Tag Archive: Spain


Don Miguel de Manara, better known as Don Juan.

The young girl, Don Miguel’s half-sister, is rapidly conquered by this beautiful Andalusian man who says that he is a friend of her half-brother.  But at the moment of celebrating their clandestine marriage, by a devilish refinement, he reveals his identity to her.  What a victory if the lovely lady had accepted to lose her soul, and what savour the taste of mortal sin would have added to the thing!…  But the young girl pushes him away and, having slapped him, alerts the household.  The lord of the place arrives, Don Miguel kills him and, while fleeing, also kills a domestic who was pursuing him.

This first defeat marks the beginning of a series of events which would vividly impress the young libertine.

On his way one night to a convent with his equerry to kidnap a nun – who was consenting, by the way – (this type of sacrilege was still missing from his collection), he hears some mortuary psalms being chanted inside a church.  Intrigued, he enters.  The church is empty.

Don Miguel fought many duels. He was a clever swordsman and killed the husbands whose wives he had taken...

He has scarcely taken a few steps when a violent blow to the back of his neck throws him to the ground unconscious.  His companion brings him round and they both distinctly hear a lugubrious voice crying out:

“Bring the coffin, he is dead!”

Terrified, they rush home and renounce the kidnapping.

From this moment on, the hallucinations continue to occur.  Called by a pretty girl who is dreaming on her balcony, he climbs up via a silk ladder and finds an empty bedroom draped in black, where a skeleton is lying surrounded by four candles.

He is on the verge of folly when he meets the only woman that he would ever love:  Dona Jeronima.  He marries her and lives happily with her for thirteen years.

The whole of Seville marvels.  Don Juan has calmed down.  Don Juan is faithful.  To tell the truth, Don Juan has found the love that he has been passionately seeking…

Suddenly, Dona Jeronima dies, and Don Miguel, crushed with pain, again suffers hallucinations, appalling hallucinations which make him ill.  To find peace again, he wants to enter a convent.  His Confessor opposes this:

“You need to be active.  The contemplative life is not suitable for you.”

And Don Miguel puts his fortune at the service of the poor, founds hospices, collects money for charity, cares for the sick, directs the convent of the Caridad with the same passion which formerly pushed him to debauchery.

At the end of his life, Don Miguel lived like Saint Vincent de Paul.

Doing in Spain what Saint Vincent de Paul does in France, he exhausts himself at the task and dies at 52, surrounded by the respect of his peers and the admiration of the whole of Spain.

He is buried inside the convent’s chapel, underneath a plaque on which he had asked that these words be written:

Here lie the bones and ashes

of the worst man who was ever in the world.

Pray for him.

Soon, miracles take place near his tomb.  When Guy Breton was writing this text, the Congregation of Rites was studying the dossier for the canonisation of Don Miguel.  It is possible that he is now, or soon will be, a saint in the Roman Catholic calendar.  This atheist, criminal libertine could have his statue in churches.

***

Don Miguel had many visions.  One evening, on his way out, he passes a group of men who are walking rapidly carrying a stretcher.  He stops and asks the bearers why they are going so fast.  They tell him that Don Miguel de Manara is dead.  He rushes to the stretcher and glimpses a cadaver which he recognizes…  He is the one being carried away…

A few days later, he meets a procession which is coming out of a street and advancing noiselessly without displacing the slightest breath of air.  Penitents are following in long rows, holding lighted candles…  And he notices that the flames of these candles are rigorously motionless despite the walking.

This nightmare cortege literally turns him icy cold.  He then asks which saint is being honoured.  He receives the reply that they are carrying Don Miguel de Manara to his burial…

Don Miguel bursts out laughing.  A nervous laugh which stops suddenly for he perceives a bier covered in black velvet and supported by monks.  Behind them, the penitents are walking slowly.  Don Miguel insists:

“What are you carrying there?”

One of the monks looks at him through glassy eyes and tells him that they are going to bury Don Miguel de Manara.

The cortege continues on its way and enters San Isodoro Church.  Don Miguel follows it.  He hears lugubrious chants and attends a Mass for the Dead.  When it is over, he dares to approach the coffin placed in the centre of the nave and snatches off the black velvet covering it.  He then sees in horror that the dead man’s face is once more his own.

He faints.  He is discovered, unconscious, in the early hours of the morning, lying in the church.

***

All of his hallucinations were just as morbid as these.  Here is a third example among dozens of others.  One day when he is going to see a businessman about a farm destroyed by fire, he notices a woman who seems to have exactly the same body and is walking in exactly the same way as his dear Jeronima.  He follows her.  The unknown woman walks faster and faster and he is almost obliged to run so as not to lose her.  She enters a church.  He enters too and approaches her.  He is about to touch her when she turns around.  Under the mantilla, Don Miguel sees in terror a jeering skeleton looking at him…

***

These hallucinations were well-known in Seville.  Everyone was talking about them…

***

If he had been the only one to have seen these things, a psychiatrist could probably explain them by the disgust that he felt for his former life, for his sinning with his body and even for the human body itself.  But often, friends – sometimes high-ranking people in Seville – shared his visions.  So these phenomena are inexplicable.

***

His mourning for his wife does not explain the hallucinations that he had before his marriage, the authenticity of which is certified by witnesses.

***

These appalling visions finally changed him.  He founded a hospice and completely devoted his life to the poor.  This lasted eighteen years.  In Seville, he was called the Father of the Poor…  His only distraction was to busy himself with the roses that he had had planted in the garden of the hospice.  In 1678, the plague struck Andalusia, attacking thousands of people.  Don Miguel devoted himself without counting to help the victims and died of exhaustion in 1679, after having cared for hundreds of sick people…  Seven months later, his body was exhumed to be transferred.  It was noted that it was intact.  The face was smiling, and underneath the perfectly healthy flesh, people had the impression that blood was still circulating…

As for the roses that he had planted, they continue to flower every year, for more than three centuries now.

***

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The Don Juan saint

Don Miguel de Manara, better known as Don Juan.

