The stigmata of Padre Pio: absolutive enunciation between medicine and mysticism

  • Francesco Galofaro


The medical report is stated in the third person. The verb, in the present tense, is often omitted: for example, "no injuries in progress". In line with what Émile Benveniste (1966) claims about the historical enunciation, the medical discourse has the meaning effect of appearing objective. Given the recent interest that realism arouses among some semiotics, one can ask if this effect corresponds to something real: we will deal with it in a borderline case, consisting of Padre Pio’s stigmata. In the years immediately following their appearance (1918), they are observed in different circumstances by five doctors and psychiatrists: in three cases the reports have been preserved. They do not agree on the origin, on the diagnosis or on the appearance of the lesions that they find. It is evident how the interpretative hypotheses, mediated by the categories of the metalanguage, influence perception. In particular, two different forms of content (medical and legal) come into conflict in the evaluation. Furthermore, neither of them captures the profound axiology that guides the semiotics of mystical phenomena, characterized by its peculiar syntagmatic construction, form of the content plane, and structure of the enunciation. According to Michel De Certeau (1968), the latter is the place of a desubjectification: the subject "withdraws" to give way to an undetermined “Other” who manifests himself through his body. The categories of Benveniste do not explain clearly what is happening: the place which language usually reserves for the Ego remains empty. Our hypothesis is that Benveniste's model of the enunciation is overmuch influenced by the subject/object construction, typical of Indo- European languages; on the contrary, if we extend the model to the ergative/absolutive constructions we find deep structural analogies between the enunciation of the body from the point of view expressed by the medical and mystical metalanguage. This absolutive enunciation collapses on the semantics of the marked body.

How to Cite
Galofaro, F. (2020). The stigmata of Padre Pio: absolutive enunciation between medicine and mysticism. E|C, (30), 307-321. Retrieved from