IMC 2013: Sessions

Session 1008: Healing the Body and the Mind: St Thomas Becket, Leprosy, and Mental Illness

Wednesday 3 July 2013, 09.00-10.30

Sponsor:Wellcome Library, London
Organiser:Elma Brenner, Wellcome Library, London
Moderator/Chair:Patricia E. Skinner, Research Institute for Arts & Humanities, Swansea University
Paper 1008-aMental Illness in the Miracles of Thomas Becket
(Language: English)
Claire Trenery, Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London
Index terms: Hagiography, Medicine
Paper 1008-bLeprosy in the 'Miracle Windows' of Canterbury Cathedral
(Language: English)
Rachel M. Koopmans, Department of History, York University, Toronto
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Art History - General, Hagiography, Medicine
Paper 1008-cThomas Becket and Leprosy in Normandy
(Language: English)
Elma Brenner, Wellcome Library, London
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Hagiography, Medicine, Monasticism

This session explores perceptions of the healing powers of Saint Thomas Becket, whose cult flourished in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with particular regard to mental illness and leprosy. Claire Trenery examines the depiction of mental illness in the twelfth-century miracles of Thomas Becket, focusing on the relationship between sin and mental illness, and the physical and spiritual implications of conditions like epilepsy and insanity. Becket’s associations with a bodily affliction, leprosy, are considered by Rachel Koopmans and Elma Brenner. Koopmans discusses the iconographic representation of miracle tales involving leprosy in the stained glass windows of Canterbury Cathedral. Examining archival documents, letters and leprosarium dedications in Normandy, Brenner questions whether Becket’s connection to leprosy related to healing, or rather to lepers’ special religious status and the notion that they themselves were martyrs.