Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors
Mental illness, madness, medieval europe, mental disorder, possession, miracle collections
Medieval descriptions of mental distress can inform us on a range of subjects, from community organization to diagnostic and interpretive practices. While we often employ the medical model of understanding disability presently and, while this model was still present in the Middle Ages, medieval individuals often understood mental distress as a religious phenomenon. This paper utilizes two miracle collections written in the twelfth century: The Miracle Collections of Thomas Becket and the Miracle Collection of Our Lady of Rocamadour. Miracle collections record miraculous occurrences at a saint's shrine. Many of these miracles documented healings and, of these healings, some concerned themselves with the healing of mental illness and madness. Thus, the content of miracle collections raises questions both of how people understood mental distress and how they treated it. These documents show that those experiencing mental distress were often cared for by their communities. Medieval communities were acutely aware of the problems that their mentally ill neighbors were experiencing. Due to this communal experience, communities came together to care for individuals with mental disorders.
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Holland, Alice P., "Trouble Within the Fold: The Communal Response to Madness in Medieval Europe" (2022). University Honors Theses. Paper 1263.