Author(s): Ziegler J
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Abstract This article shows that recourse to expert medical judgement for authenticating miracles has medieval roots which lead to the thirteenth century. It provides a survey of those cases in the printed versions of canonization processes from c. 1200 to c. 1500 where medical men actively appeared as witnesses. It shows how, from the second half of the thirteenth century, many canonization processes (overwhelmingly in southern Europe) included at least one medical man who witnessed or gave expert testimony as a supplier of medicine. The physicians who appeared as expert witnesses were expected to rule out the possibility that there was a natural explanation for the wonderous cure. To acquire medical confirmation that a certain cure was miraculous seemed highly desirable to those wishing to substantiate claims of sanctity. Physician witnesses were often called upon to evaluate cases of which they had personal knowledge because of the medical know-how they possessed: however, medical science was not considered so universal that any physician could review the case (as is theoretically the case today in the medical council at the Vatican). Thus, to the therapeutic function of physicians and surgeons in southern Europe from the second half of the thirteenth century, a hitherto neglected duty should be added: whenever necessary, the community as well as the local ecclesiastical authorities expected the suppliers of medical services to contribute to the formal recognition of an apparent saint.
This article was published in Soc Hist Med
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology