Ailments and Cures
     Humors
     Epidemics
     Healing and Hospitals
     Surgery and Dissection

Social Aspects
     Religion
     Miracles
     Women
     Education

Bibliography
     Sources

Site Information
     Miscellaneous
     Home

 

 

 

Miracles

The Saints As Christianity expanded northward during the early Middle Ages, the cult of saints and relics was imported into the realm of the barbarians, and for many who were converted, the bones of holy mend and their relics became the very core of Christianity, taking the place of theological subtleties that they could not hope to understand. From then on, the cult of saints and relics dominated Christian Europe. Each shrine and its immediate vicinity were viewed as being inhabited by a powerful presence, and it was believed that the saints were especially responsive to prayers made near their relics.

For the physically ill or maimed or the demon-possessed, these shrines became a focal point for hope, comfort, healing, and a social and spiritual reintegration throughout the Middle Ages. The festival of a saint would bring the community together, the mercy of the saint embracing all of his/her members, whether the more or the less fortunate.

Prayer Although not the sole means of healing in the church's repertoire, the cult of saints and relics overshadowed all other sources of licit miraculous healing. Prayer was a mechanism for hope, but it lacked both the glamor and the efficacy of the cult of saints and relics. Even prayer itself was so frequently made to or through saints and their relics that it seems to be nearly subsumed under the cult.

Anointing with Oil for Healing Yet another practice supposedly inducing miracles was anointing with oil for healing. This process was taken directly from the Bible (James 5:14-16). It appears that anointing was considered an epitome of piety towards the Christian god. Many a times, words were uttered against paganism or pagan practices, that they would be done away with if only the participants would subject themselves to anointing with oil. The anointing with oil was to not only promote the health of the body but also become a medium to have the sins forgiven. At first, this practice was allowed by the Church to be performed by laymen as well as the clergy, but with time, it was limited to be administered only by a priest. This happened precisely due to its believed property of pardoning a person's sins.

Communion The anointing with oil was usually put off until the last moment, because it included renouncing of marital relations and of the eating of meat. The same can be noted for administration of communion to those in danger of death. With time, both of these were administered in extreme cases only.

The spectacular nature of healing by miracles is highlighted oftentimes in medieval literature, especially when the failures of physicians are mentioned in particular cases. But more often than not, even the people who actually were educated enough to take the written account of a miracle, would apply the guidelines for medicine from medical handbooks and pharmacological guides. As a matter of fact, Pope Gregory I, who more than any other individual shaped the ethos of early medieval Catholicism, with its emphasis on miraculous healing, the cult of saints and relics, and demonology, had a fascination with medicine.