intermingled reality and wonders. At first, the book included 180 lives of saints, later their number grew to 200 including apocryphal stories of the Holy Virgin and Jesus Christ, few episodes from the life of the characters of Old Testament and an exciting retelling of the Holy Story. The Golden Legend was probably written for priests because it includes interpretations of the liturgical year and the church holidays.

The compilation of legends tells the stories in a simplistic way, because it was from the very beginning destined to a wide audience. It is so rich in detail that is often considered an encyclopedia of medieval life and used to reconstruct the ordinary life of 13th–14th centuries. The book’s influence on European culture was very strong. It became a source for many literary and artistic creations. Modern art historians use the attributes of saints described in the Golden Legend to identify the characters depicted on paintings, icons and frescoes.

In 13th century, the Golden Legend became known in Poland, and in 15th century in Novgorod.