Chapter 6 Miracula and Exempla – A Complicated Relationship

In: A Companion to Medieval Miracle Collections
Author: Jussi Hanska

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The two genres of miracles and exempla are close relatives, and indeed, miracle stories were widely used as exemplum within model sermon collections and other preachers’ handbooks such as exemplum collections. When used as exempla, miracle stories were re-worked and abbreviated heavily to suit the need of a preacher. Once turned into an exemplum, popular miracle stories circulated from one model sermon collection to another and gained wider popularity. The most popular stories were circulated over several centuries, and consequently were preached live for generations of audiences effectively diffusing and strengthening the cult of the saint in question. The influence between preachers and their audiences was not a one-way street. Sometimes the preachers learned the miracle stories from the audiences, not the other way round.