Five miracle stories about St Nicholas

The medieval manuscripts that contain the Life of St Nicholas almost always continue with a mass of miracle stories about the saint.  The 1751 pre-critical edition by Falconius does the same.  The genuine Life by John the Deacon ends with his “chapter 13” – the numbering is his – but there are more chapters.  Anybody who looks at the manuscripts will find this mass of stuff on the end, which frankly adds very little.  C. W. Jones, in his book on the legends of the saint, dismisses it in a  sentence.

Since I scanned Falconius, I thought I would scan up to the end.  This would give me a file with the additional material in it.  When working with the manuscripts, you can get lost, and it can be  very helpful to do “Ctrl-F” on some wording and find out where you are.

Just for fun, I then pushed each chapter in turn through Google Translate, to get an idea of the content.  I was amazed – once again – at the quality of the translation.  I did the same with Falconius’ increasingly sarcastic footnotes.

I won’t do much more with this.  It is just a means to an end.  But nobody ever does anything with this stuff, as far as I can see.  So I thought that I would share the contents here.  I’ve not troubled to correct the translation much, so it’s more or less as it came out.  Of course if you see an obvious error, do signal it in the comments and I will fix it.

The effort was valuable in another way.  We can get an idea of just how carefully Falconius worked on his edition.  How?  Well, from the fact that he misnumbered his own chapters.  There really are *two* chapters  marked “XVII”, “17”!  Not good.

I’ve added the BHL numbers for each text (=Bibliographia Hagiographica Latina, the index of all saints’ lives).  I also went and looked at the earliest manuscript, Paris BNF lat. 989 (10th century) for the places where Falconius indicated uncertainty.

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The start of the first story in Paris BNF 989, fol. 91v.

[BHL 6150]  XIV. (a) Quodam itaque tempore, advenit quadam mulier, de vico qui dicitur Cyparissus, ad sanctissimam domum Archangeli, qui vocatur Croba, ubi erat sanctus Nicolaus. Haec adtulit filium suum, quem iniquissimus daemon ita vexabat crudeliter ut etiam vestimentum, quo induebatur, dentibus laceraret. Quem projecit ad pedes sancti Nicolai, flens et dicens, “Miserere serve Dei huic misello filio meo, quia fortiter vexatur a daemonio.” Pietate autem ductus, sanctus Dei famulus super eum apprehendit manum ejus, et insuper flavit in ore illius. Statimque, divina virtute et beati Nicolai meritis emundatus, immundus ab eo evanuit spiritus, sanusque ad propria, cum matre sua exsultans, reversus est.

(a) Has lectiones, 14.15.16.17 & 18, non Johannes Diaconus, sed alius ex Actis antiquis consarcinavit cap. 30. ipso seculo decimo, vel undecimo (quod est verisimilius) qui, ad usum Ecclesiae Neapolitanae, Diaconum in lectiones redegit.

At a certain time, there came a certain woman, from a town called Cyparissus, to the most holy house of the Archangel, called Croba, where St. Nicholas was. She brought her son, whom the most wicked demon was tormenting so cruelly that he even tore the clothes which he was wearing with his teeth. She laid him at the feet of St. Nicholas, weeping and saying, “Have mercy on this poor son of mine, servant of God, because he is strongly tormented by a demon.” But led by piety, the holy servant of God took hold of his hand over him, and, moreover, blew into his mouth. And at once, cleansed by the divine power and by the merits of the blessed Nicholas, the unclean spirit disappeared from him, and in good health he returned, rejoicing with his mother, to his home.

(a). These readings, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, are not by John the Deacon, but were stitched on the end from some earlier Acts, ch. 30, by someone else, of the 10th or (more likely) 11th century, who arranged John’s text into readings according to the usage of the Neapolitan church.

The BHLMS lists 49 manuscripts of this story.


[BHL 6151] XV. Rursus autem alio tempore, altera mulier, de vico Neapoleos (b), ab immundo Spiritu graviter torquebatur. Quam assumens vir ejus, adduxit ad monasterium Viri Dei, ubi ipse tunc temporis morabatur (c), et projecit eam ad pedes beati Nicolai, dicens, “Sancte Dei, succurre huic mulieri miserae, quae graviter torquetur a daemonio.” Sanctus autem Dei Nicolaus, mox, ut orationem fudit pro ea ad Dominum, immundum ab ea pepulit Spiritum, et sana effecta, abiit in domum suam, glorificans Deum,et sanctam Sion. Hoc erat vocabulum monasterii Sancti Nicolai: id est Sancta Hierusalem.

