Louise Elizabeth Wilson
Research Associate
Department of History
University of Bristol
Contextualizing Miracles in the Christian West, 1100-1500: New Historical Approaches

 Saturday 16 April 2011

Wolfson College
University of Cambridge
Organizers: Matthew Mesley and Louise Wilson
Guest Speaker: Elisabeth Van Houts (Emmanuel College, Cambridge)
Confirmed speakers: Simon Yarrow, Iona McCleery, Irina Metzler

Conference Abstract

Between 1100 and 1500 medieval scribes produced a plethora of texts that recorded the miracles of saints. The value of this material was established by scholars in the 1970s and 1980s, whose extensive analyses of a large number of miracle accounts shed light upon medieval conceptions of sainthood, the process and formalization of canonization, and broader social and cultural attitudes towards saints’ cults and pilgrimage. In the last twenty years, however, those studying miracle accounts have moved away from quantitative methods. Instead, greater focus has been placed on individual miracle collections or manuscripts, reflecting an interest in situating such texts within their institutional and local contexts, as well as exploring the literary or constructed nature of hagiographical texts. Recent scholars have also explored the political and economic functions of miracle narratives within the saint’s own community, and investigated the influence of models of piety on men and women, and on individual social groups. Others have examined the social and medical experiences of pilgrims, along with the cultural and symbolic meanings attached to individual ailments.


The aim of this one-day conference is to bring together postgraduates, early-career researchers and lecturers examining these texts. The conference will act as a forum for scholars to discuss recent developments and to provide a platform to explore or critique emerging historiographical currents. 
Conference Poster
Registration Form
Conference Schedule 
Miracles in the Localities (Chair: Helen Birkett)
Rebecca Pinner (University of East Anglia)
St Edmund of East Anglia: ‘martir, mayde and kynge’, and midwife?
Linsey Hunter (University of St Andrews)
Famous by association: the miraculous interactions of Saint Cuthbert and Robert of Newminster in Vita and Acta
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Medieval Miracles (Chair: Matthew Mesley)
Simon Yarrow (University of Birmingham)
Multivalent miracles: a diffuse and ephemeral phenomenon in twelfth-century England?
Anne E Bailey (University of Oxford)
Peter Brown and Victor Turner revisited: an alternative anthropological approach to twelfth-century miracle narratives
Miracles and Medical History (Chair: Christopher Bonfield)
Irina Metzler (University of Swansea)
Healing miracles in decline: how social realities affect religious perception
Louise Wilson (University of Cambridge)
Conceptions of the miraculous: natural philosophy and medical knowledge in thirteenth-century miracula
Iona McCleery (University of Leeds)
‘Christ mightier than Galen’: medicine and healing miracles in late medieval Portugal
Miracles and the Formation of Religious Identities (Chair: Rebecca Pinner)
Kati Ihnat (Queen Mary, University of London)
Marian liturgies and Marian miracles in the Benedictine tradition of post-Conquest England
Fiona Kao (University of Cambridge)
‘Her vnspotted & vndefiled virginitie’ and her ‘willing death and martirdome’: Foxe’s virgin martyrs
Guest Speaker (Chair: Matthew Mesley)
Elisabeth van Houts (University of Cambridge)
Miracles, marriage and gender: some explorative thoughts on medieval miracula
Sponsored by:
Medium Æevum,
Royal Historical Society,
University of Cambridge Faculty of History Graduate Conference Fund.