This database is the result of the project ‘Between saints and celebrities. The devotion and promotion of stigmatics in Europe, c. 1800-1950’, supported by a Starting Grant (637908) of the European Research Council (PI: Tine Van Osselaer, 2015-2019), and hosted by the Ruusbroec Institute (University of Antwerp). We encourage our readers to visit the project’s website, where they will find more information on the outcomes of the project and will be able to download most of our publications.
The main objective of this database is to provide an inventory of stigmatics in several European countries during the ‘golden age’ of religious stigmatisation (c. 1800-1950). We define a stigmatic as someone who claimed to experience the pain of the Passion and carry the wounds of Christ. Their stigmata might have been visible or invisible; in the latter case, the holy wounds were painful but did not leave a mark. They might also be imitative, mimicking the wounds of Christ, or figurative, taking different forms (e.g. a cross) and appearing on different parts of the body.
We have noted that other mystical phenomena were also reported by the figures we have tracked down. Most of the time, religious stigmatisation was part of a compendium of allegedly supernatural experiences that established the person’s reputation. In many cases, stigmata were not the ‘main feature’. For example, a person may have been better known as a prophet than as a stigmatic. In addition, several cases were considered fraudulent. In the database, we point to these types of accusations without excluding such cases, because we have prioritised people’s belief in the phenomenon. Consequently, we have included all cases where, according to those surrounding them, stigmata were present. For each case, we have included a small biography and, if available, pictures and relevant sources published up to twenty years or so after the stigmatic’s death. Sometimes, we found only a brief reference to an ‘anonymous’ stigmatic and a biography could not be provided.
The stigmatics listed in the database are searchable by country, name and a selection of keywords, such as the type of stigmata, the social status (e.g. lay or religious) and other mystical phenomena. The map links each stigmatic to the place they are most closely associated with (e.g. the convent where they lived or their hometown). Stigmatics located outside Europe were usually pilgrims or missionaries. The map allows the identification of geographical clusters that may point to regional stigmatic communities. Furthermore, a timeline, based on the date of the first apparition of the stigmata, permits the detection of ‘active’ stigmatics according to various time periods (e.g. the First World War). As stigmatics often functioned as symbolic figures of ideological causes, this database also provides an overview of the scope of religious stigmatisation in times of crisis.
The sources included relate to different stages in the promotion and devotion of the stigmatic. We have included published and unpublished material, sources that circulated on a local or international scale, and those that were produced both during the life and after the death of the stigmatic. In this regard, we looked for texts, images, material remnants, devotional objects and such like. The artefacts and texts produced by both supporters and opponents of the stigmatic have also been included. The collection is not exhaustive but should provide a good idea of what kinds of resources have been preserved and can be used for further research.
We would like to express our thanks for the invaluable help and encouragement received from various archives, libraries and individuals in tracking down the sources on the hundreds of stigmatics we have found. Without them, this database would not have been possible.
Our team has researched stigmatics in the following countries:
France and Spain: Andrea Graus
Italy: Leonardo Rossi
Great Britain: Kristof Smeyers
Belgium and Germany: Tine Van Osselaer
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