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12 Medicine and Miracle: Law Enforcement in the Lives of Irish Saints

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Chapter Summary

The nexus of law, medicine, and miracle lies at the heart of and serves to underline issues of status in the Lives of Ireland's saints. The Irish society visible in the vernacular law tracts of the seventh and eighth centuries is heavily stratified. One of the signal elements of status about which the Lives offer a merging of medicine, law, and miracle involves the expectations placed on women. Sovereignty is an issue on which the saints' acts frequently offer a miraculous and medical commentary. The saints of Ireland's medieval vitae and bethada move through a hagiographical society in which the tenets of vernacular law figure prominently. The present analysis has explored numerous cases in which saints inflicted medical miracles upon members of their community in the service of upholding and defining the laws of early Ireland, with particular emphasis on the proper recognition of the saint's position.

Keywords: hagiographical society; Ireland; law; medicine; saints; sovereignty



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