In March 1640, Pellicer returned to his family home in Calanda, for a few weeks begging around the local villages. On the night of March 29th, Miguel's bed was billeted out to a soldier of the company passing through town, so he slept on a mattress in his parents' room. Passing by as he slept late that evening, Miguel's mother was shocked to see not one but two feet coming out from under his blanket!
- On April 1, Palm Sunday, Don Marco Seguer, parish priest of MazaleÃ³n, a village fifty kilometres away, went to the place of the event, accompanied by the royal notary Miguel AndrÃ©u, who set up a certificate to express the testimony, confirmed by oath, of ten persons.
On April 25 Pellicer and his parents went on a pilgrimage to Zaragoza to give thanks to Our Lady of the Pillar, and here too the young man was seen by a great number of people who had known him before with only one leg. Following a request from the city's authority, a formal inquiry was initiated in order to ascertain the veracity of the event. Legal proceedings, presided by the archbishop of the city began on June 5 and took about a year. All hearings were public and no voice of dissent was recorded. Twenty-four witnesses spoke out, selected as the most trustworthy from among the great number of people that knew Pellicer, both from Calanda and from Zaragoza.
On April 27 of 1641 the archbishop of Zaragoza pronounced a judgment, thereby officially declaring the authenticity of the miracle. At the end of the year Pellicer was also invited to the royal court at Madrid. . . .
The only part that is seriously disputed is whether the leg was actually amputated in the Zaragoza hospital, because of course that would definitely mean a miracle had occurred.
Investigation and alternative theory
The 'miracle' view of these events was most widely promoted in a book by journalist Vittorio Messori's 2000 book Il Miracolo. The most-cited alternative view of the events - including on Wikipedia - is the one advanced by Brian Dunning of Skeptoid in 2011. Dunning criticizes the official account based on the view that if Pellicer's leg had been gangrenous (the reason for its amputation in the first place), he couldn't possibly have survived a 50-day journey to Zaragoza. Instead, he speculates that rather than going immediately to Zaragoza, Pellicer initially spent some time in Valencia with his broken leg, unable to work and therefore begging for a living. Deciding that he enjoyed the life of a homeless beggar but knowing a broken leg wasn't a permanent excuse, Pellicer traveled to Zaragoza because he was unknown there, and faked an amputated leg by binding it up against his thigh. The gimmick was only discovered when, back home, he had to share a room with his parents.
This view has several problems: For starters there are types of gangrene which could have festered for weeks or even months, consistent with the story. Then, the idea that someone would prefer the life of a homeless beggar to that of a farmer with a roof over his head is an extremely dubious 'motive' to begin with, even before considering the added discomfort of keeping a leg bound up to the thigh. The discovery of the 'regrown' leg poses yet another problem for the theory, because its condition was consistent with a leg replaced using modern techniques - "cold and hard with contracted toes and blue in colour" and "initially a few centimetres shorter due to the loss of bone tissue" according to the Wikipedia article - but not with a leg that was only bound up during the days Pellicer ventured out in the public. (That description may or may not even be consistent with atrophy from constant binding; but if he unbound it at nights, it almost certainly doesn't fit.)
However the most critical problem for the theory is Dunning's false assertions about the available evidence:
"Note that no evidence exists that his leg was ever amputated â€” or that he was even treated at all â€” at the hospital in Zaragoza other than his own word. He named three doctors there, but for some reason there is no record of their having been interviewed by either the delegation or the trial."
This is entirely false; in fact the record of testimonies from all three doctors is readily available, along with a hospital Presbyter who'd seen the detached leg.
Thanks to the efforts of 'TheBigManOh' in a 2013 thread on atheistforums.org, I've learned how to find the minutes of the original investigation. According to the Wikipedia article:
"The minutes of the proceedings at Zaragoza. The original document, having been kept in the archives of Zaragoza chapter house, was handed over to a Benedictine monk, Father Lambert, in about 1930, who then took it to France. Unfortunately Lambert was killed in World War II and it is unknown what has become of the manuscript since. However, before it disappeared four printed editions had been published, the first of which in 1829. Two notaries certified that these corresponded exactly with original text."
A scanned version of this 1829 copy is available here. That scanned version has then been passed through some optical character recognition software to produce a text-only version, which can then be passed through Google Translate's heroic attempt to understand it as modern Spanish. Obviously, the results of this process are not ideal, but surprisingly coherent nonetheless.
