AskDefine | Define stigmata

Dictionary Definition



1 the apical end of the style where deposited pollen enters the pistil
2 a symbol of disgrace or infamy; "And the Lord set a mark upon Cain"--Genesis [syn: mark, brand, stain]
3 an external tracheal aperture in a terrestrial arthropod
4 a skin lesion that is a diagnostic sign of some disease [also: stigmata (pl)]stigmata n : marks resembling the wounds on the crucified body of Christstigmata See stigma

User Contributed Dictionary

see Stigmata




From (nominative plural: ) “brand”


  1. irregular plural of stigma

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. 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 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.
The causes of stigmata are the subject of considerable debate. Some contend that they are miraculous, while others argue they are hoaxes or can be explained medically. Stigmata are primarily associated with the Roman Catholic faith. Many reported stigmatics are members of Catholic religious orders. The majority of reported stigmatics are female.


There have been historical stigmatics that were known to have faked wounds, such as Magdalena de la Cruz (14871560), who admitted the fraud.
Similarly self-inflicted wounds can be associated with certain mental illnesses. Some people who fake stigmata suffer from Munchausen syndrome which is characterized by an intense desire for attention. People with Munchausen hurt themselves or fake an illness hoping to end up in a hospital where they can be given attention and care.
Skeptics also point out that stigmata have appeared on hands in some cases, wrists in others, and the lance wound has appeared on different sides of the body. This suggests some form of internally generated phenomena, based on the victim's own imagination and subjective in character, rather than something of external divine origin. It is unknown, either through the gospels or other historical accounts, whether crucifixion involved nails being driven through the hands, or wrists, or what side the lance pierced Christ's body, and this would appear to be reflected in the inconsistent placement of stigmatists' wounds. However, Roman Crucifixions involved the nails driven through the ulna and radias gap, being just proximal to the wrist.
No instances of stigmata showing wounds through the wrists were noted before the publication of the photographs of the Turin Shroud showing wounds of this kind. The physical appearance of wounds is often linked to the iconography of crucifixion with which the stigmatic is most familiar.
The ratio of left side wounds to right side wounds in stigmatics approximates to the ratio of right handed to left handed people in the general population. This suggests wounding by the stigmatic him or herself.
Similarly, no case of stigmata is known to have occurred before the thirteenth century, when the crucified Jesus became a standard icon of Christianity in the west. Since crucifixes typically show Jesus having been nailed by the hands, people popularly believed this depiction to be true. As such, if one were to receive stigmata through the wrists, people would not consider it as Jesus' wounds.
In his paper Hospitality and Pain, iconoclastic Christian theologian Ivan Illich touches on the phenomenon of stigmata with characteristic terseness: "Compassion with Christ... is faith so strong and so deeply incarnate that it leads to the individual embodiment of the contemplated pain." His thesis is that stigmata result from exceptional poignancy of religious faith and desire to associate oneself with the suffering Messiah.
In 1998, Edward Harrison suggested that there was no single mechanism whereby the marks of stigmata were produced. He found no evidence from a study of contemporary cases that the marks were supernatural in origin. However marks of natural origin need not be hoaxes, he concluded. Some stigmatics marked themselves in an attempt to suffer with Christ as a form of bizarre piety. Others showed marks as a kind of religious performance art. Others marked themselves accidentally and their marks were noted as stigmata by witnesses. Often marks of human origin produced profound and genuine religious responses. Dr Harrison also noted that the female to male ratio of stigmatics which for many centuries had been of the order of 7 to 1, had changed over the last 100 years to a ratio of 5:4. Appearance of stigmata frequently coincided with times when issue of authority loomed large in the church. What was significant was that early stigmatics were not predominatly women, but that they were non-ordained. Having stigmata gave them direct access to the body of Christ without requiring the permission of the church through the Eucharist. Only in the last century have priests been stigmatised. There is currently a cluster of cases in the United States.


See also

  • Zlatko Sudac known for his stigmata which he bears on his forehead, and on his wrists, feet and side
stigmata in Czech: Stigmata
stigmata in Danish: Stigmatisation
stigmata in German: Stigmatisation
stigmata in Spanish: Estigma (milagro)
stigmata in French: Stigmates
stigmata in Korean: 성흔
stigmata in Croatian: Stigma (rana)
stigmata in Indonesian: Stigma
stigmata in Italian: Stigmate
stigmata in Hebrew: סטיגמטה
stigmata in Hungarian: Stigma
stigmata in Dutch: Stigmata
stigmata in Japanese: 聖痕
stigmata in Norwegian: Stigmata
stigmata in Polish: Stygmat (religia)
stigmata in Portuguese: Estigma (Cristo)
stigmata in Russian: Стигматы
stigmata in Albanian: Stigmata
stigmata in Slovak: Stigmatizácia
stigmata in Slovenian: Stigme
stigmata in Serbian: Стигма
stigmata in Finnish: Stigmatisaatio
stigmata in Swedish: Stigmatisering
stigmata in Ukrainian: Стигмати
stigmata in Chinese: 聖痕
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