Madonnas That Maim: Popular Catholicism in Italy Since the Fifteenth Century

Madonnas That Maim: Popular Catholicism in Italy Since the Fifteenth Century

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Author/Editor: Carroll, Michael P
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: 1992
Binding: Hardcover
Condition: NEW

In 1560 a poor woman named Margherita left the Italian city of Piacenza to check on her crop. In the field she heard herself being called, and turned to see a woman dressed in white. It was "the blessed Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary". Mary was soon joined by a male figure, whom she identified as Christ. "The blasphemies of Piacenza angered Christ", said Mary, who had intervened before Christ devastated the city with a flood. She gave Margherita specific instructions for the people of Piacenza to save themselves from divine punishment. And to ensure that Margherita would be believed, Mary gave a sign: she paralyzed Margherita's legs.

In Madonnas That Maim, Michael Carroll looks at the ways in which Italians have revered, invoked, feared, and placated their madonnas and saints. Carroll examines a range of devotional practices that have been legitimated by the local Catholic clergy in Italy for centuries--including the cult of the patron saint, relics, miracles, processions, sanctuaries, pilgrimage, and the mixing of Catholic ritual and magic. He explores the "dark side" of holiness--the willingness of the madonnas and saints of Italy to maim, occasionally even to kill, in order to maintain their own cults--and discusses the psychological origins of such a belief structure. He also considers differences between northern and southern Italy, both in popular Catholicism and in the social structures that have allowed differences to emerge.

Including an English-language overview of literature on popular Catholicism in Italy and summaries of important studies by its authors, Madonnas That Maim offers a rich account of the development of beliefs and practices that have characterized popular piety in Italy for the past five hundred years.