The Miracles of St. John Capistran

The Miracles of St. John Capistran

The Miracles of St. John Capistran

The Miracles of St. John Capistran


"The author analyses the miracle collections promoting the canonization of the popular fifteenth-century Observant Franciscan preacher, St. John of Capistran, who was a victorious Crusader at Belgrade in 1456, and died thereafter in Ilok (a city located on the periphery of western Christianity in Croatia). Based on a thorough study of the widely scattered manuscripts on Capistranean miracles (in Naples, Rome, Venice and Paris) and with the help of a microscopic philological analysis, the author has managed to reconstruct, for the first time, one of the most complex miracle collections in the history of medieval hagiography. The accounts provide an unparalleled insight into the history of everyday life and into the various hardships, illnesses, hopes, dreams and anxieties during the late medieval and early modern period." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This is a study dealing with the miracles of a late medieval saint. Though it is relatively recently that medieval miracle accounts have been taken seriously as historical sources, the bibliography of studies of miracles has now grown vast. It is not the purpose of this introduction to detail these. But it can be said that at least three major directions can be distinguished in this ongoing research; indeed, the very definition of the notion of “miracle” depends on the perspective chosen.

One basic line of miracle research deals with the associated theological doctrine, or “the theory of miracles” (as Benedicta Ward has put it), a development extending essentially from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Another line, representing the majority of miracle studies, includes the detailed description of “miraculous” phenomena according to particular sources, the quantitative and morphological analysis of these accounts, and their contextualization in relation to sainthood, pilgrimage, monasticism, and so forth. Sigal has succinctly described the essence of this approach: “A l'étude du miracle selon des définitions theoriques il faut donc ajouter une étude du miracle dans sa réalité quotidienne á travers les témoignages de ceux qui ont été l'objet ou le témoin d'un miracle” (Sigal 1985, 10). Nevertheless, such studies, however comprehensive, do not exhaust the subject's potential, and in a certain sense they can be shown to remain on the surface of the problem. As becomes clear from the studies of Sigal and Finucane, it is possible to produce fine histories of medieval miracles within a defined geographical area without actually answering the question: what is a miracle?

A third direction envisaged here may be called the anthropology of saintly miracles. This approach has as its goal the identification of the mechanism . . .

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