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,1 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.2
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.3
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.4 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