On 27 July 1680, the city of Seville and the Brothers of Charity, along with numerous Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, monks, laymen, great lords and Masters of the University, introduced into the Court of Rome a request for the canonisation of Brother Don Miguel de Manara, who had died one year earlier in odour of sanctity at the convent of the Caridad.  The enquiry undertaken by the eminent Doctors of the Congregation of Rites was long and minutious.  It lasted ten years and permitted the discovery that the person proposed for judgement in the Court of Rome had had a particularly edifying life.  In faith of which the Pope signed the decree making Don Miguel de Manara a Venerable, the first sanctification grade before beatification.

Immediately, the monks of the Caridad went to work so that the Vatican would take interest in the miracles which were taking place near the tomb of their former Brother and would decide to accord him the title of Blessed.

When Guy Breton wrote this text in the XXth Century, the Congregation of Rites was studying the canonisation dossier of Don Miguel de Manara.

But who is this holy man possessing such remarkable virtues that Rome was considering granting him a halo?

Seville in the XVIIth Century.

He was a Sevillian who lived in the XVIIth Century and was better known by the name of Don Juan…  That’s right:  Don Juan, the lover of a thousand and three women, rapist, adventurer, assassin!…  However, this very real character must not be confused with the legendary Don Juan created by Tirso de Molina and taken up by Moliere.

Born in Seville in 1627, Don Miguel has the revelation of his vocation of seductor when he is only fourteen years old.  Having attended a performance of Burlador by Tirso de Molina, he leaves the theatre declaring with tranquil assurance:

“I will be Don Juan!”,

as another child would say:  “I will be a sailor!”

And straight away, he tries to gain some experience.  As a member of a noble family, he needs, as a true conquistador, brilliant beginnings.  And, for a trial run, it is indeed brilliant:  he becomes the lover of the Archbishop of Seville’s mistress.  He draws from this first contact some lessons that a long apprenticeship with a commoner lady would not have given him.

Don Miguel seduced marquises, servant-girls, washerwomen, nuns, duchesses, middle-class women, sales-girls and princesses.

Then he turns to the married women whom he charms by his words, marvels by his audacity and sends into ecstasy by a very knowledgeable technique…

When a husband, learning of his misfortune, displays any threatening contrarity, Don Miguel draws his sword and kills the interferer.

Wanting to equal his model by any means, he backs away from no peril.  One evening, he arranges to meet a young girl in a hunting pavillion and alerts the lady’s brother.  The brother, thinking that it is just boasting, goes to the bedroom door and listens.  Recognizing his sister’s voice, he insults Don Miguel, but has to remain on the landing and await the end of the duet, a few characteristic sounds of which permit him to follow the different stages.  After which, Don Miguel comes out with raised sword, kills the brother and calmly goes home.

All of these exploits do a lot for his reputation, as can be imagined.  Soon, he has the nickname that he wants.  The whole of Seville calls him “Don Juan”.  It is said of him that he attracts women more than a magnet attracts iron.

But one evening, just like the Don Juan of the legend, while he is in a young girl’s bedchamber – her name is Dona Teresa – the father appears, a torch in his hand.  Don Miguel leaps from the bed, seizes his sword and, in the dark corridor, engages in a terrible duel.  The elderly man, who has drawn his sword, fights furiously, but Don Miguel kills him with a thrust to the heart and flees.

This time, the business is too serious for the parents of the young man to arrange.  Dona Teresa’s father being the head of a powerful Andalusian family, the King himself orders that he be pursued in Justice.  Don Miguel has to flee, to leave Spain, to take refuge in Italy, then in the Netherlands where the charm of the beautiful Flemish ladies soon contains no secrets for him.

Engaged in a Spanish regiment which is warring against Holland, he displays exceptional bravery which merits him being mentioned in Army dispatches.  His brilliant conduct is quickly known in Seville and, by royal decision, the judiciary pursuits are abandoned.  Don Miguel can return home.

He has barely arrived, when he finds a new way to fascinate the beautiful Spanish women:  he participates in corridas and displays, there again, extraordinary dexerity.

One day, he falls seriously ill.  All the husbands of Andalusia rejoice, but Don Miguel recovers, despite expectations.  It is said of him:

“He even beats death!”

It would be wrong to think that this eternally dissatisfied man was a brainless butterfly without method.  Don Miguel kept his accounts.  He possessed a complete list of his “victims” with, opposite, a list of the husbands or lovers he had fooled according to their professions.  All social classes were represented.  At the top of the masculine column, the Pope’s name could be read…  During his stay in Italy, Don Miguel had in fact seduced a beautiful Florentine to whom, it was said, His Holiness had accorded his favours…

Then came an Emperor.  His principal biographer, Mrs Esther Van Loo says:

“The enumeration continued, brutal, direct, precise.  It was an astounding pele-mele of Bishops, of reigning Princes and Dukes, of Marquis, of Counts, of Knights, of bourgeois or of modest tradesmen.”

One evening, while reading over his strange “accounting”, he noticed that he had not yet tasted incest.  His sisters being nuns in a convent, the severe Rule of which forbade all hope, he was going to resign himself to abusing one of his aunts, when he remembered the existence of a half-sister, the bastard daughter of his father, who lived in Corsica.

The following day, Don Miguel embarked.

To be continued.

Count Roger de Bussy-Rabutin.

Roger de Bussy, Count of Rabutin, better known as Bussy-Rabutin, recounted this story in his Memoires.  An excellent General, an even better writer, the cousin of Madame de Sevigne, to whom he was very much attracted, had had a most tumultuous youth.  A man of wit and of the Court, he had actively participated in the Fronde and had been disgraced by Louis XIV.  He wrote songs and epigrams on the young Sun-King’s love affairs which landed him one year of Bastille and definitive exile to his lands.  But this story happened roughly twenty years before that, at the beginning of the reign, when the Duke d’Enghien, called “The Great Conde”, definitively removed the Spanish threat from France by taking back Dunkerque.

