Scholarship has routinely assumed that the many medieval eucharistic miracle stories about hosts witnessed as discernibly the body of Christ — newborn, bloody, crucified, or dismembered — were designed to quell doubts in the doctrine of the Mass with coercive ocular confirmation. But the stories themselves trade on the fact that they could not do so, and theological explanations of the doctrine show that they should not be expected to; both the nature of the doctrine and the nature of belief rendered such an ambition incoherent. The stories emphasize instead the sacrament’s brash affront to common sense and even common sensibility, provoking faith to work instead of rendering it redundant with evidence.

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