, Volume 94, Issue 3, pp 439-450

First online:

The Miracle of Gerald the Pilgrim: Hagiographic Visions of Castration in the Liber Sancti Jacobi and Milagros de Nuestra Señora

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One of the most popular tales of the De miraculis Sancti Jacobi section of the twelfth-century Codex Calixtinus recounts how a devil impersonated St. James and persuaded an unchaste pilgrim to castrate himself. The following essay shows how this exemplum draws on a hagiographic portrayals of mutilation and purification, and is later adapted in Gonzalo de Berceo’s thirteenth-century Milagros de Nuestra Señora to express preoccupations over the enforcement of vows of celibacy during a time of clerical reform. In his “Romero engañado por el enemigo malo,” the Castilian poet deepens the meaning of eunuchism in the tale, beyond castration anxieties surrounding the ideal of clerical celibacy and mystical visions of emasculation. For Berceo, the significance of the miracle extends beyond one pilgrim’s resurrection from the dead, to symbolize the Marian deliverance of Adam and the bodily renewal and spiritual homecoming of all of his corrupt and feckless progeny.


Castration Hagiography Pilgrimage Berceo