Iconic images of medieval pilgrims, such as Chaucer’s making their laborious way to Canterbury, conjure a distant time when faith was the only refuge of the ill and infirm, and thousands traveled great distances to pray for healing. Why, then, in an age of advanced biotechnology and medicine, do millions still go on pilgrimages? Why do journeys to important religious shrines—such as Lourdes, Compostela, Fátima, and Medjugorje—constitute a major industry? In Miracle Cures, Robert A. Scott explores these provocative questions and finds that pilgrimage continues to offer answers for many. Its benefits can range from a demonstrable improvement in health to complete recovery. Using research in biomedical and behavioral science, Scott examines accounts of miracle cures at medieval, early modern, and contemporary shrines. He inquires into the power of relics, apparitions, and the transformative nature of sacred journeying and shines new light on the roles belief, hope, and emotion can play in healing.
List of Illustrations
Part One / Appealing to Saints for Miracles
1. Life in the Middle Ages
4. Pilgrimage and Shrines
Part Two / Saints and Healing
6. The Role of Stress in Illness
7. Belief, Hope, and Healing
8. Framing, Confessing, Self-Efficacy, and Healing
Appendix: Accounts of Miracles at Medieval Shrines
Robert A. Scott, a sociologist, was for 18 years the deputy director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Among other books, he is the author of The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral (UC Press).
"Scott has written a magnificent book on the realities of religious healing. He brings sensibility, reason, impressive insight, and the best information to bear—qualities seldom manifested in the centuries of claim, cynicism, and controversy on the topic. His analysis is destined to raise the level of discourse on dramatic religious experiences."—Neil Smelser, author of The Odyssey Experience
Interview with the author, Robert A. Scott