Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Most people have at least heard of stigmata even if they are not entirely sure what it is since the word is casually tossed around on occasion and was even turned into a thriller movie during the late 1990s. However, the question of what it actually is other than bleeding in seemingly random places along the body with no obviously visible reason like a cut or stabbing by a knife. Let us take a look into the mystery that is the stigmata and see if we can find a place for it in our modern world.

Stigmata (singular stigma) are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, such as the hands and feet. In some cases, rope marks on the wrists have accompanied the wounds on the hands.

The term originates from the line at the end of Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians where he says, "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." Stigmata is the plural of the Greek word st??µa stigma, meaning a mark or brand such as might have been used for identification of an animal or slave. An individual bearing stigmata is referred to as a stigmatic or a stigmatist.

Stigmata are primarily associated with the Roman Catholic faith. Many reported stigmatics are members of Catholic religious orders. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history. For over fifty years Padre Pio of Pietrelcina reported stigmata which were studied by several 20th century physicians, whose independence from the Church is not known. The observations were reportedly unexplainable and the wounds never became infected.


A high percentage (perhaps over 80%) of all stigmatics are women. In his Stigmata: A Medieval Phenomenon in a Modern Age, Edward Harrison suggests that there is no single mechanism whereby the marks of stigmata were produced.

What is it ?

Strictly speaking, stigmata are marks on someone’s body that correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus as stated in Christianity’s bible—with particular emphasis on marks that occur on the person’s hands or feet. Stigmata is actually the plural form of a Greek word “stigma” which literally translates as a brand or mark that was used in the identification of a domesticated animal or slave. The word stigmata as applied to marks or wounds associated with those of Jesus actually comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians at the end line of the writing where he stays that he bears “on (his) body the marks of Jesus.” The reported cases of stigmata show some, a few, or all five of the “holy wounds” that were inflicted on Jesus according to writing of his crucifixion in the bible, which include a wound in the side of a torso from a lance and ones in the hands and feet from nails. 

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