(b) Haec sumpta est ex fine cap. 29.  Sed ibi pro Neapoli est Nicapo.

(c) Sic saltat foveam homo cautus.  Ubi modo est, ille Myrensis Archiepiscopus Nicolaus?

Then again, at another time, another woman, from the village of Naples,(b) was severely tormented by an unclean spirit. Her husband picked her up and brought her to the monastery of the Man of God, where at that time he was staying, and laid her at the feet of blessed Nicholas, saying, “Saint of God, help this poor woman, who is severely tormented by a demon.” Then Nicholas, the saint of God, immediately, as he poured out a prayer for her to the Lord, drove away the impure spirit from her, and being healed, she went to her house, glorifying God and Holy Sion. This was the name of the monastery of St. Nicholas: that is, “Holy Jerusalem”.

(b) This is taken from the end of ch. 29. But there for “Neapoli” it reads “Nicapo”.

(c) Thus a cautious man leaps over a pitfall. In what way is this about Archbishop Nicolaus of Myra?

The BHLMS lists 48 manuscripts of this story.  The oldest is BNF 989 (10th c.) which reads “Necapoleos”.


[BHL 6152] XVI. Venit quidam homo ad Sanctam Sion, nomine Nicolaus, de vico Sibino, (d) tempore Sancti Jejunii. Hic adduxit quendam infirmum, super animali sedentem, ad Sanctum Nicolaum, ut saluti eum pristinae redderet. Erat autem homo ille toto exsiccatus corpore, ab ea aegritudine, quae Graeco vocabulo, “paralysis”, Latine vero “resolutio membrorum” dicitur. Quem in conspectu viri Dei, in terram projiciens, obsecrat dicens, “Nicolae vir Dei, pro isto misello homine interveni, quatenus per tuas sanctas orationes propitietur ei Deus.” Cujus infirmitati, plurimum vir Dei condolens Nicolaus, assumpto oleo de dominica lampade, perunxit eum. Inde autem facta super eum oratione, illico eum pristinae reddidit sanitati. Benedictioneque percepta, reversus est ad domum suam, gratias agens glorificans Deum.

(d) Ex eodem cap. 30. sumpta.

A certain man, named Nicolaus, from the town of Sibinum,(d) came to Holy Sion at the time of Holy Lent. Here he brought a certain sick man, sitting on an animal, to St. Nicholas, that he might restore him to his former health. Now that man was withered throughout his body, from that sickness which in the Greek word is “paralysis”, but in Latin is called “the dissolution of the limbs”.  In the presence of the man of God, laying him on the ground, he beseeched him, saying, “Nicholas, man of God, intercede for this poor man, inasmuch as through your holy prayers God may be propitiated for him.” Nicholas, the man of God, sympathizing greatly with his infirmity, took oil from the Lord’s lamp and anointed him. Then, after a prayer was made over him, he immediately restored him to his former health. Having received the blessing, he returned to his house, giving thanks and glorifying God.

(d) Taken from the same ch. 30.

The BHLMS lists 47 manuscripts of this story.  BNF lat. 989 = “Sivino”.


[BHL 6153] XVII. Nec multo post, quidam energumenus, de vico Cendino (e); cui nomen erat Timotheus, adductus est in Monasterium Sanctae Sion, ad famulum Dei Nicolaum. Habebat enim homo ille spiritum pessimum, qui ita eum exagitabat, ut, per ligna et lapides, hinc et inde, caput suum percutiendo contunderet. Unde factum est, ut de creberrimis percussionibus, plagis horridis, caput vulneratum haberet, ita ut etiam sanies cum vermibus proflueret. Sustentatus itaque a tribus viris, perductus est, ut diximus, in Sanctam Sion, ad sanctissimum Dei famulum Nicolaum: Quem etiam orabant, ut suis eum curare precibus dignaretur. Inquiunt: “Nicolae serve Dei excelsi, conspice miseriam hominis hujus; ora pro eo ad Deum, ut possit evadere, et Christi consequi misericordiam.” Quem Sanctus Nicolaus, propriis consignans manibus; daemonium ab eo expulit, et ab omni aegritudine liberavit, et sanum et incolumem remisit ad propria: gaudens et glorificans Deum, qui hanc confessori suo, gratiam contulerat Nicolao.

