By analyzing some selected miracles of St. Martin of Tours in the Vita Martini and the dialogues of Sulpicius Severus, and their poetic elaborations by Paulinus of Perigueux and Venantius Forunatus, different types of interpreting the nature of animals and its function for hagiographic devices can be outlined.
In early monastic literature, wilderness is prominent as a natural location enabling ascetics to attain purity of heart. Both idea and geography, wilderness distresses – even terrifies – with its dangers and depreivations yet also strikes monastic dwellers with wonder, often through paranormal experiences with animals and angels or other signs of God’s provision. Focusing on wonder in various types of wilderness, I analyze how basic problems of health (mental and physical), sustenance, and other matters of survival are solved – e.g., by compassionate angels, a botanically informed ibex, a self-propelled camel caravan, and human ingenuity at a locus amoenus – and relate these solutions to conceptual implications and controversies as well as genre influences underlying representations of wilderness as wonderful.
In a small group of miracle stories dating from largely between the 9th and 12th centuries, saints are found resurrecting geese. These stories are marked exceptions within hagiography, where saints normally leave nature transformed by grace, while here untamed animals are simply restored alive to the wild after a human transgression. This paper will consider the earliest of such miracle, the 9th-century Breton story of Saint Winwaloe, which stands apart from the goose resurrection miracle as it appears in later stories, and sheds light on the folklore lying behind the amalgam of rural tradition and Christian story in these miracles.