The Devotion and Promotion of Stigmatics in Europe, c. 1800–1950

Between Saints and Celebrities


In the nineteenth century a new type of mystic emerged in Catholic Europe. While cases of stigmatisation had been reported since the thirteenth century, this era witnessed the development of the ‘stigmatic’: young women who attracted widespread interest thanks to the appearance of physical stigmata. To understand the popularity of these stigmatics we need to regard them as the ‘saints’ and religious ‘celebrities’ of their time. With their ‘miraculous’ bodies, they fit contemporary popular ideas (if not necessarily those of the Church) of what sanctity was. As knowledge about them spread via modern media and their fame became marketable, they developed into religious ‘celebrities’.
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Tine Van Osselaer, Ph.D. (2009), KU Leuven, is research professor at the University of Antwerp. She has published on religious history, gender history and history of emotions, including The Pious sex. Catholic constructions of masculinity and femininity in Belgium, c. 1800-1950 (2013).

Andrea Graus, Ph.D. (2015), Autonomous University of Barcelona, is Marie Curie fellow at the Centre Alexandre-Koyré (CNRS), and was postdoctoral researcher of the Stigmatics project (University of Antwerp). Her most recent publication is Ciencia y espiritismo en España (Comares, 2019).

Leonardo Rossi, University of Antwerp, is a Ph.D. student at that university's Ruusbroec Institute. He has published articles on Italian stigmatics, popular devotion, and the Holy Office in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Kristof Smeyers, University of Antwerp, is a Ph.D. student at that university's Ruusbroec Institute. Recent publications include "Making sense of stigmata: how Victorians understood the wounds of Christ", Journal of Victorian Culture (2019).
List of Illustrations

1 Stigmatics
Tine Van Osselaer, Leonardo Rossi and Kristof Smeyers,
in collaboration with Andrea Graus
 1 Introduction
 2 Tracing Stigmata
 3 The Invention of “Stigmatics”
 4 Building Blocks

2 Saints and Celebrities
Tine Van Osselaer
 1 Saints in the Spotlight
 2 The Scale of Fame: Transnational and Comparative Approach
 3 Religious Celebrities
 4 An Interactive Approach

3 On Stigmata, Suffering and Sanctity
Tine Van Osselaer
 1 Theodor Nolde’s Visit
 2 The “Spectacle” of the Holy Wounds
 3 The Meaning of Suffering
 4 The Effect of Suffering on the Visitors

4 Visiting Stigmatics and Their Promotion from the Ground Up: The Devotees, the Unofficial Movements and the Episcopate in France
Andrea Graus
 1 French Stigmatics and Visitors’ Expectations
 2 Inside the Fridays of Passion
 3 The Diocesan Response to the Visits
 4 The Visitors’ Unofficial Movements
 5 Conclusions

5 Selling Sensation, Creating Sanctity: The Visual and Material Culture of “Stigmatics”
Tine Van Osselaer
 1 In the Public Eye
 2 Commerce and Devotion
 3 Capturing Corporeal Mysticism
 4 Creativity after Death
 5 Conclusions

6 Stigmatics, Politics and the Law: On Fake Stigmata and “Self-styled” Sanctity in Spain and France
Andrea Graus
 1 Stigmatics and Political Symbolism
 2 Sor Patrocinio, Rosette Tamisier and the “Two Spains/Frances”
 3 The Law and the Public Debunking of Stigmatics
 4 Fake Stigmata and Self-styled Sanctity in the Anticlerical Press
 5 Conclusions

7 Stigmatized Blood in the Vatican Courts: Religious Response and Strategy
Leonardo Rossi
 1 Introduction: An Ambiguous Relationship
 2 The Vatican Perspective
 3 Examining Stigmatics
 4 Conclusions

8 Conclusion
Tine Van Osselaer
 1 A Visible Type
 2 New Types and the Scale of Their Circulation
 3 Suggestions for Further Research
Biographical Dictionary of Stigmatics
Index of Names and Subjects
All interested in European religious history of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, those who have an interest in cultural history and/or celebrity studies.
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