***

The antique and noble city of Lerida – its university shines since the year 1300 – of course knew how to defend itself.  Since 49 before the present era, it is the padlock which blocks access to the heart of Spain.  After having to surrender to Caesar, it is then the Moors who beseige it for four centuries, conquer it and lose it again to the Christians.  If it victoriously resists the Great Conde, it succumbs a few years later to the Duke of Orleans, the future Regent, whose qualities of man of war are less well-known than his moral turpitude.  Suchet pillages it in 1810, and in 1936, followers of Franco and Republicans turn it into ruins from top to bottom again…  That said, more natural plagues than the malediction of the mummy could have come to help the good bourgeois of Lerida.  The thing that troubles Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, is that the plague which, since the middle of the XIIIth Century – when it killed 25 million people in Europe – was endemic on the Continent, is not signalled in these parts at the epoch when this story is situated…

***

The Spanish city of Lerida in the XVIIth Century.

It is not possible to determine the exact nature of these terrible pandemics which, over the centuries and up until the XIXth Century, come for the most part from the Indies.  They surely cover very diverse maladies.  Louis Pauwels thinks that the beseiged knew how to break the seige by combining all the tricks of the art of defence with supernatural resources.

***

Let us firstly say that on both sides of the walls, the fate of the combatants was equally unenviable.  Those who were camping outside, in their trenches and their canvas shelters, were even more roughed up than those inside.  Apart from rain, mud, cholera, we know that it is dangerous to sleep outside, at night.  The nocturnal hours in fact seem to accentuate the nocive effect of certain cosmic rays.  An American doctor in Patton’s army was able to verify, at the end of the last war [WWII], that sleeping under the stars could constitute a grave danger.  Out of 23 wounded that he had had to leave without shelter on the outskirts of Pfortzheim, more than half died, while those, more seriously wounded, but who had benefited from the simple protection of a sheet, survived at 95%.  At the epoch which interests us, the troops of mercenaries, notably, slept under the stars, while on campaign at least.

The number of wounded having succumbed like this could have been a first element of demoralisation…

***

At Lerida, an epidemic was doubtless determining.  All begins by the death of La Valliere, probably killed by one of those snipers who rise up in Spain as soon as the country risks falling under foreign rule.  In 1808, they decimated the armies of Napoleon.  La Valliere, who was close to the Commander-in-Chief, was perhaps not buried fast enough, in the heat of this month of June.  Thereby carrying the contagion into the army.  More surely, the beseiged could have set off a heavy offensive, starting with this successful guerilla action, supported by the bacteriological weapons of the epoch, dead animal bodies abandoned near the places where food was to be found, poisoned fountains, rivers and wells.  As Catalina Fiosela used to do, 50 years before.  This Catalan woman went through Provence, Franche-Comte and Flanders, poisoning people and animals for whomever hired her.  She was burnt alive with three of her companions, in Bordeaux, on 1 March 1610.  At this epoch, the manufacture and use of redoubtable poisons was very well-known.  Bands of “greasers” collected them in the hospices, by removing the fat of plague victims, either dead or alive.  From the XVth Century, there exists real brotherhoods of poisoners, who exchange their magical incantations, their recipes and their antedotes right under the noses of the prevote.  Jean Le Francois, at the epoch of the seige of Lerida, is arrested carrying vials of belladonna, camphre, white lead and Peru Balm.  Tortured, he confesses that his colleagues, both male and female, spread the plague by coating doors and locks with a poisoned pomade.  In August 1628, the Lyon thieves succeeded in carrying out, inside their city, the operation that the beseiged of Lerida launched against the French.  They “greased” the doors of the inhabitants and, as the plague has already been declared, these people flee, abandoning their houses to pillage…

***

It is probable that, once sober, the young officers regretted their unqualifiable conduct.  In his Memoires Bussy writes:

“This horrified me and I told them so many times to find that particular pleasure ridiculous, that finally they put the cadaver back in its coffin.”

Bussy perhaps wants to give himself the best role, for he was far from being a tender person, but he seems to suggest that the end of La Valliere could have appeared to his companions as the effect of the divine finger striking down the impious.  Or, as they believed in neither God nor the devil, as an effect of immanent justice, fallen from the empire of the dead.  Let us not forget that the XVIIth Century is a century that is totally delivered up to superstitions, to the belief in fate, to “Jettatura” as the Napolitans say.  The evil eye, charms and evil spells from the dead, strike firstly the sick, the wounded, and weak- or fragile-minded people.  As were without doubt the minds of our joyous officers, tormented by fear and remorse.  And what is the effect of the evil eye on those who are its victims?  For those who believe in it, it suscitates the “old man”, that is to say…  convulsions and fevers which are almost always mortal.

***

The Count and the mummy

The Spanish city of Lerida in the XVIIth Century.

We are on the banks of a river which weaves through an arid countryside.  It is early June, and the Segre, which irrigates Catalogna, already has only a little yellow, muddy water…  Everything is yellow in this austere province:  the burnt Dawn sky, the dried grass, the hill, the ramparts and the high walls of Lerida, which is today a beseiged city.  Again.  For a river of blood has not ceased flowing through this martyr city for centuries.  Since Pompey delivered it to Caesar, and the Moors and the Christians slit each others throats there, not to mention the French, who never march on Spain without occupying it…

The Prince de Conde commanded the troops that beseiged Lerida.

Once more it had been taken and pillaged.  And these French, whom the people of Lerida had fiercely fought and finally chased away, have come back again to attack them, innumerable, in this 1647 Spring.  The beseigers, whose tents and bivouac fires stretch over the horizon, are led by the Great Conde himself, the greatest war-chief of his century, the one who put an end to centuries of the Spanish Infantry’s invincibility, at the Battle of Rocroi…

Victory here too is assured.  Lerida, surrounded, lacks water, bread, powder and bullets.  So, inside the walls, they are getting ready for the final assault, and the men, but also the women, are trying not to think about the horrors which are about to befall them.

Of course, between army chiefs, there is a lot of bowing, politeness and posing.  But these magnificent courtesies change nothing about the fate of the poor people and the rank and file.  For them, “the war in laces” is accompanied by firing, mud, hunger.  And always massacres and rapes.

Before Lerida, the trench that is the most exposed to the Catalan fire is that of the Prince.  Precisely because of the dangers of being there, it is a supreme honour to command it.  It is Roger de Bussy, Count of Rabutin to whom this honour has fallen.  For his fantastic bravery, and also because he is in favour at Court.

Count Roger de Bussy-Rabutin.