(e) Et haec ex eodem cap. 30. sumpta est.  Sed pro “Cendino”, ibi est “Cedemorum”.  Num proprium sit “Cendenum”?

17.1. Not long after, a certain strong man, from the town of Cendinum,(e) whose name was Timotheus, was brought to the monastery of Holy Sion, to the servant of God Nicholas. For that man had a very bad spirit, which so agitated him, that he was bruising his head from side to side with sticks and stones. As a result he had a wounded head from the frequent knocks and terrible blows and it was oozing pus and worms. Supported therefore by three men, he was led, as we have said, to Holy Sion, to the most holy servant of God, Nicholas: whom they also begged, that he might condescend to cure him with his prayers. They said, “Nicholas, servant of God on high, behold the misery of this man; pray for him to God, that he may escape, and obtain the mercy of Christ.” St. Nicholas, sealing him with his own hands, cast out the demon from him, and freed him from all sickness, and sent him back to his own home, safe and sound, rejoicing and glorifying God, who had bestowed this favour upon his confessor, Nicholas.

(e) And these things were taken from the same ch. 30. But instead of “Cendino” this reads “Cedemorum”.  Possibly the correct reading is “Cendenum”?

The BHLMS lists 50 manuscripts of this story.  BNF 989 = “Cendino”.


[BHL 6154]  XVII. Cum igitur his, et aliis pluribus miraculis, ac virtutibus beatissimus floreret Nicolaus, decidit in aegritudinem, de qua, ex hac instabili luce subtractus est. Qui cum jaceret in grabatu; accessit ad eum quaedam mulier lunatica, de vico Olcon (f); cujus nomen erat Eugenia. Quae eum exorabat, ut sibi conferre dignaretur sanitatis gaudia.  Cujus precibus beatus Nicolaus annuens; pro ea fudit orationem ad Dominum. Deinde signavit eam: sicque sanitatem, quam optabat consequi; adipisci promeruit. Remeans ergo mulier ad propria; sana et incolumis, magnifice collaudavit Dominum Jesum Christum; qui in Sanctis suis, semper est mirabilis.

(f) Haec etiam ex Actis sumpta est cap. 31.

17.2.  Therefore, while the most blessed Nicholas was flourishing with these and many other miracles and virtues, he fell into an illness, because of which he was withdrawn from this unstable light. When he was lying on a pallet, a certain lunatic woman came to him, from the town of Olcon (f), whose name was Eugenia. She entreated him to condescend to confer upon her the joys of health. Blessed Nicholas, assenting to her prayers, poured out a prayer for her to the Lord. Then he signed her [with the cross], and so succeeded in securing the health which she wished to obtain. The woman, therefore, returning to her own home, safe and sound, praised the Lord Jesus Christ magnificently, who is always wonderful in His Saints.

(f) This is also taken from those Acts ch. 31.

The BHLMS lists 59 manuscripts of this story.

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There are many more tales of this sort.  I shall look at some more.

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6 thoughts on “Five miracle stories about St Nicholas

  1. Hey Roger! How are you? I didn’t want to make a comment that is not the topic of the post, but i don’t know where i can contact you, so… i wanted to know if you know where that quote attributed to Clement of Alexandria “Every woman should br overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman” comes from? In fact, some indicate that this phrase comes from Clement’s book “pedagogue 2”, but when i went to look there i did not find this quote.

    It’s a little late for that, but… Happy new year!

  2. I think that “quote” is probably fake. A search suggests that all modern quotes are derived from some feminist anti-Christian hate pamphlet. Quotes in hate literature are notoriously rubbish. I can see Paedagogus, book 2, 33.2, by searching for “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman”. But there is no such chapter 33.

    That said, I can quite imagine an ascetic monk coming out with this, as hyperbole. You’d need the context. But the lack of references is deeply suspicious.

    Happy New Year.

  3. Oh i got it. I came across this phrase while reading a book about women’s sex lives in the middle ages. It is a subject that left me confused because while the author’s book said that sex was allowed by the church only for procreation, but Augustine’s book (on the goods of marriage) says that “Therefore married persons owe one another not only the faith of their sexual intercourse itself, for the begetting of children, which is the first fellowship of the human kind in this mortal state; but also, in a way, a mutual service of sustaining one another’s weakness, in order to shun unlawful intercourse”. Anyway, i hope i don’t find any more anti-Christian arguments. Thank you for the answer.

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