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The hanging of William Cragh: anatomy of a miracle
By Jussi Hanska
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 27 (2001)
Abstract: This paper is a case study of a miracle story, the hanging and resuscitation of William Cragh. It studies the metamorphosis from a historical event to a miracle story. The miracle itself, on the ﬁrst impression, seems to be relatively insigniﬁcant. Most of the persons involved are unknown from other sources, and the story was rejected in the ﬁnal phase of canonisation. It is the very weakness of the story that makes it important. The testimonies of the witnesses are often contradictory and there are obvious deviations from the truth.
Why were the witnesses economical with the truth? Some stood to gain, some simply did not remember correctly, some wanted to emphasise their own role, and some wanted to meet the expectations of the papal commission. There is, however, no evidence that the witnesses would have been manipulated by the proctors of the Hereford chapter which stood to gain from the canonisation. It is also evident that the papal commission was not satisﬁed with merely having the witnesses’ statements written down. The commissioners did everything possible to produce an objective and informative ﬁle of each miracle for the use of the pope and cardinals.