On 2 June in the morning, he is on guard duty in this trap, exposed to the firing of the beseiged, and in particular, to their attempts to break out, which are still frequent and murderous.  Day has barely dawned when an emissary of the Chevalier de La Valliere presents himself before Bussy-Rabutin.  He is the bearer of a very pleasing message:  to break the monotony of the seige, La Valliere is organizing, that same day, a luncheon to which are also invited Barbantane, Lieutenant of Conde’s Guard, and Jumeaux his “Battle Marshal”, a title which sounds better than that of the staff officer that he would later become.

At the appointed time, Bussy-Rabutin, all joyous, clothes himself in full dress, with ribbons, laces and a hat with feathers, then, trotting on his horse, followed by all his footmen, sets off for Headquarters, which is installed out of reach of the couleuvrines [small cannons], inside the ruins of an old church.  When he appears, dashing and superb, cries of joy greet him.  With feathers fluttering, they embrace lengthily, as is the fashion.  Soon, without there being any need for questions, our cavalier knows everything and more, about the adulteries and the sexual scandals of Chantilly, Paris and Saint-Germain…

Gossiping makes them thirsty, and youth and all these gallantry rumours make them hungry.  Behind some bushes, a wide table has been set…  It is covered with bottles and food, everything that Enghien’s Guards had been able to swipe within a twenty-league radius…  The wines in particular are abundant.  Bubbly clarets from the South of France, but also deep burgundies and, so as not to neglect the local production, wines from Alicante, Cyprus and marsalas.  On the side-boards, away from the sun, spicy cakes and brioches, wafer biscuits and blancmanges.

A delicate attention,  Monsieur the Prince, Chief of the Armies, has sent his violinists…

A fifth good fellow, La Breteche, Second Lieutenant of Monsieur the Prince’s Guard, arrives.  Frankly greedy, fond of sword-play and loud-mouthed, always the first to break the peace and raise skirts, in other words, the most brazen of libertines.  Worse even than Bussy-Rabutin.

In the shade, they drain the bottles in one draught.  They ply each other with food.  They stuff themselves, and when their hunger is appeased, there is more wine, sun and singing to keep them awake.  All is perfect on this beautiful day, except…  there are no women.

Monsieur the Prince would do anything to oblige his officers.  But where can such game be found at this time?  There are not even any more girls to rape in the whole province.  It must be said that the last ones had to have daggers taken from their hands first…  Barbantane rises from the table.  He is swaying a bit and hurls his hunger for fresh flesh to the sky, begging it to rain girls down upon them.

Barbantane now runs to repeat his prayer inside the church… 

Our proud gentlemen take up his invocation in a drunken chant, and the amorous fever goes up a notch…  Suddenly Barbantane, from the depths of the church, calls out:

“Messieurs!  One pretty woman coming up!  God!  How cute she is!”

His companions rush in, hats in their hands, to rape in all urbanity.  They remain frozen in horror.

Barbantane has kicked open a coffin which was abandoned – how long ago? – in the depository, the “rotter” as they say in Catalogna.  Through the planks of the disjointed lid of the coffin, they can in fact see a woman.  Or rather what is left of a woman.  A yellowish face of boiled leather, empty eye-sockets, the grimace of teeth deprived of lips.

Barbantane, completely drunk, finishes breaking open the lid.  The cadaver appears in its entirety.  It is dressed in black velvet, with gold sequins, a Toledo necklace at its fleshless neck, rings on its joined hands, which look like bird claws…  some noble lady, without a doubt, who was embalmed, and that the extreme dryness of the air had mummified.

Bussy-Rabutin has been suddenly sobered by the horror of it.  He begs the others not to profane her…

La Valliere, whose alcohol abuse had not led him too far astray until now, is suddenly the craziest.  He accuses Bussy-Rabutin of being afraid of a dead body.  Bussy-Rabutin, insulted, is ready for a duel.  He declares that he fears neither the living nor the dead.

Completely occupied with his sacrilegious work, Barbantane now pulls the mummy out of the coffin.  He puts back into place a poor tuft of hair, straightens the cracked bodice, flirts with it.  Finally, he holds it amorously in his arms, places its head on his shoulder.  Its arms dangling, the body curves with a cracking sound.

The gentlemen roar with laughter and say:

“Not only you!  Give her to us too…”

“But she has to be amused, Messieurs!  Look at her face!  The pretty little thing is bored!”

Then they send for the violinists.  Who arrive.  Jumeaux orders them to play a dance in fashion.  They obey.  Barbantane, Jumeaux and La Valliere make the body dance.  Its stiffened members resist.  Its head nods and bobs.  All these men laugh until they cry…

All things come to an end.  They finally put the dead woman back in her coffin, like a doll that is no longer amusing.

What happens next?  They are all so drunk and out of it, that the memories become hazy, and Bussy, relating it in his Memoires, hesitates, remains vague…

They return to the table.  The sun is already declining on the horizon that is fuzzy with heat.  A superior officer, the Marquis de La Trousse, comes to find La Valliere for a question of service.  The two men walk a few steps.  La Valliere crumples, his head shattered by a musket shot.

No-one heard the detonation.  No-one saw the shooter.  This was the only shot fired throughout the whole day.

A few days later, Barbantane, Jumeaux and La Breteche die asphyxiated by convulsions and a mysterious fever.  Bussy-Rabutin himself suffers from it.  He only just survives.  Then a deadly epidemic strikes the French camp.  The ranks of the army melt away with terrifying rapidity.  Horrified, those who remain valid, desert, taking off into the mountains where the Spanish massacre them to the last man.

Behind its ochre ramparts, Lerida, this time, remains invincible.  Saved by a profaned dead woman.

The war in laces really existed.  As hideous as all the others.  And the end of this terrible story is even more cruel.  Here is what Michelet says about it:

“Desperate, Conde was obliged to leave.  And, to relieve his heart, he slit the throats of everyone in a little village which he took along the way.”

***

To be continued.

Lurancy Vennum, aged 13, was possessed by the spirit of a dead girl.

This story is known through the Roffs who abundantly recounted their adventure.  The Lurancy Vennum case was also studied by doctors, psychiatrists, parapsychologists who consecrated many works to it.