Pages 47-48Licentiate Juan de Estanga, Professor of Surgery at the University of the City of Zaragoza, and domiciled there, Surgeon of the General Hospital of her, family member of the Holy Office of the Inquisition of Aragon, aged fifty-one years and a half, and he has forty of good memory, testi-. tigo in the present case cited, produced, presented, sworn and by the oath loaned by him. . . . the depositor tried his cure, and although he They applied many, and different remedies, did not take advantage, because the leg is very phlegmatic Da and damaged;
with which the depositor decided to cut him off, because if it did not seem to die the said Juan Pellicero, and this said to be true per juramentum. The eleventh article of said cedula, being interrogated, replied, and said: That there will be two and a half years, more or less, as he has said, having done the above deliberation the depositor, through his speakers and nurses They cut off a leg to said Juan Pelli- zero four fingers below the knee, which he believes, and he is certainly the same one that has been taught to that depositor, and this he said to be true per juramen- tum. = To the tenth third article, being read he answered, and said: That the depositor continued the cure of this leg for a few months, until he was in state that the clothes could be given to him as is customary to the others , and this said to be true per juramentum. To the fourteenth article of said cedula, when he was read he answered, and said: Many days later, on several occasions, Juan Pellicero said the said Hospital at the time of the cure, and the wound was unwound, and He told the depositor that he was careful to enter the Chapel of the Virgin of the Pillar at the time that the lamps were down, and that he smeared his wound with the oil of said lamps, and that the depositor would scold him because he was doing it. , because the oil was not good for what he wanted, saving the faith of what the Virgin could do, and this said to be true er juramentum. = To the fifteenth article of said cedula, if he was read, he replied, and said: What the deponent knows, that after cutting said leg he walked with a wooden leg helping himself with a crutch; The depositor knows for having seen him several times per jurymenum.
Page 48-49Licentiate Pascual del Cacho, Presbyter Vee-
of the Holy Hospital of Our Lady of Grace of the Present City, of forty-four years of age, more or less, and has thirty of good memory, witness in the present Cause quoted, produced, presented and jury, and by the oath loaned by him, questioned about what is contained in the eleventh article of said cedula, if he was read he answered, and said: That the depositor what can be said of the article is, that there will be two years and seven months, more or less, this depository going through the Stables of said Holy Hospital, taking care of the sustenance of the sick, as this was his job, he saw a young man in a bed in the Cuadra de CirujÃa, they had cut off a leg, as he heard him say to Licentiate Juan de Estanga and to other Mencebos who were with him, who had cut him off to that sick, and the depositor saw on the floor the said cut leg, and the sick man. He tried to work with some examples, which he saw was very He then heard the depositor say that said leg was buried, and with this he says, that the said Mozo, to whom as said, they cut the said leg, and the one that has been shown to him, it seems to the depositor is a person himself, and not diverse, because before and after cutting said leg, he has treated him little, and this said to be true per juramentum.
Pages 51-52Juan Lorenzo Garcia, Mancebo Platicante de Cyrjjano, a native of Torralva de los Frailes, and has lived in the present city of Zaragoza for ten years here, aged twenty-two years, more or less, and has the ten of good memory, witness in the present Cause cited, produced, presented, ju-
by the oath taken by him, questioned on what is contained in article ten of said cedula,. being told read, he said: That the depositor, who can say of the article, is, that he has been in the Holy Hospital for four years, and that at the occasion that the article says, the depositor was in the Stable of Surgery. He saw that a patient had been taken from the Cuadra de Alenturas, who seems to him to be the one who has been shown him, whom he does not know by name, only did he see him with a wounded leg, and that in said Cua- Mr. Juan de Estanga sought, in the article named, to apply him, the necessary remedies to cure him, and that seeing they did not take advantage of said remedies. God for putting that leg worse than it was, and saw the depositor, that the saying "Juan de Estanga, and Miguel, Beltran, Surgeons, neighbors of Zaragoza, came together and resolved to cut the leg, and es- To said article be true per juramentum. - To the article eleven, being read read answered, and said: That done the above deliberation, there will be the time that says the article, little more or less, said Juan de Es-o Licenciado Thong, through his Mencebos, the said leg, and the dean saw her cut, and it helped to raise the Cauterios, M, that, the same that has been shown to him and iguel Juan Pellicero, in the article named, is oneself , and not diverse, and this said to be true per jura- mentum. - To the twelfth article he answered, and said: That the depositor is the one who took that leg after being cut off and took it with another companion of his, and having been with her in the Chapel, they took her to bury the Sauto Cimenterio. Hospital, as in fact they buried her, making a hole like a handful of wave, and this said to be true per juramentum. - To the twenty-nine article, being read read him, and said: What refers to what he said because he does not know it before cutting off that leg, and then he has communicated little, and this he said to be true per juramen-a 7
Perhaps it says something that the most widely-cited 'rebuttal' of the miracle claim was one which took 10 years to surface and then turns out to be based on false information about the available evidence!Diego Millaruelo, Master in Surgery, domiciled in Zaragoza, aged twenty-nine years old, more or less, has the nineteen nine in good memory, witness in the present case cited, produced, presented, and sworn , by the oath loaned by him, questioned about what is contained in the tenth article of said cedula, if he read it answered, he said: That the depositor knows well the said Miguel uan Pellicero, for what he will say below, and with this he says: It will be two years, more or less, that the depositor going to the Hospital with the Licentiate Juan de Estanga, who was with whom he was talking, to visit the patients of the Cuadra de CirugÃa, for whose account the cure of the patients who are in it, he saw in a bed the said Miguel Juan Pellicero with a gangrenous leg, that said Licenciado Juan de Estanga applied the various medications, and seeing they did not take advantage of 2, he saw this depositor , that said Licentiate Juan of this resolved short r said happiness, because he could not find another remedy for the said Juan Pellicero to live; the depositor knows, because, as it is said, he spoke with the said Licentiate Juan de Estanga, and he found himself in that deliberation, and this said true per juramentum.-To article eleven he was read, he answered, and said : Having made the above deliberation, they cut the leg, know it because it was present to cut it, and helped the draft, and saw it cut, and this said to be true per juramen- tum.-To article twelve of said cedula. He answered, and said: That he knows, and saw the depositor, that one of the Placists in said Stable took that leg, and the
2 took to bury, and heard say they buried her in the C-menterio; and this said to be true per juramentum.- To article thirteen of said cedula, being read, he answered, and said: That the depositor knows well, and saw, after said leg was cut, said Lic. uan de Estanga continued his cure of the residue of said leg, until it healed, and this said to be true perjuramentum.
