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History Illustrations: Papal Bull

Did the Papal Commission recommend canonisation?

As we have looked at the illustrations in Swansea Miracle, the story has gradually unfolded. We have seen the miracle and we have seen the Papal Commission. So how did it work out? Was there a Papal Bull?

Thomas de CantilupeYes, there was, but it was not straightforward. First of all the Commissioners had to discuss the evidence they had collected and decide whether to recommend the canonisation of Thomas de Cantilupe. It would be lovely to say that the Swansea miracle was a direct cause of it. Unfortunately it was only an early contributing factor. In discussing the 38 miracles they investigated, they only put forward 26, and William Crach was not one of them.

The Commissioners did not record their reasons for rejecting it, but we can surmise some. Many felt that a miracle should be instantaneous, and William took some time to recover. Also some of the witness statements did not agree, caused no doubt by the time lapse between the event and the statements. Also they were not convinced by William’s stories about Thomas de Cantilupe and the Virgin Mary. Perhaps he had made them up when he heard other people’s accounts, thinking to bolster his own.

Nevertheless, it is my submission that it was one of the more spectacular miracles that led to the evidence being collected and reviewed about Thomas de Cantilupe. Eventually the evidence was sent with a report to the Pope, but due to troubles in the Papacy, was not considered for some time. When it was considered, not all the cardinals could be present, causing further delays.

The miracle of William Crach happened in November 1290. The evidence of all the miracles was sent to the Pope the following year. The Papal Commission was ordered in 1307, and sent their report the same year or the year after. The report and evidence was not examined until May 1313.

Papal BullThomas de Cantilupe was canonized by Pope John XXII in the main church in Avignon on 17 April 1320. The same day he celebrated the mass of the new saint for the first time and issued the bull announcing the canonisation. A Papal Bull is a public decree or charter issued by the Pope. It’s name derives from the metal seal on the bottom called a bulla.

Saint Thomas de Cantilupe’s feast day is 3 October.

Swansea Miracle coverIf you’ve enjoyed these brief glimpses of the story, why not read it in full in my book Swansea Miracle?

Head shot Ann Marie ThomasAnn Marie Thomas is the author of five medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel, Intruders, Alien Secrets & Crisis of Conscience are out now Follow her at