The political weight of carrying Christ's wounds. Stigmatics in Europe, c.1800-1950. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2020


Rather than analyzing medical and theological expert discourses and single cases, this project focuses on the popular response to stigmatics in Europe in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century and studies their 'cluster moments', reception radius and impact. This project draws attention to the politico-religious context in which stigmatics were reported and the political meaning some of them were given. We believe that by analyzing the commotion they stirred and the enthusiasm they triggered, we can learn something about the relationship between the Church and political authorities and about laymen's perception of the place of religion in worldly affairs. We thereby perceive stigmatics as 'cult figures' – celebrities and (semi-) saints – who could develop into charismatic leaders and function as symbolic figures especially at moments of political and religious uncertainties and tensions. We will study stigmatics from various perspectives and address them as (religious) commodities, source of commotion and referred to in identity constructions. We will thereby adopt a trans-national and international perspective since celebrities and saints could be consumed differently in various countries and saints-to-be could attract also foreign devotees. By analysing three response levels (the laymen, the Church and the political authorities) we will better our understanding of the dialectical relationship between official and 'popular' religion, the relation between European Catholicisms and public authorities in different national and historical contexts.


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Project type(s)

  • Research Project