While the late Anglo-Saxons rarely recorded saints' posthumous miracles, a shift occurred as monastic writers of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries started to preserve hundreds of the stories they had heard of healings, acts of vengeance, resurrections, recoveries, and other miraculous deeds effected by their local saints. Indeed, Rachel Koopmans contends, the miracle collection quickly became a defining genre of high medieval English monastic culture.
Koopmans surveys more than seventy-five collections and offers a new model for understanding how miracle stories were generated, circulated, and replicated. She argues that orally exchanged narratives carried far more propagandistic power than those preserved in manuscripts; stresses the literary and memorial roles of miracle collecting; and traces changes in form and content as the focus of the collectors shifted from the stories told by religious colleagues to those told by lay visitors to their churches.
Wonderful to Relate highlights the importance of the two massive collections written by Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury in the wake of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. Koopmans provides the first in-depth examination of the creation and influence of the Becket compilations, often deemed the greatest of all medieval miracle collections. In a final section, she ponders the decline of miracle collecting in the thirteenth century, which occurred with the advent of formalized canonization procedures and theological means of engaging with the miraculous.
About the authors
Rachel Koopmans teaches history at York University, Toronto.
Other titles by Ruth Mazo Karras
Balaam's Ass: Vernacular Theology Before the English Reformation
Volume 1: Frameworks, Arguments, English to 1250
The Christian Jew and the Unmarked Jewess
The Polemics of Sameness in Medieval English Anti-Judaism
To Live Like a Moor
Christian Perceptions of Muslim Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Spain
Elf Queens and Holy Friars
Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church
The Medieval Salento
Art and Identity in Southern Italy
Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe
The Penance of Louis the Pious and the Decline of the Carolingians
Marriage, Sex, and Civic Culture in Late Medieval London
A Crisis of Truth
Literature and Law in Ricardian England
Medieval Woman's Song