***

Lurancy returned to her parents’ home and never had any more attacks of catalepsy.  At eighteen, she married a Kansas farmer George Binning, to whom she gave eleven children.  She died at the beginning of World War II, over eighty years old.  Frequently interrogated by psychologists and journalists, she always declared that she had no memory of her extraordinary adventure.

***

There can have been no trickery.  Lurancy knew nothing about Mary Roff’s life.  Mary had died before she was born.  Further, she often related facts which only Minerva or Mrs Roff had witnessed.

***

The Roffs affirmed to the end of their lives that they truly believed that their daughter’s spirit had lived in Lurancy’s body.  They declared:

“From the month of March, we were convinced that our daughter had come back to our home and that it was with her that we were speaking.  Everything, anyway, was proving it to us!”.

***

Lurancy’s parents lived through a nightmare while their daughter was living with the Roffs.  Several times, they went to Dixville, but the little girl talked to them as if they were strangers.

***

Georges Langelaan studied Lurancy’s story and related it briefly in his Cursed Deeds.  He cited the case of young John Juergens who, for a while, was truly “possessed” by the spirit of an adolescent friend of his named Toby, who died after a hunting accident.  But John Juergens was, it could be said, “possessed by intermittence”.  Sometimes he was Toby, sometimes he was John.  And, curiously, the Juergens’ dog perceived the change.  When he sensed “the arrival” of Toby into John, his fur stood on end and he didn’t allow himself to be touched by the adolescent whom he considered to be a stranger…

There is another case that can be classed in the same category, although it is a bit different.  It is that of Iris Farczady.  Iris was a young Hungarian, the daughter of an engineer and a school teacher in Budapest.  In 1935, when she was fifteen, she fell seriously ill after catching a chill which degenerated into pneumonia.  She was hospitalised.  A few days later, on 28 May, she was dying.  But, at the precise moment when the doctor who was watching by her side was noting the decease, the young girl’s eyes opened and her body came back to life.  The next morning, her state was so much better that she started to speak.  The nurses then noticed, astounded, that she was speaking in a foreign language.  Questioned – obviously in Hungarian – Iris signalled that she did not understand what was being said to her.  As she had several times pronounced the word “senora”, an interpretor who came from Madrid was brought to whom she explained with volubility, but in perfect Spanish, that her name was Altarez de Salvio, that she was the wife of a municipal employee in Madrid, that she was forty years old and had fourteen children (eight daughters and six sons).  She added that she had been hospitalised for a cancer of the uterus and that the doctor had not hidden from her that her state was very alarming.

“So, a little while ago, I was feeling very tired;  I closed my eyes and I must have nodded off.  And here I am in another bed, surrounded by unknown people who don’t speak my language.  Explain to me what is happening!”

No-one, naturally, is able to furnish an explanation.

Later, completely cured, Iris returned to her parents’ home and had to learn Hungarian which she then spoke with a strong Spanish accent.  She had no memory of her life in Hungary;  on the other hand, she didn’t stop talking about her children, whose names she gave, about her husband Manuel, whose functions at the Town Hall she explained, and about Madrid, of which she described the streets and the monuments.  On top of that, she started to make succulent paellas and play the guitar…

Finally, the Spanish Ambassador was informed of what was happening at the Farczady home.  Intrigued by the young girl’s declarations, he had an investigation made in Madrid and soon learned that Senora Altarez de Salvio, the wife of a municipal employee and mother of fourteen children, had died in hospital from a cancer of the uterus on 28 May, at five o’clock in the morning, that is to say, taking into account time-zone differences, at the same time that Iris died in the Budapest clinic.  As well as that, all the details that the young girl had given on the life and family of the Senora were recognized exact…

***

This story is known through Doctor Arnall Bloxham from Cardiff, who personally studied the case of Iris Farczady and published many articles about her in British and American magazines.

***

There is no explanation for these phenomena.  But Guy Breton quotes the comment of an American psychiatrist Warren Butler, the author of a book on “personality changes”:

“It seems that at certain moments, our body, of which we know nothing concerning the subtle ties which unite it to our spirit, can be “possessed” by mysterious entities endowed with memory and capable of making it communicate in languages which have not been learnt, or of prodding it to act in paradoxal fashion.  After which, these entities disappear just like they came.  But where do they come from?  Where do they go?  Why do they “occupy” certain bodies?  How are these bodies chosen by them?  So many questions without answers…”

As Maurice Maeterlinck used to say:

“When shall we at last know who we are?”

***

Saint Joseph of Copertino.

Brother Joseph once pulled with him into the air a mentally alienated person who had been brought to him and, holding him by the hair, maintained him in the air for a quarter of an hour, which had the effect of curing the unfortunate man…

These levitations took place several times in the presence of important witnesses.  Notably in front of Urbain VIII, a sceptic Pope whose opinion is asked by the Holy Office, disconcerted by the Franciscan’s flying prowess.  This time, the scene verges on burlesque.  Joseph, very intimidated, begins by prostrating himself and kissing the papal foot.  But his emotion is so great that he soon takes off under the Holy Father’s astounded gaze and remains for a long time stuck against the ceiling.

The most famous of Joseph of Copertino’s levitations is doubtless that which took place before John Frederick of Brunswick, in 1649, and which struck this Prince to the point of making him abandon the Lutherian religion.

Among the other notable witnesses of Brother Joseph’s ecstatic flights, we must cite Princess Marie de Savoie, the daughter of Catherine of Austria, and the surgeon Francesco de Pierpolo who reported the fact in his Souvenirs:

“At the time of Father Joseph’s last illness, I had to practise a cautery on the right leg, conforming with the orders of the doctor Mr Hyacinthe Carosi.  Father Joseph was sitting on a chair, his right leg on my knee.  I was already applying the iron for the operation;  I noticed that Father Joseph was ravished out of his senses and in complete abstraction;  his arms were extended, his eyes open and directed toward Heaven;  his mouth was half-open;  his breathing seemed to have completely stopped.  I noticed that he had risen about twenty-five centimetres above the said chair, but was still in the same position as before the ecstasy.  I tried to lower his leg and could not succeed;  it remained extended.  A fly had landed on the pupil of his eye;  the more I tried to chase it away, the more it seemed to persist in coming back to the same place;  in definitive, I had to leave it there.  So as to better observe Father Joseph, I kneeled.  Mr Carosi was examining with me.  We very visibly recognized that Father Joseph was ravished out of his senses, and that he was also really suspended in the air as I have already said.”

