The Baby Jesus in a Drop of Blood: Evidence, Credibility, and Truth in Post-Reformation Catholicism


  • Stefania Tutino UCLA





In the spring of 1693, a strange occurrence shook up the peaceful little town of Bolsena. While visiting the site of the well-known medieval miracle, Agostino Berton, a hemp and textile seller, witnessed yet another miracle: the apparition of an image of the baby Jesus inside a drop of blood. In this essay, I examine the investigation conducted by the Roman leaders over this case and discuss its implications for the relationship between credibility and truth in seventeenth-century Catholicism. Over the course of the Middle Ages, theologians, canonists, and jurists had provided an important reconsideration of the category of credibility as both a feature of the Christian faith and a necessary (and, in some cases, sufficient) basis for legal judgment. By the early modern times, credibility had come to occupy a central place in Catholic discourse. This centrality led to novel insight into the relationship between truth and evidence, faith and belief, causing new moral, doctrinal, and epistemological tensions. My essay uses Agostino's story as a springboard to explore some of those tensions.