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Miracles of Pregnancy and Birth

(1,692 words)

Author(s): Fiona Harris-Stoerz
Medieval Christians turned to saints to prevent or alleviate the suffering in childbirth visited upon women by Eve's sin according to Genesis 3:16. Miracles of pregnancy and birth, performed by both living and dead saints, represent a small but significant portion of medieval miracles: one or two percent in the high Middle Ages, and more than three percent by the later Middle Ages, as vows to saints from a distance, more practical for birth miracles, became common. (See also Childbirth and Pilgr…

Childbirth and Pilgrimage

(926 words)

Author(s): Fiona Harris-Stoerz
Men and women throughout the Middle Ages undertook pilgrimages to request offspring, ensure safe pregnancies and births, cure pregnancy-related health problems, and give thanks for successful outcomes. (See also Children and Pilgrims). Childbirth miracles often occurred at home, rather than at shrines of saints, especially in the high and later Middle Ages when vows to saints from a distance became more common. (See also Vows). Childbirth emergencies tended to be sudden, and by their nature ofte…

Fertility

(915 words)

Author(s): Fiona Harris-Stoerz
When medieval couples had difficulty conceiving healthy offspring, they often asked saints for help. Not only could sterility mean the end of a family line, but it sometimes brought shame and scorn from family and neighbors. A woman in 1404, eventually healed by Dorothy of Montau, reported prolonged abuse from her family after she failed to conceive again for five years after a difficult first birth. (See also Women Pilgrims, Children and Pilgrims, and Childbirth and Pilgrimage). Another woman f…