The Saint and the Chopped-Up Baby
The Cult of Vincent Ferrer in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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This book began modestly, as a study of the miracles reported by fifteenth-century Breton witnesses testifying on behalf of the canonization of a Dominican preacher named Vincent Ferrer. The project has grown enormously since then. In the course of its many transformations, I have encountered a great number of debts, and it is a pleasure to...
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A Note on Names
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This story of Vincent Ferrer’s cult relies on sources in a variety of languages and from a number of different regions and cultures. In order to retain some of the sense of that diversity, I have kept the names of rulers in the language of their native regions (French for the dukes of Brittany, Catalan for the count-kings of Aragon, Castilian for the...
Events Relevant to the Canonization of Vincent Ferrer
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Prologue. From Preacher to Saint
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This is not a book about Vincent Ferrer. Rather, it is a book about Saint Vincent Ferrer. That is to say, it is a book about an idea: the idea that a Valencian Dominican friar named Vincent Ferrer, after his death in 1419, was sitting at the right hand of God and could thus intercede on behalf of people still on earth. With Vincent Ferrer the...
Chapter 1. The Situation
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Vincent came to the duchy that would be his final resting place early in 1418, entering the Breton ducal city of Nantes on February 5.1 We do not know the full details of his arrival. Certainly there was some version of the procession that formed each time Vincent entered a new town: the celebrated preacher, now quite old and debilitated, riding...
Chapter 2. The Process of Canonization
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Like any other candidate for sainthood in the later Middle Ages, Vincent Ferrer was the object of a lengthy canonization process (or processus, in the Latin of the papal curia), which was essentially a judicial trial. Because canonization involved a process and did not consist in a single act or declaration by the pope, a number of players were involved, each...
Chapter 3. Shaping the Narratives of the Saint
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Although important studies of late medieval canonizations have clarified the major phases of the canonization process as well as the considerable differences in actual procedure from canonization to canonization, scholars have only in the last decade begun to ask about the experience of participants in a canonization...
Chapter 4. Creating the Official Image of the Saint
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With the canonization of Vincent Ferrer on June 29, 1455, the work of his promoters was far from done. True, the duke of Brittany, the Vannes cathedral clergy, the king of Aragon, and the Dominican order had convinced the pope and the College of Cardinals that the Valencian preacher was indeed a saint, but that was not enough. There still...
Chapter 5. Competing Stories: Whose Vincent Ferrer Is It Anyway?
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When Pietro Ranzano’s new Life of Vincent Ferrer was approved by the brothers of his order in May 1456, it did not immediately have the effect its author and commissioners must have intended: to stabilize an “official” image of the new saint as a healer of Schism and converter of infidels. Rather, throughout the first half century or so after Vincent’s...
Appendix. The Lérida Inquest and the Letter of Canonization
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Fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century authors had a variety of sources from which to draw information about Vincent’s miraculous intercession. Some, such as Pietro Ranzano, Antoninus of Florence, and Francesco Castiglione, had direct access to the canonization inquests. For a number of his miracle tales, Ranzano appears also to have...
Chapter 6. The Afterlife of the Chopped-Up Baby: The Sixteenth Century and Beyond
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On August 23, 1637, Sebastien de Rosmadec, bishop of Vannes, and an odd assortment of clerics, theologians, and local notables all stood breathlessly around a table in a chapel in the Vannes cathedral as two physicians and two surgeons examined a collection of bones. For starters, there was the saint’s lower jawbone, removed from the silver reliquary...
Epilogue. Saint Vincent Ferrer in the Spanish Americas
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As Iberian explorers sailed westward across the Atlantic Ocean, they brought their Catholic faith with them. The sails of Columbus’s vessels were painted with religious images, while millennial dreams fired the imagination of the admiral who came to see himself as Christo-ferens, Christ-bearer. By papal decree, the claims of Portugal and Spain to lands in the New...
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Publication Year: 2014