Finally, on 18 September 1663, at the age of sixty, Father Joseph of Copertino died at Osimo.

On this day, it was his soul that flew away…

***

This flying Franciscan is so extraordinary that the Americans made him the patron saint of aviation.

***

Saint Joseph of Copertino once flew over the heads of church parishioners to land on the Virgin's altar.

The sources for this story are numerous.  The most important ones are the biography of Joseph of Copertino written by Angelo Pastrovicchi, the enquiry of Domenico Bernino made by order of the Pope, the relation written by the Prince of Brunswick, the correspondence of the Grand-Admiral of Castille, the memoirs of Princess Marie de Savoie, the souvenirs of the surgeon Francesco de Pierpolo, of Cardinal Fachinetti, Bishop of Spoleto and of Doctor Hyacinthe Carosi.  There are also the witness statements of the little people, shepherds, bakers, artisans, who had witnessed in astonishment the monk’s flying exploits.  In fact, Joseph did not only fly in churches.  Very often, as we have said, he levitated in the street;  a phenomenon which was rather popular with the passers-by.  To the point where at Petrarubbia, crafty businessmen opened hostelries in the neighbourhood of the convent in which our Franciscan lived, to lodge the curious who came to see his flights…

***

His entourage did not at all see him as a saint.  This person who took off unexpectedly all the time horrified his Superiors who found it disturbing.  To the point that he was firstly excluded from the choir, then from the processions and finally from the refectory where his ascensions were casting trouble and provoking hilarity.  A man who suddenly leaves the table and goes to stick to the ceiling, causes laughter.  One day, during a luncheon, Joseph flew up with a sea urchin in his hand.  Everybody laughed.  Finally, the poor man was sent away to Assisi.  And as his levitations were causing disorder there too, he was sent to the Osimo convent where he finished his life.

***

The Inquisition was watching him.  The Inquisitors were wary of this flying man and suspected him of witchcraft.  They made him appear in Naples before their tribunal and only consented to absolve him on the express condition that he live in an isolated convent under constant surveillance…

***

As for whether or not the human body is capable of flying, all that can be said is that among monks and nuns, more than two hundred cases authentified by witnesses have been repertoried.  Notably Saint Teresa of Avila who was not only a great mystic, but also one of the masters of Spanish literature and one of the great intellectuals of her time.  When she entered into ecstasy she levitated, and her companions recount that they had found her an incalculable number of times floating half an aune (around sixty centimetres) from the ground.  She speaks of this phenomenon herself in her autobiography:

“This extraordinary thing gave me great distress, for I feared that it would cause a lot of talk.  So, I forbade the nuns to speak of it…”

Farther on, she adds:

“It seemed to me, when I tried to resist a little, that a great force under my feet lifted me into the air…  I confess that this threw me into great fear, truly a very great fear, the first times.  When the body is lifted like that from the ground, the senses are not abolished.  I remained sufficiently myself to be able to see that I was raised in the air…”

She again writes:

“Sometimes I was capable, at the price of great efforts, to oppose a slight resistance:  but then, I was broken like a person who had fought a powerful giant.”

And Bishop Yepes says that he saw her one evening,

“grip the bars of the grille and let out moans of distress”,

before letting go and rising towards the ceiling.  Another time, she clung to the mats on the floor and was lifted with such force that she dragged them with her in her ascension…

***

To be continued.

The Baron de Geramb

General Ferdinand-Francois, Baron de Geramb

On the afternoon of 20 April 1810, an English frigate, coming from Cadiz, drops anchor in the Port of London.  A giant of two metres, with azure eyes and Cyclopean shoulders, debarks.  His thick brown hair cascades in the wind and his long moustache, in the Hussard style, proudly turns up at the ends.

And what a costume!  The English, who are notoriously flegmatic, stand gaping.  Under the wolf-skin dolman, attached on his chest with a silver skull and crossbones, there blazes an Hungarian jacket with frogging.  Red thigh boots, tight white riding pants, and wide-cuffed gloves complete this outfit.

His hat is a great astrakan colback with a bouquet of heron feathers in panache…  His belt holds no fewer than sixty cartridges and six small pistols.  A dagger and a club hang at his side and an enormous scimitar bangs against his left calf, as well as a sabretache embroidered with skulls and crossbones…

This character, who calls himself the Baron de Geramb, an Hungarian officer, installs himself on the edge of Hyde Park in a superb house which he furnishes very expensively and supplies with an extravagant number of domestics.  His horses prance underneath his porch and all this show, plus the stories of those who meet him, easily open credit for him with suppliers.  How can you not have confidence in this character who speaks all the languages of Europe, swallows two chickens and a ham for breakfast and kills three horses under him in one day?  It is even said that his laugh makes crystal decanters explode…

At this epoch, Europe is leagued against Napoleon, and England is the meeting place for all those who dream of getting rid of the Emperor.

But who is this Baron de Geramb?  Nothing less than Napoleon’s personal enemy.  His implacable rival, who promises to put his bravery and the strength of his genius at the service of Civilization.  He gives himself no more than five months to succeed…

He has a plan all ready, and he explains this plan to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lord Wellesley, in person, who is a regular visitor.

To begin with, he is going to get all the Dutch, the Illyrians, the Saxons, the Badois, the Spanish and the Piemontais, who have been forcibly enrolled into Napoleon’s armies, to desert.  The multitude of refractory conscripts and proscripted people of all sorts will come to join this troop.  It will be a formidable army which will receive the decisive support of “his” 24,000 Croats.  Freshly equipped, they are impatiently waiting back there in Hungary to lead the Armada which is going to roll over the Normandy coast.  One small detail:  he will cede his Croats to England at cost price, plus travelling expenses, that goes without saying.

Wellesley, who has trouble recovering from his amazement, finds all this admirable.  But, like the good Englishman that he is, he has enquiries made, which give astonishing results.

