stigmata (stĭgˈmətə, stĭgmătˈə) [key] [plural of stigma, from Gr., = brand], wounds or marks on a person resembling the five wounds received by Jesus at the crucifixion. Some 300 cases of stigmatization have been attested, nearly all of them being women. St. Francis of Assisi was the first known stigmatic. According to contemporary biographers, he had in his later life wounds in his hands, his feet, and his side, which bled profusely and were intensely painful. St. Catherine of Siena reputedly bore invisible stigmata, which became visible after her death. The Roman Catholic Church investigates every such instance but avoids any pronouncement on their nature or cause. Modern stigmatics (including in the 20th cent. Therese Neumann and the Capuchin Padre Pio) have been examined by medical authorities. Scientists are inclined to believe that the stigmata are connected with nervous or cataleptic hysteria.
See R. Biot, The Enigma of the Stigmata (tr. 1962).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on stigmata from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches: General Terms and Concepts