From Authentic Miracles to a Rhetoric of Authenticity: Examples from the Canonization and Cult of St. Vincent Ferrer (d. 1419)

26 Apr 2010
4:00 am - 6:00 am

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Laura Smoller
Univ of Arkansas at Little Rock

This talk traces a shifting set of approaches to the problem of authenticating miracles in the fifteenth century and beyond, drawing examples from the canonization and cult of the itinerant apocalyptic preacher Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419). One the one hand, during canonization inquests, prospective miracles were collected and scrutinized with an eye to proving their authenticity and providing evidence of the candidate’s sanctity. On the other hand, miracles performed other specific functions: what defined a miracle for scholastic theologians was as much its utility as its supernatural character. That second definition gave priority to the pious message inherent in a miracle tale, but not so much to the demonstration of the miracle’s surpassing the bounds of nature. Accordingly, outside of the confines of the canonization process, one finds several alternative approaches to proclaiming a miracle’s authenticity, from the public advertisement of miracles at a potential saint’s tomb, to the adoption of a “rhetoric of authenticity” by authors of the saint’s life, for whom miracle tales often could drive home a polemical point.

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This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Office for the History of Science and Technology

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