Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Jesus on the Cross, by Fra Angelico. He has nails through his hands.

Jesus on the Cross, by Fra Angelico

When the Roman soldiers nailed Jesus  to the cross, the nails made holes in His hands and feet. Medieval people called these holes the “stigmata” (stig-MA-ta), which is the Latin word for “marks”.

St. Francis receiving the stigmata

St. Francis receiving the stigmata (Giotto)

In the later Middle Ages in Europe, very holy Christian people sometimes got these marks on their own hands and feet. People thought this was a sign that God really loved them a lot, and that they were especially holy people. Many people who had these marks became saints after they died.

One famous example of a man who people said had gotten stigmata from God was Francis of Assisi. Giotto’s painting here shows St. Francis receiving the stigmata from an angel.

Learn by doing: go look at medieval paintings online or in a museum. Are there any stigmata?
More about Christianity

Bibliography and further reading about medieval art:


Life of Jesus
Medieval art
More about medieval Europe home