The English police is already a model of efficiency at this epoch.  However, in spite of all the noise that the extravagant Geramb has made in several European countries, its emissaries are never able to find out his country of birth.  Is he French, Austrian, Jewish, Hungarian?  Is Geramb his real name?  Some think that they recognize in him Prince Murat in person.

However, they recall that a certain Geramb who resembles him like a brother was talked about in Rome where he climbed the bronze ball which dominates Saint Peter’s cupola, at the risk of breaking his neck twenty times over.  Just to engrave his name on it…  In Naples, one day when Vesuvius was in effervescence, he fought a duel on the edge of the crater.

In Vienna, he eclipsed Sir Walter Raleigh’s famous gesture by ripping off his jacket to cover a little stream of water, under the foot of the Empress who was passing by.

There, he is immediately promoted to Chamberlain, raises a corps of volunteers, flanked by his brightly-coloured aides-de-camp, and cedes his Lieutenant’s commission for a good price.  But when Napoleon approaches Vienna, he disappears.

He rises to the surface again in Palermo where Queen Caroline, who is very sensitive to well-built men, swoons at the sight of him.

Then he is even more decorated and beplumed than ever.  Without worrying about gossip, he attends revues on Caroline’s arm.  And then, as the rumours swell, he leaves, pretexting that the Cortes of Spain want to see him.

Then here he is in Cadiz where he gets General’s epaulettes, and then to London where, as we have seen, he attempts to get money for his 24,000 Croats.

Upon reading this information, Wellesley says that he is definitively edified.  Geramb receives a sack of one hundred guineas as the only payment for his extravagances, and is told to leave English soil within three weeks.

In the peaceful home at Hyde Park, there is immediately a terrifying upheaval.  The General lets out such cries that all his personnel flees in terror.  He demands to be instantly reimbursed for all his expenses, barricades himself, and threatens to blow up the neighbourhood.  The police attack, and to their surprise, he surrenders quietly.

That same evening, he is embarked, and a few days later, he, his dolman, his boots, his white riding pants and all his armury are thrown onto a Danish beach.

The London gazettes of course talk about the event and of his hate for Napoleon:  a hanging offence when everyone knows that the King of Denmark is the Emperor’s most faithful ally.

All this noise appears very suspicious to the French police.  In the Ministries, it is thought to be some sort of English trick to infilter a spy.

In his prison, Geramb writes to the King of Denmark to assure him that, on the whole Earth, there is no greater enemy of England than himself.  He even solicits permission to raise, at his own expense, a monument to the crimes of perfidious Albion.

To be continued.

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.”

***

Sister Magdalena of the Cross, venerated by the whole of Spain, confessed, one day, that the Devil had been visiting her in her cell.

Don Juan of Cordua, Doyen of the Spanish church, was given the task of exorcising Magdalena of the Cross.

Don Juan of Cordua establishes a faithful witness statement which causes consternation in town, and from there, throughout the whole of Spain.  The following day, the Provincial, in person, goes to the dying nun’s bedside.  He remains there for several hours and receives a complete confession, of which he says nothing.

But this man, young, reputed for his righteousness, his bounty and his cheerful character, does not leave the cell the way that he entered it.  All those who meet him on this day, notice that he has aged, that his face has been permanently transformed, that his back is bent as if under the weight of a frightful secret, an hallucinating nightmare which has lasted a whole lifetime;  the lifetime of the “saint”, Magdalena of the Cross, the diabolic Abbess of Cordua.

By order of Cardinal Tabera, an Inquisitor is next to present himself in the nun’s cell.  He is young and inspires her with confidence.  She reveals to him that the beautiful dark-haired young man who appeared to her at the age of five, was in fact the devil.  He had promised her celebrity and the respect of everyone, if she would consent to obey him blindly.

It is also the devil who leaves his mark by touching her two fingers which stop growing.  Who teaches her the subterfuge of the wafers, and the simulation of ecstasies.  Her cries in the night are in no way inspired by the ecstatic love that she has for the Creator, but by the demon’s caresses.

Upon hearing such consternating admissions, the Inquisitor, horrified, signs himself.  Immediately, the nun starts to insult the priest with words of superhuman triviality.  She rolls around in her cell and bites anything she can, while striking poses of unnameable impudicity, miming the copulations that she has performed with Balban for nearly fifty years.

As a practised Inquisitor, the monk has asked the most pious and worldly-wise nuns to stay in the corridor to write down the fallen nun’s words, so as to be able to subsequently serve as witnesses.  Magdalena of the Cross’ case is rapidly prepared.

In the course of the interrogations, during which Balban is dislodged by exorcisms, but almost immediately retakes possession of his prey, it is learnt with what hideous spells he has undermined Magdalena’s soul as a child.

When she becomes nubile, Balban ceases to appear to her as a beautiful young man, as he has been doing since she was five.  One night, when the young girl is waiting for him as usual, he presents himself to her in the form of a scintillating mist which condenses and takes the form of a very tall man, hairy and radiating a reddish light.  She cries out “Jesus”, but this, of course, greatly displeases Balban, who lifts her with his burning hand and drops her on the paving stones.  She is then forced to contemplate the creature who rises before her, inflicting the spectacle of his lubricity on her.

The infernal creature is not very attractive, and the possessed girl remembers in horror his wide, flat nose, his twisted horns and his toothless mouth.  He commands her to immediately become his wife, assures her that she will not lose her virginity, and that her apparent sainthood would only grow in measure with the unimaginable pleasures that she would enjoy with him.

Vanquished, Magdalena then gives in, and it is again the dark-haired, infinitely attractive young man that she receives in her.

She then admits that it is also the devil who comes to feed her in secret, and that she had really been pregnant by him.  She had been warned by him that she risked nothing if she followed his instructions.  It was to play a joke by troubling the minds of the nuns and the Corduan clergy, that he had made her pregnant with an…  enormous caterpillar which escaped from her body with a loud wind… before changing into Balban and possessing her, that famous Christmas night, with unprecedented refinements.

So, the whole of Christendom discovers with horror that she, whom it thought was God’s most-beloved, was in fact the most-beloved creature of the devil.

