Amputation Miracles: St. Nicholas of Tolentino

This is the hardcore story of a professional scribe and notary, a government bureaucrat of medieval Macerata, Italy, who had some pretty amazing things happen to him in full view of everybody. It’s from the canonization records for St. Nicholas of Tolentino.

This miracle is stated by me, written with the very words with which it was deposed upon by Francesco Andreoli, who received the grace. And here it is from his deposition.

He said that in the year of Our Lord 1324, on the 6th of the month of August, on the feast day of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, was when the said Francesco had a brawl with Napolione, his full brother. In the city of Macerata, in the San Salvatore Quarter, in front of the house of Francesco Bondi, this same Napolione attacked the said Francesco with an unsheathed sword, and struck him with it on the right hand at the “fat finger,” or thumb. He amputated it totally, so that it was separated from the hand. The said finger was so separated from the said hand that it was thrown fifteen feet away or more by the said blow.

And then the said Francesco went to the place where the finger lay and quickly picked it up again, and immediately putting it back on the said hand from where it had been lopped off, he said, vowing himself to Blessed Nicholas, “O Blessed Nicholas of Tolentino, I ask you and beg you that you will show your power, so that I will not lose my hand and finger. Therefore I promise to come to Tolentino and to your coffin, and to offer a one-pound wax hand, and to fast continually on the Eve of your Feast, and continually to write out [letters] in the service of your canonization without any pay, and whenever it is required.”

And having set forth the said vow, he made himself be given a needle with thread on it, and he made two stitches on himself, one beneath the wound and one above it. And he went back home, and made himself be given silk thread and a needle, and he set forty good stitches around [his thumb].

After a while, he had physicians who would have assisted him. They all advised him that he should throw away the said finger, lest it corrupt the said hand. And this witness always answered back to the said physicians, “I will do such great service to Blessed Nicholas with the said hand, that he will not allow me to lose the said hand.”

And after four days, the said hand was dried up, down to the bone, and all the flesh fell off it, and so did the fingernail. And also the said hand began to swell up the lower arm all the way to the shoulderblades, and his whole right side was swelled up.

And always trusting in the devotion which he had to Blessed Nicholas, he rode horseback on September 10th, the day of [Blessed Nicholas’] migration [an expression for death, because migrating to heaven], to the church in Tolentino where Blessed Nicholas lies entombed. And upon his coffin, he offered a wax hand, according to what he had vowed.

And when he had offered the said wax hand upon his coffin, blood began to emerge from the said dried-up finger onto the coffin of Blessed Nicholas. And the said witness immediately felt himself getting better from the time described; so that within fifteen days, he had flesh and a fingernail just like before on the aforementioned finger.

And he showed the said finger to the bishop mentioned above [who was doing the canonization investigation]. Except for a scar that he had on the said finger, it was as strong and beautiful as the other. And so he wrote as well with the said finger and hand as he had been accustomed to do before the blow.

[The bishop of Sinigaglia and Cesena] asked: “In what way does he write many letters in service to Blessed Nicholas, and to whom, and in what places?”

He responded that he was a notary in the court of the Lord of Marche, supervised by Guido de Eugubio, the principal notary of the Rector’s Chamber, who was the rector of many provinces of the said Marche. And he sent many letters to the Lord Pope or to the Lords Cardinal. He always wrote out such letters which the said Rector sent in the service of the said saint so that he made good and legible letters; and he also wrote out the letters which the comune and men of the city of Macerata sent to the said Lord Pope and the said Lord Cardinals for the Cause mentioned.

Testis 218. Proc. fol. 171, pag. 1.

I got my copy of the text from Volume 2 of Maraviglie Trecento e Una (301 Miracles Done by God for the Merits of Nicholas of Tolentino).

First, there is no doubt that Francesco was a pretty stoic guy, and a fast thinker.

Second, you can see that sewing up wounds with silk thread was pretty well-known in Italy.

Third, don’t risk gangrene at home, kids! Even medieval doctors knew better. It’s possible that Francesco was inspired to do this, in order to get the miracle out there; but it’s also possible that God and St. Nicholas took mercy on a well-meaning piece of idiocy.

Fourth, I really wonder what happened to Francesco’s nasty brother. I can’t imagine that the local government would have let such an attack go. And I suppose that if enough medieval records of the Marche or of Macerata survive, someone could look it up.


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