2024 Abstracts

Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona: The Power of the Narrative in Support of the Miraculous. Caesarius of Heisterbach and his Popular Appeal

This paper will examine Caesarius of Heisterbach’s Dialogus Miraculorum as a medium for the exploration of miracles and of the workings of the devil. This collection proved to be extremely popular, and there are good reasons to explain that popularity. The intention here is to explore the narrative strategies, the pragmatic employment of relevant topics and themes, and the arguments that made those miracles so convincing. We face here a stupendous example of a body of texts that reflect deeply on religious ideology and popular mentality.


Emanuele Piazza, Department of Educational Sciences – University of Catania: FALSE MIRACLES, FALSE DOCTORS AND THE POTENTIA OF SAINTS IN THE GAUL OF GREGORY OF TOURS

The constant efforts of the Church in the early Middle Ages to curb the persistence of pagan practices are well illustrated by the pastoral action of Gregory, bishop of Tours from 573 to 594. In particular, the paper aims to examine the extent to which Gregory, both in the Libri Historiarum and in the Libri octo miraculorum, emphasized the fundamental role of the saints and their relics in curing the numerous diseases that afflicted the faithful, and the vigilance on the part of the clergy in preventing the people from giving credence to impostors who promised miraculous medical remedies. Starting from the assumption that only the saints, and Martin of Tours in particular, could cure the sickness of the body and above all of the soul, the Gallic bishop points out in his writings the fallacy of those pseduo-prophets and astrologers who deceived the rusticitas of the Gallic population, that is to say the most ignorant and naive, with their abominable necromantic arts. The only legitimate spiritual powers were those invoked by the viri Dei to cure the sick, and among these we shall look more closely at the paralytics, whose stories allow us to understand the extent to which recourse to the thaumaturgical potentia of the saints could be an effective means (a sort of medical “science”) not only of defeating illness, but also of giving the faithful an example of how to combat the charlatans who promised false miracles.