Miracles and the Medieval Mind

Theory, Record and Event 1000-1215
Ward, Benedicta
Date published: 
January 1987

The miraculous wielded a considerable influence on medieval man. Events which were called miracula permeated life at every level but were so closely woven into the texture of Christian experience that there is little direct documentation of what people actually thought about them, there being no incentive to explain or examine the presuppositions that lay behind them. This new edition of an extensive study focuses on the period from 1100 to 1215, but thought about miracles, as gleaned from the writings of philosophers, theologians, Bible commentators and preachers, remained basically the same throughout the Middle Ages.

Benedicta Ward examines the records of miracles at saints' shrines such as Canterbury, and further illustrates contemporary attitudes by reference to the other three major shrines of Compostella, Rome and Jerusalem. She discusses the miracles of the Virgin Mary, miracles used in the process of papal canonization and miracles of monastic orders. She pays particular attention to the use made of miracle stories as propaganda in the records of historical events.

The medieval understanding of contact with the powers of heaven is one of the most conspicuous and yet most strange features of the period. This absorbing book, inexploring the curiously neglected source of information about the subtlety of the medieval mentality, is a work of major iomportance for all concerned with the life and thought of the Middle Ages.