On this Sunday in October 1850, Summer is still clinging to the reddened cedars on the hills of Luberon, which is not yet a popular holiday destination for avant-garde intellectuals. There is nothing much to do on Sundays along the banks of the Sorgue, and a walk is the only thing that comes to break the monotony of this day of rest. Rosette Tamisier, thirty-one years old, was born in this part of the country and is now seen as an old maid. She loves these dull afternoons when she can give herself up to meditation, up there, in the little chapel which dominates the town.
If Rosette is devoted, it is not because of a tardy movement of a heart which has been frustrated of the happiness to be found on this Earth. From the age of eight, she has shown great piety. Particularly since the day when a lady appeared to her in a great light, and placed her hand on a wound that she had had on her chest for several days. The wound had been instantaneously healed and this prodigy had increased the little girl’s fervour even more.
Today, Rosette has once more entered the door of the chapel which contains, as its only treasure, a gentle light conducive to meditation, a beautiful Roman pulpit, and a very curious picture… About two metres wide, one metre fifty high, it represents a Descent from the Cross, naively executed. In it can be seen a Saint Saturnin wearing a mitre, which could surprise, for this person died in the IIIrd Century, and a poor, stunted Christ in the arms of a Virgin in a nun’s habit watched over by… a bullock with zebu horns. Christ’s right side is pierced.
Rosette, hands joined, advances slowly towards the altar followed by her friend, Josephine Imbert, who escorts her everywhere, since the day that her pious friend miraculously taught her to read and write…
Perfectly illiterate up until then, Josephine had been asked by Rosette, on the occasion of a brief trip that she had made to family members, to write to her. The unfortunate girl had complained:
“But I don’t know how to write…”.
Having arrived home, she is suddenly seized with an irresistible urge. In a three-page missive, written in a “sublime style”, as would later be said by certain witnesses, she confides her affection for Rosette.
This event caused such a stir in the village that the Mayor had a formal account of it drawn up…
The two Sunday visitors have now arrived at the foot of the altar above which the picture is hung. Now Rosette’s big protruding eyes, which are a bit too round, glass over, while her lips move without her appearing to notice. Suddenly she rises, limps up the two steps which separate her from the altar. She climbs onto it with surprising agility, pulls herself up to the picture and places her lips on the crucified one’s right hand, just where the wound is.
She climbs back down, falls to her knees and wipes her finger over her lips. Incredulous, she turns to her friend. Who is looking at her, stunned.
Yes… this taste in her mouth, this sticky liquid which stains her lips, is blood… She tells her shaken friend:
“Go on… You go up too. It’s the picture… It’s bleeding!…”
Josephine hesitates. Rosette then grabs her arm and helps her to climb onto the altar. Rapidly, the young girl places her lips too on the canvas and when she comes back down, her mouth is impregnated with blood.
It is Rosette who is the first to pull herself together. As if to prove that she is not the victim of an hallucination, she takes off the kerchief that she is wearing on her head and gently applies it to the wound that Christ bears on his right side. Immediately the material is impregnated with five drops the colour of blood.
Frightened, the two companions make the sign of the cross, then they rise and, after a terrified genuflexion, rush away.
A few moments later, at the door of the presbytery, they cry out:
“Monsieur the Curate, Monsieur the Curate!… Come quickly! Come quickly!… There is blood on the picture…”
And this is how an astonishing, an odious, a very lamentable story, begins…
But first of all, who is this Rosette Tamisier and where does she come from?
She is born in 1818 at Saignon in the Vaucluse, into a family which had probably been noble in former times. However, her parents are people of very modest means, cultivators who have great difficulty in raising their five children. Rose (Rosette, as she is familiarly called) is the eldest.
Of fragile health, skinny, afflicted with an accidental malformation of the leg, the young girl helps her mother in the hard tasks of the household, not without learning to read and write, which for a little peasant girl, deprived of a school teacher, is no mean feat.
However, she does not want to keep this knowledge egotistically for herself and in 1833, for her fifteenth year, she opens a school which is soon attended by forty little pupils. She is eighteen when the nuns of the Presentation of Mary come to take the direction of the communal hospital.
Rosette Tamisier then sees herself obliged to abandon her teaching, for the Superior of the Sisters’ community accepts to allow her to begin her Noviciate. Her devotions alternate with the hardest work and her stay at the convent is soon marked by a prodigious event.
On this day, she had been given the task of weeding the garden and planting some vegetables. She had the urge to plant a cabbage head down in the soil, with its roots in the air.
In just one night, the cabbage grew in such an extraordinary manner that it can be used the next day to feed the whole Community.
Other strange things occur. At certain times of the day, Rose suddenly plunges into a sort of lethargy. Her face then reflects a sort of painful beatitude; her hands and feet hurt, as well as under her left breast, like Christ on the Cross.
To be continued.