Miracles and superstitions in Europe's everyday life 0

Marius Vyšniauskas
www.kamane.lt, 2016-04-18
Masaccio. Healing of the Cripple and Raising of Tabitha, 1425, Brancacci Chapel, Florence, Italy.

In brief: Belief in miracles in society shows the inability of people to rationally explain the strange events that once in a while occur in our everyday life. We will talk about it more in this article by analyzing various mystical stories that resonated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Western Europe.

First of all, the biggest value was given to the supernatural healing. Perhaps the most curious case were the St. Medard's convulsions that took place in the cemetery of the same name in Paris. Hoping to heal, the sick would lie down on the grave of ascetic deacon François Pâris (1690–1727) and scoop the soil from the tomb for balms and various packs.


However, the most widely discussed was the amateur healing of scrofula (a chronic neck lymph node tuberculosis). In the Middle Ages only English and French monarchs shared the privilege of treating scrofula, because they claimed to have a divine power (divinitus) to repel the disease by touching a sick person. Habsburgs claimed to be able to treat stuttering - they were only required to kiss a sick person on the lips. The kings of Castile had the power to drive out demons from the possessed by simply drawing a cross and invoking god and the Hungarian monarchs treated jaundice.

The Polish King and Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila (1348–1434) was also partial to superstition. In 1433 Baltic Sea fishermen had given him a strange creature with a shaven monk-like head and a large fish body. He was nicknamed the "bishop fish." It was said that the king wanted to keep him and tried talking to him in Polish and Latin, but the creature bitterly observed the people in silence. It refused any kind of food and when it started to wane, it approached the Catholic bishop, begging him to be returned to the sea. The freed fish-bishop crossed the surrounding people in gratitude and disappeared forever in the Baltic waves.

However, Middle Ages are mostly inseparable from the holy relics that attracted vagabonds of all kinds. The more wonders were recorded, the more popular the saint was becoming and his grave would turn into the center of pilgrimage. For example, the body of St. Ludovico started performing miracles right after death, but the most interesting part of it was that they were happening not only with the solid parts of the saint's body, i.e. bones, but also with his gut.

Miracles happening next to the St. Casimir's (1458–1484) grave were described in detail, in the Vilnius Cathedral canon Grigalius Svencickis' (1577–1617) book. He mentions that after the prince died people were traveling to his grave to ask for blessings and for their desires to be fulfilled.

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