Today, the name of this Magdalena of the Cross is forgotten. Her story seems to be quite unknown. However, the opinion of the great lawyer and writer, Maurice Garcon, for whom Magdalena is an important “historical figure”, is completely founded.
She was very well-known in the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, and all of the theological and demonological treatises make precise and detailed allusions to her case. A lot of demonstrations in these matters are illustrated by documents drawn from her trial.
It is from the transcript of her trial, which is in the form of two very precious manuscripts, of which there are only two copies in the world, one in London, the other in Paris, that Maitre Garcon drew up his remarkable study.
When the doubts and suspicions begin to surface – Magdalena is then fifty-seven – the Holy Inquisition immediately takes hold of the case. The Institution is over three hundred years old at this time, and acts with variable rigour. According to the convictions of the different Popes, or the vigour of public reaction that is engendered.
In the Spain of the XVIth Century, it is particularly active, mostly against heretics, “sorcerers” and relapsed Jews. The Grand Inquisitor is “the red Cardinal” Ximenez, Primate of Spain, appointed by Isabella of Castile, herself, who founded the Holy Office, of sinister memory. It is because of this, that Magdalena is transferred to the Alcazar prisons to be interrogated.
The fact that she made such a co-operative and detailed revelation, after fifty-two years of dissimulation, is incomprehensible if the ecclesiastic subtlety of that time is not taken into account. The Church relies on the principle that divine works are eternal and infinite. Those of the demon, on the other hand, are always limited in time and space.
If Magdalena confesses, it is because, in 1544, her pact with the devil has arrived at its end. It is fear of Hell, as she says herself, which precipitates her revelations.
It is also God who inspires her first admissions, through a providential delirium, due to her illness. It is God who assures her that she will live if she confesses. Basically, she again succeeds in turning the subject to her advantage and appearing like someone privileged by supernatural powers.
This attitude is to her judges’ taste, and is also the explanation for the tribunal’s relative clemency. Magdalena had arrived so high in her reputation for sainthood that she had been the counseller of kings, emperors, and above all, of the great Church dignitaries.
Abasing her too much, burning her at the stake, would have, at the same time, destroyed part of the prestige and authority of the whole Roman Catholic religion…
The trial’s conclusions about this are very interesting. The whole effort of the judges tends to prove that the only real dupe in this affair… is the devil, himself. His subterfuges have turned against him: by perverting Magdalena, he has only reinforced the faith of the Clarissas, and she who has been submissive to him for so long, escapes his rule in the end.
What also contributes to saving Magdalena from the stake, is her extreme youth when the devil has dealings with her for the first time. The Inquisition had several times had children, recognized guilty of sorcery or complicity, burnt at the stake. In the present case, this circumstance seems to be considered as… attenuating.
So, who really was Magdalena of the Cross? Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, writes:
“I believe that she was, from childhood, a gifted simulator, a sort of little Mozart of supernatural interpretation. In any case, it is an unique example of mystical lying.
“At an epoch when a young, intelligent person of modest origin can only become famous by playing the game of religious folly or diabolic possession. Or both at once, as in her case, finally winning on all fronts.”
Magdalena’s astonishing pregnancy was probably an hysterical pregnancy. Or perhaps a young, attractive Franciscan monk? But most likely, an hysterical pregnancy…
In fact, Louis Pauwels thinks that Magdalena was
“pregnant her whole life. Pregnant with prodigious vanity.”