She is judged on 3 May 1546.  Until her arrest, and although she is sixty-one years old, she has remained uncommonly young.  But, in the last days of the case’s preparation, Balban reveals that he is leaving forever the body and soul of the possessed woman.

She has suddenly aged a lot, and it is a poor broken, rheumaticky woman who implores the court to put a rapid end to her torments and deliver her to the purifying flames.  The judges decide otherwise.  Because of her great age, her spontaneous confession, and the quality of her repentance.  A little, too, because they consider her to be a pitiful victim of the demon, and a lot, in memory of the days of her glory which they, themselves, had exalted.

The judges do decide, however, that she is to be led to the scaffold with a gag in her mouth, a Spartan cord around her neck, and a candle in her hand.  That she remain exposed there for the time of a Grand Mass, and that she should then abjure her errors.  For three months, she cannot wear the black veil, and must always walk last in all of the movements of convent life.

She abjures in tears, in front of the Cathedral that she had had raised thanks to her spells.  Taken to a Clarissa convent in Burgos, she lives long years without ever falling again into the slightest error.

Magdalena’s great pride had given her everything.  The exegetes of her time were later sure that her final humility would even have made her worthy of Paradise…

***

To be continued.

Soon, the nuns’ confessions begin to show some of the sisters’ true state of sin.  Penances are measured to the exact gravity of the faults.  Does Abbess Magdalena always distinguish what is real from what is imaginary?

No matter!  For the moment, it is necessary to totally expiate sins, and to succeed, the cord whips are replaced with iron ones, garnished with nails or spur rowels.

As for the manner in which the whip should be applied, the Abbess modernises it…  Before, when the Miserere liberated the whips, the candles were extinguished.  From now on, the nuns are given all the necessary time to raise their habits in full light…  in Magdalena’s mind, the spectacle of suffering reciprocally inflicted should be an encouragement for each to make her partner suffer more.

Away with little penances consisting of begging food from each table;  a soul with little pride can submit to that easily.  It is with exacerbated physical pain that the Abbess finds the salt of true penitence.  The sisters now remain on their knees on clamps garnished with iron spikes, they sleep with belts of the same kind or remain stretched out in a doorway so that the others can walk on them.

They also imitate Christ’s Passion.  Veils fall from heads and crowns of thorns are rammed onto them instead…  A rope around their necks, the nuns walk in lugubrious and plaintive processions and, in a corridor, blows rain down on their faces from canes.  These severities in no way harm the love given by the community to their Abbess.  She is twice resoundingly re-elected.

Is it the admiration she receives from the greats of her time – Queen Isabella sends her her portrait and the Archbishop of Seville calls her in the letters that he writes to her “the happiest creature in the world” – that incites her to relax many points of the Order of the Clarissas’ Rule?

Because of her saintliness, Saint Francis, who appears to her one night, dispenses her from future Confessions.  To be able to support even greater mortifications, she authorises the sisters not to fast on Fridays, and explains that it is an insult to them to be separated from their confessor by a grille.  Many then think that the great reform of the Order that she is planning will bring new prosperity to the convent.

She says that, one night, a dead woman had come to confess to her.  She immediately wants the young nuns and novices to confess to her at night in her cell.  This innovation of course causes murmurs.  Particularly from Isabella of the Holy Trinity who still hasn’t forgotten being beaten by Magdalena in the 1533 elections, and on whom the Abbess has inflicted the severest humiliations ever since…

The sisters are gradually getting used to living with the almost daily prodigies performed by Magdalena.  Through dreams, apparitions and macerations endured with heroism…  One morning she says:

“The Holy Virgin has appeared to me and led me about the corridors last night.  She smiled at you, Sister, but she only gave a long look of scorn to you.”

These revelations strongly displease those who are the victims.  Their protestations join those of the families who, outside, see their daughters refused entrance to the convent, because their ancestors were perhaps Jewish.  Magdalena of course receives her information from the Holy Virgin, herself, but in the families, indignation and anger rumble…  The 1542 elections bring a surprising result.

Magdalena receives only a handful of votes and Isabella of the Holy Trinity is elected.  In rightful retaliation for her own humiliations, that same evening, she obliges Magdalena to make as many signs of the cross on the floor with her tongue as there are tiles in the refectory…

In the middle of this, the former Abbess falls into ecstasy.  When this happened before, the sisters carried her to her cell.  Now, she is left to macerate where she is for part of the night.  With no strength left, she finally reintegrates her cell on her own.

Closely watched, Magdalena is again suspected of receiving food clandestinely.  She is still supposed to be fasting most of the time.  For more than thirty years, now.

One day, a little iron box containing Communion wafers is brought to the Abbess.  This box, found under Magdalena’s bed, seems to prove that the miracle of spontaneous Communion, repeated many times since, has been just a trick.

In 1543, she falls gravely ill.  This seems a good occasion for the Abbess to oblige her to confess.  But when Magdalena sees her confessor, she goes into convulsions.  A doctor, who is also a wise demonologist, is sent for.  He notices that during one of her ecstasies, Magdalena’s eyes do not have all the fixity which is the distinctive mark of real ecstasies.  He stabs her with a needle and obtains no reaction.  But when he dips the needle in Holy Water, the nun exhales a low moan.

The nun’s illness seems to get worse.  Unlike what used to happen, she is worried and often asks the doctor to keep her informed on the evolution of her illness.  One December day, she hears:

“You are dying.  You will not see another Christmas.”

Greatly anguished, Magdalena twists on her bed and lets out mysterious words:

“1544!…  The forty years announced; cursed dog!  Take me to Hell?”

Then she falls back and proffers revolting blasphemies before being ripped from her bed and held in the air.  She then falls heavily several times, but apparently without hurting herself.

The Abbess has the Church Doyen, Don Juan of Cordua, called, and asks him to exorcise the Clarissa immediately.  The old man orders:

“Leave this poor woman and dare to say your name!”

The demon first lets out a terrible cry in which it is thought that the name “Balban” is recognised.  The laughing amplifies and becomes incomprehensible.  The demon glories in all the disorder that he has been able to cause over so many years in the convent, and swears that he will return…

To be continued.

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