Research Stream


Sarah Tiboni
The University of Western Australia

Emotions in the Miracle: Emotions in an Italian Eighteenth-Century Notary Source

Depositions of the miracles represent a privileged source for studying the history of emotions since they capture direct testimonies of people who experienced the miraculous events.  This project examines an eighteenth-century notary manuscript, known as the ‘Miracles of Fabriano’, in order to study the role of emotions in passionate depositions of people from Fabriano who were granted a miracle through intercession of St Rose of Viterbo.

Ex-voto, St Rose performs a miracle on a woman after a fall from a carriage, c.1703. 600x300.jpg

The certification of miraculous events by a notary, who has always been the repository of publica fides and guarantor of perfect correspondence between reality and its documentary representation, has a very long tradition. Even in the eighteenth century a notary who was recognised as a particularly reliable figure of ‘supernatural guarantor’ collected depositions of miracles.

The project consists of the study of an unpublished Italian eighteenth-century notary manuscript, known as the ‘Miracles of Fabriano’ written by notary Giovanni Francesco Frattini, that is preserved in the Archive of the Monastery of St Rose of Viterbo.  The object of the investigation is religious sentiment and emotional responses of worshippers described in this source that contains depositions issued to the notary by some citizens of Fabriano who were granted the miracles of St Rose of Viterbo, i.e. penitent lay people living in the Lazio region in the thirteenth century.

In depositions issued to the notary a worshipper revives and magnifies emotions of miraculous experience. In the past, depositions were given in vernacular and a notary translated them into Latin, the language used for official and legal acts.  In the eighteenth century, instead, depositions were registered in Italian, which had become the accepted language in administrative documents. For this reason, the text of depositions is more genuine and adheres to the emotional response of devotees.

The research will also consider the role of the notary source, which represents a very strict source, to be studied in order to understand the expressive freedom of those who testify.

Selected Presentations

'Emotions in a Miracle of St Rose: An Italian Eighteenth-Century Notarial Source', CHE/CMEMS-PMRG/Italian Studies Work-in-Progress seminar, The University of Western Australia, 12 April 2018.

Image: Ex-voto, St Rose performs a miracle on a woman after a fall from a carriage, c.1703. Courtesy of the Monastery of St Rose of Viterbo (Viterbo, Italy).