Saint Anthony's Fire from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century
Saint Anthony's Fire from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century
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Preface AGOSTINO PARAVICINI BAGLIANI Acknowledgements List of abbreviations Introduction 1 Interpreting Medical Texts: the Polysemantic Nature of the Lexicon 2 Disease in Non-Medical Texts: Symbol and Literary Topos 3 Studying Saint Anthony's Fire Part I: The Burning Disease. Different Names for the Same Disease or Different Diseases with the Same Name? 1 Ignis Sacer ('Holy Fire') in the Ancient World 2 Ignis Sacer in the Late Antique World 3 Outbreaks of the Burning Disease: Epidemics of Ergotism? 3.1 The Historiae of Rodulfus Glaber 3.2 The Chronicon and Sermons of Ademar of Chabannes 4 Outbreaks of Ignis Sacer 5 The Meaning(s) of Ignis Sacer in Medieval Medical Sources 6 The Thaumaturgical Privilege of Healing the Burning Disease 6.1 The Greatest Thaumaturge: the Virgin Mary 6.2 The Burning Disease in Arras: the Miracle of the Sainte Chandelle 7 The Emergence of Saint Anthony's Fire 8 Saint Anthony's Fire and Ignis Sacer: Was It the Same Disease? 9 Saint Anthony's Fire in Medieval chronicles and Hagiographical Texts 10 Many Different Names for the Same Disease: the 'Wolf', Saint Fiacre's Diseases and Saint Eligius's Disease 11 Saint Anthony's Fire and Ergotism in the Early Modern Period Part II: St Anthony the Abbot, Thaumaturge of the Burning Disease, and the Order of the Hospital Brothers of St Anthony 1 A Brief Preface on the Antonine Order 2 The Legends of the Translation of the Body (or Bodies) of St Anthony the Abbot and the Birth of the Order of the Hospital Brothers of St Anthony 3 The Remains of St. Anthony in Lézat and Their Thaumaturgical Powers 4 The Emergence of the Antonine Order and St Anthony's Holy Remains as Treatment 5 The Hospital of Saint-Antoine-en-Viennois and Its Patients 5.1 The Hospital of Saint-Antoine-en-Viennois and the Hôtels-Dieu: the Thirteenth-Century Antonine Statutes 5.2 The Fifteenth-Century Antonine Statutes 6 Saint Anthony's Fire Sufferers at the Hospital of Saint-Antoine-en-Viennois: the Early Modern Period 7 Beggars, Impostors and Simulators: Feigning Saint Anthony's Fire PART III: The Discovery of Ergotism (Saint Anthony's Fire?) 1 Medieval Epidemics of the Burning Disease as Told by Historians in the 16th and 17th Century 2 The Discovery of Ergotism between the 17th and 18th Century 3 Saint Anthony's Fire as Ergotism? Contradictions in Eighteenth-Century Medical Texts 4 Ergotism in Nineteenth-Century Historiography 5 Ergotism and Convulsive Epidemics: Saint Anthony's Fire? 6 A Final Observation on Ergotism Conclusion Bibliography Index

Reviews and Features

"Statt immer wieder zu fragen, welches heutige Syndrom denn nun „eigentlich“ hinter der angeblich defizitären Anamnese eines mittelalterlichen Chronisten stecke, sollten wir die kulturell wirksamen Krankheitskonzepte der Zeitgenossen ernst nehmen und in all ihrer Widersprüchlichkeit und Vielschichtigkeit nachzuzeichnen versuchen. Alessandra Foscati tut dies quellenkritisch und begriffsgeschichtlich mit großer Präzision."
- Gregor Rohmann, Frankfurt am Main, Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 47 3 (2020)

"I enjoyed reading this book, which brings a scholarly approach to a topic that has often been misunderstood and oversimplified in general medical history texts of past decades. For this reason, it will be a welcome addition to the shelves of academic libraries. While the relationship between the terms sacred fire, Saint Anthony’s fire, and ergotism was a fluid one that varied over the centuries, here we find a good understanding of where their meanings overlap, and where they do not."
- Piers D. Mitchell, Speculum Vol. 97, No. 2 (April 2022)

In short, Saint Anthony's Fire from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century can be considered a milestone in the study of the ignis sacer and its relationship with the Fire of Saint Anthony and ergotism. The abundant selection of works and authors of a very diverse nature (medical, legal, hagiographic) over such a wide span of time - from Antiquity to the nineteenth century - makes this book a work of great scientific rigour and a model for future research on the lexicon of pathology.

Alessandra Foscati

Saint Anthony's Fire from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century

After the discovery of the ergotism epidemics (poisoning caused by ingesting the fungal toxin of rye) and its etiology, eighteenth-century physicians interpreted medieval chronicles in their medical texts in order to recognize the occurrences of ergotic diseases through retrospective diagnosis. They assumed that St. Anthony's fire and ignis sacer ("sacred fire") recorded in medieval texts represented the same disease, ergotism. This interpretative method, lacking a textual basis in the sources, has been incorrectly followed by historians till now. This book examines this historical prejudice through textual analysis, comparing diverse medieval and early modern sources. A striking semantic complexity emerges that changes the concept of St. Anthony's fire and modifies our understanding of diseases in general. This research illuminates aspects of the history of medicine, society, and hospitals.

Alessandra Foscati

Alessandra Foscati holds a PhD in Medieval History at the University of Bologna. She is member of the School of Arts and Humanities, Centre for Classical Studies - University of Lisbon. She is the author of Ignis sacer. Una storia culturale del ‘fuoco sacro’ dall’antichità al Settecento, Florence, SISMEL 2013.