Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Violence and Miracle in the Fourteenth Century: Private Grief and Public Suffering

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Violence and Miracle in the Fourteenth Century: Private Grief and Public Suffering

Article excerpt

Violence and Miracle in the Fourteenth Century: Private Grief and Public Suffering. By Michael E. Goodich. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1995. Pp. xi, 220. $39.95 clothbound; $14.95 paperback.)

Michael Goodich's latest book is a study of rescue miracles connected to 150 fourteenth-century saints' cults. Most of these stories come from canonization trials. Clement V's canonization of Pope Celestine V in 1312 was the first to require the performance of miracles to prove sainthood.The disasters of the fourteenth century-war, famine, disease, economic depression-prompted Christians to ask the saints to intercede with God for relief from pain, loss of property, and anxiety; thus Huizinga's paradigm of "waning" provides the historiographical foundations of Goodich's study. Catastrophes like the Black Death, Hundred Years'War, and periodic crop failures-as well as other, less notorious misfortunes-visited upon Christendom death and starvation, and also contributed to village breakdown and troubled families. Crime proliferated because of the confusion. Faith in the courts' impartiality broke down. In the midst of suffering, the saints protected their clients from bands of mercenary soldiers, sickness, raging spouses, the hangman's noose, or the accidental death of children. In return for such protection, suppliants commonly promised a pilgrimage to a relic or an offering of candles. Through the intercessions of the saints, God consoled believers for whom peace, health, family, village, and government had all but vanished. He barred the way for marauding warriors, removed the scourge of disease, withered the arms of abusive husbands, and broke the chains of the jailer and the rope of the executioner. What lords, courts, and law provided in earlier, more tranquil times, divine intervention provided in a more tumultuous era, hence the fourteenth-century proliferation of rescue stories. …

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