Frontispiece of "L'Ariane", one of a dozen exceptionally bad tragedies written and presented by Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin.

Simon Morin is even more assured of his mission, as a man of quality, a truly superior mind – an Academician no less – has just joined his busy little crowd of disciples.  His name is Jean Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin.  Morin effusively welcomes this spiritual brother to his hovel.  He informs him that he, Desmaret, will be the Saint Paul to the new Christ that Morin, himself, is.  He promises to reveal all his secrets to him soon.

In vain, Morin’s wife tries to warn him.  She finds Saint-Sorlin highly suspicious.  After a few days, Morin puts him in contact with “spirits” that he evokes during seances, and exposes the new religion to him.  That of the “Inner Circle of the Holy Spirit” that Louis XIV must install as quickly as possible.  If he doesn’t, he will die that same year.  These mind wanderings are heard by an attentive Desmaret who, hands joined and eyes lowered, appears to be listening to the Sermon on the Mount.

Morin adds that, at a certain degree of purity, carnal excesses, with whichever sex they are performed, are cleansed in advance of any stain.  Desmaret pudically lowers his eyes and manages to extort a few other insanities from the fellow.  Then, while these redoubtable confidences are still fresh in his mind, he rushes off to give an account of them to the ecclesiastical judge.

He clamours:

“Lese-majeste, sorcery, sodomy!”

He receives the retort:

“In intention, only!”

So what?  Is one less culpable of only wishing the death of the King than of killing him?

Simon is therefore arrested again.  Confronted with the Academician, he denies nothing of these platitudes.  This time, he even assures that he is ready to die for them.  And what does the stake matter to him, since the angels would come to snatch him from the flames and consecrate his glory?  From the hearing room, he goes directly to the torture chamber.  There, before a Doctor in Sorbonne and a clerk of the Criminal Chamber to whom a Confessor is added, he has to suffer the Extraordinary Question.  Do they even listen to what he screams in his abominable torments?  He is condemned to be burnt alive in front of the Notre-Dame porch, the next day at Dawn.  At four o’clock, he leaves the torture chamber broken, is thrown panting onto a tumbril, with a few books and a few sheets of his vaticinations.  When the lamentable cortege arrives Place de Greve, he contains his atrocious sufferings and cries out:

Simon Morin's atrociously mutilated body was delivered to the flames before an hilarious crowd of onlookers.

“I am innocent!  It is not permitted to shed the blood of the just!”

A great crowd is assembled Place de Greve.  It had already enjoyed seeing one of Morin’s mistresses whipped and marked with a red-hot brand.  The executioner then drags the broken body of the unfortunate man onto the faggots and between two screams of pain, just before the flames and smoke rise, the dying man’s voice can again be heard:

“Jesus!  Mary!  My God!…  Give me misericord!”

The Confessor turns toward the good people of Paris and invites it to pray…

In his Hotel du Marais, Saint-Sorlin has also recited his Matins.  A messenger has kept him informed of the good result of his work.  Instead of taking a bit of rest, he immediately calls his secretary and dictates for La Gazette rimee seven lines of poetry on “the imposter” and his death.

***

The Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement was a secret society founded in 1627, under the devout Louis XIII, to restore Catholicism after the upheavals of the Renaissance.  It was open to monks, nuns, priests as well as laics, and counted at one time nearly 60 centres throughout Paris and in the provinces.  In the beginning, its members were above all devoted to charitable enterprises, the improvement of the lot of those condemned to hard labour, notably, but always with the idea of wiping out “immorality” everywhere.  They also went to war against gallant rendez-vous inside churches, the “nudities of the throat“, “dishonest or abominable paintings or almanachs” and prostitutes [filles publiques]

Little by little, the repressive aspect, the occult denunciation and spying, on the Protestants in particular, take over from all of the other activities.  To the point that the clergy itself becomes worried about it, and supports in 1660 a request for its dissolution by the Paris Parliament.  Thanks to the intervention of Lamoignou, its First President, and of Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV, who was very religious at the end of her life, the dissolution is not total.  But by the action of Mazarin, whose joyous life was discretely criticized by the Company, and the immense success of Moliere’s Tartuffe in 1669, its influence is gradually reduced to nothing.

***

Simon Morin was a poor devil who earned his living by copying official documents for illiterate people or by writing their letters.  He represents a heresy which goes right back to the XIIth Century.  It prophesies that, after the time of the Father and of the Son, will come the time of the Holy Spirit, when all the sacraments will be abolished and when each would be able to save himself by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  There will be no more sins, and therefore no more reason to not commit as many as possible, say its sectaries, who do not deprive themselves of doing it…  In 1281, a nun named Guillelmine dies in Milan, in odour of sanctity.  Shortly after her death, the Inquisition sets off an Enquiry which permits to establish that “the saint” had frenetically fallen into this heresy.  Her cadaver is dug up and is taken in great pomp to the stake.

This belief in a Holy Spirit carrying away on his wings all the conventions of established morality would last for a very long time, and Simon Morin is only one of the last links in a long heretical chain which causes talk for half a millenium in the Catholic world.

***

Saint-Sorlin was very proud of what he had done…  Starting from there, he busied himself creating a force similar to the Ligue du Bien Public, which had suscitated, among other miseries, the Saint-Barthelemy Massacre.  He also wrote a book where he recounted all his evil actions, which he hoped would be a best-seller.  He only left his study to hunt out new victims and he sent denunciations in such great numbers that the Prosecutors, irritated, asked him to deposit bail.  That is to say to become partie civile and pay the costs of the trial when his victims were acquitted.  He died at a very old age, 81, in 1676, not at all tired of hunting true and false heretics.  Alas, the fashion had passed, and he finally died very sad to have been able to roast only one unfortunate person…

***

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