Final references and concluding thoughts
A few of the other sources I checked:
2015 sceptical thread on Reddit - there are some good critical questions about the nature of the alleged miracle here, especially by 'TacoFugitive' and 'TooManyInLitter.' The latter makes the claim (seen also in a comment on the atheistforums.org thread) that Dr. Estanga was "not allowed to examine the stump" of Pellicer's leg during his later examinations, but I cannot find any source for that claim - certainly it isn't indicated in his testimony above! Quite the opposite; both he and Millaruelo said that he (Estanga) treated the leg for a few months afterwards, and on Pellicer's later visits Estanga saw it "unwound." However aside from that there doesn't seem to be anything in this thread contradicting the details above, merely questioning the nature of the 'miracle' itself, which hardly invalidates it.
2013 thread on WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com forums - the discussion here is frankly disappointing, but provided for the sake of completeness.
2006 circular letter from a French abbey - A pro-miracle source which I looked at beacuse it's cited on Wikipedia and a couple of these other threads. Some details are included which I can't verify elsewhere. For example the claim that "On March 29, 1640 [the night of the miracle], the region celebrated the 1600th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's Â«coming in the mortal fleshÂ» to the banks of the Ebro, according to the belief of the people of the area." 1640 was indeed the 1600th anniversary year of an alleged apparition of Mary to James the Greater, but the common celebration of that event is October 12th (while another source suggests the apparition occurred on January 2nd).
2012 article by the Times of Malta - a pro-miracle source referenced in the Reddit thread above. I found it interesting partly because I've previously posted a thread about the alleged miracles at Lourdes, and this article quotes "decidedly anti-Catholic" film-maker Luis Bunuel as declaring that "Compared to Calanda, Lourdes is a mediocre place."
My own thoughts are that, yes, the circumstances and nature of the alleged miracle are strange, but the evidence is compelling. Besides the four quoted above there were also numerous testimonies from folk who'd known the one-legged beggar over those two and a half years and - allegedly - no dissenting voices which contradicted the reports.
If I had to concoct my own alternative theory - speculation would be a more accurate term - I suppose it would have to be more or less the one advocated by Dunning, with a conspiracy theory on top to explain the doctors' testimony:
> Did 'the authorities' encourage Pellicer to fake the whole thing right from the very beginning with his arrival in Zaragoza? This is obviously pretty far-fetched to begin with.
> Did they discover his ruse in early 1940, but then plan the 'miracle' and its 'discovery' with him? Still somewhat implausible in conspiracy theory terms, with added problems of Pellicer initially choosing the life of a beggar (not to mention obtaining his permit to beg at the shrine, as if the licensing authorities wouldn't ask to examine the leg!).
> Or did 'the authorities' jump on the bandwagon after the 'miracle' had become popularized in Calanda? That's considerably more plausible as a conspiracy theory, but retains the latter two problems above, and adds the question of how Pellicer could be so clumsily discovered.
This was 17th century Spain, in the midst of the Franco-Spanish war and a time of growing discontent around the Spanish Empire (which later in 1640 would lead to an uprising in nearby Catalonia). Dr. Estanga himself was a "family member of the Holy Office of the Inquisition of Aragon" and many modern minds are naturally inclined towards distrust of that organization even moreso than kings and churches generally! Conspiracy theories are always problematic - they're invoked to explain away the evidence, rather than follow its conclusions - but obviously sometimes conspiracies do occur.
So my question is not whether this is indisputable proof of a restored limb - it's obviously not - but how likely would you consider the miracle to be? Or rather than expressing opinions about the likelihood of a miracle, which would be an exercise in futility and circularity, perhaps the opposite question is more appropriate for an objective consideration. In order to suppose that the four testimonies quoted above are all incorrect, it obviously would have to be some kind of conspiracy to deliberately and dishonestly promote a false miracle. For my part I would guess - and I imagine it will only ever be a guess, for all of us - maybe a 7 in 10 likelihood of conspiracy... a mere 30% likelihood of a genuine miracle, give or take... that the conspiracy-falsehood of the testimonies are twice as probable as their truth.
The 'miracle' is obviously far from certain, but one thing is for sure: We will still keep seeing folk insisting that there is 'no evidence' for miracles and raising amputations as if they were some kind of irrefutable trump card
How likely do you consider that this evidence is all the result of some conspiracy? And why?