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Medieval phenomena in a modern age : a study of six contemporary cases of stigmata and reactions to them

Harrison, Edward (1998) Medieval phenomena in a modern age : a study of six contemporary cases of stigmata and reactions to them. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94403) (KAR id:94403)

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The thesis, which is based on a first-hand examination of six contemporary cases of religious stigmatisation, offers a new approach to the study of stigmata in the Christian tradition. Stigmata are the wounds of Christ's passion, which, in this context, are those displayed in physical form on the human body to which a spiritual, devotional or pietistic significance is attached and about which claims of preternatural origins are made. The thesis suggests that most previous studies of the subject have been intrinsically restricted in their approach by maintaining a false dichotomy: that religious stigmatisation must either be fraudulent or genuine, that is created (diabolically or by human means) in order to deceive, or, created by supernatural means for a divine purpose. This study finds that while claims were made of the modem stigmata that they were of divine and supernatural origin, no witness evidence was found to corroborate the suggestion that the marks had been produced in any other than a natural way. Yet neither was a common human or natural explanation identified. The marks were produced in various ways which differed from case to case. Their significance however depended not on their cause, but on their validation through the interaction of the stigmatics with the communities which sustained them. It was from this process of interaction that reports of the supernatural and the miraculous emerged. As the stigmatics came to be seen by witnesses and worshipping congregations as living allegories of Christ's passion, significant events, which incorporated elements of spiritual renewal, occurred. Stigmata of human origin appeared to be capable of deepening the faith of both the stigmatics and those who witnessed their marks; they led both groups into a greater awareness of the divine; and provided the opportunity for members of both groups to explore their own spirituality.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94403
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Christian tradition; Religious stigmatisation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2022 18:28 UTC
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2022 18:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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