IT may now be asked how a human being becomes or is transformed into a vampire, and it will be well here to tabulate the causes which are generally believed to predispose persons to this demoniacal condition. It may be premised that as the tradition is so largely Slavonic and Greek many of these causes which are very commonly assigned and accredited in Eastern Europe will not be found to prevail elsewhere.
The Vampire is one who has led a life of more than ordinary immorality and unbridled wickedness; a man of foul, gross and selfish passions, of evil ambitions, delighting in cruelty and blood. Arthur Machen has very shrewdly pointed out that “Sorcery and sanctity are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life.” The spiritual world cannot be confined to the supremely good, “but the supremely wicked, necessarily, have their portion in it. The ordinary man can no more be a great sinner than he can be a great saint. Most of us are just indifferent, mixed-up creatures; we muddle through the world without realizing the meaning and the inner sense of things, and, consequently our wickedness and our goodness are alike second-rate unimportant . . . the saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall . . . it is not the mere liar who is excluded by those words; it is, above all, the “sorcerers” who use the material life, who use the failings incidental to material life as instruments to obtain their infinitely wicked ends. And let me tell you this; our higher senses are so blunted, we are so drenched with materialism, that we should probably fail to recognize real wickedness if we encountered it.)”
Huysmans has said in Là Bas: “Comme il est très difficile d’être un saint, il reste à devenir un santanique. C’est un
des deux extrêmes. On peut avoir l’orgueil de valoir en crimes ce qu’un saint vaut en virtus.”
It has been said that a saint is a person who always choses the better of the two courses open to him at every step. And so the man who is truly wicked is he who deliberately always choses the worse of the two courses. Even when he does things which would be considered right he always does them for some bad reason. To identify oneself in this way with any given course requires intense concentration and an iron strength of will, and it is such persons who become vampires.
The vampire is believed to be one who has devoted himself during his life to the practice of Black Magic, and it is hardly to be supposed that such persons would rest undisturbed, while it is easy to believe that their malevolence had set in action forces which might prove powerful for terror and destruction even when they were in their graves. It was sometimes said, but the belief is rare, that the Vampire was the offspring of a witch and the devil.
Throughout the trials and in the confessions of witches there are many details of the coitus of the devil and the witch, but those examples given by Henri Boguet in his great and authoritative work Discours des Sorciers (Third edition, Lyons, 1590) may stand for many. He devotes Chapter XII to the connexion of the devil and the witch: “L’accouplement du Demon avec la Sorciere et le Sorcier . . . 1. Le Demon cognoit toutes les Sorcieres, & pourquoy. 2. Il se met aussi en femme pour les Sorciers, & pourquoy. 3. Autres raisons pour les quelles le Demon cognoit les Sorciers, & Sorcieres.” More than one witch acknowledged that Satan had known her sexually, and in Chapter XIII Boguet decides: “L’accouplement de Satan auce le Sorcier est réel and non imaginaire. . . . Les uns donc s’on mocque~t . . . mais les confessions des Sorciers que j’ay eu en main, me font croire qu’il en est quelque chose. Lautant qu’ils ont tout recogneu, qu’ils auoient esté couplez auec le Diable, & que la semeuce qu’il iettoit estoit fort froide . . . Iaquema Paget adioustoit, qu’elle auoit empoigné plusiers fois auec la main le me~bre du Demon, qui la cognoissoit, & que le membre estoit froid comme glace, lo~g d’un bon doigt, & moindre en grosseur que celuy d’vn homme: Tieuenne Paget, & Antoine Tornier adioustoient aussi, qui le membre de leurs Demons
estoit long, & gros comme l’un de leurs doigts.” That eminent scholar and demonologist, Ludovico, Maria Sinistrari, O.S.F., tells us in his De Demonialitate “it is undoubted by Theologians and philosophers that carnal intercourse between mankind and the Demon sometimes gives birth to human beings; and that is how Antichrist is to be born, according to some doctors, for example, Bellarmine, Suarez, and Thomas Malvenda. They further observe that, from a natural cause, the children thus begotten by Incubi are tall, very hardy and bloodily bold, arrogant beyond words, and desperately wicked.” S. Augustine, De Ciuitate Dei, XV, 23, says: “Creberrima fama est multique se expertos uel ab eis, qui experto essent, de quorum fide dubitandum non esset, audisse confirmant, Siluanos et Panes, quos uulgo incubos uocant, inprobos saepe extitisse mulieribus et earum adpetisse ac perigisse concubitum; et quodsam daemones, quos Dusios Galli nuncupant, adsidue hanc immunditiam et tentare et efficere, plures talesque adseuerant, ut hoc negare impudentiae uideatur.” “And seeing it is so general a report, and so many view it either from their own experience or from others, that are of indubitable honesty and credit, that the sylvans and fawns, commonly called incubi, have often swived women, desiring and acting carnally with them; and that certain devils whom the Gauls called ‘Duses’ do continually practise this uncleanness and lure others to it, which is affirmed by such persons and with such weight that it were the height of impudence to deny it.” Charles René Billuart, the celebrated Dominican (1685-1757) in his Tractatus de Angelis tells us: “The same evil spirit may serve as a succubus to a man, and as an incubus to a woman.” The great authority of S. Alphonsus Liguori in his Praxis confessariorum, VII, n. iii, lays down: “Some deny that there are evil spirits, incubi and succubi, but writers of weight, eminence and learning, for the most part lay down that such is verily the case.” Sinistrari, as we have noted, says that the children born of the devil and a witch are “desperately wicked,” and we have just seen that persons of more than ordinarily evil life are said to become Vampires.
With the exception of England,–for witches were invariably hanged among us,–the universal penalty for witchcraft
was the stake; and cremation, the burning of the dead body, is considered to be one of the few ways, and perhaps the most efficacious manner, in which vampirisin can be stamped out and brought to an end. That witches were hanged in England is a fact which has often been commented upon with some surprise, and persons who travelled in France and Italy were inclined to advise the same punishment should be inflicted at home as in all other countries. It was felt that unless the body were utterly consumed it might well prove that they had not stamped out the noxious thing. In Scotland, in 1649, when Lady Pittadro, who was incarcerated upon a charge of sorcery, died before her trial, her body was buried in the usual way. But considerable excitement followed and there were instant complaints to those in high places since the Scotch General Assembly considered that the body should have been burned and the following entry occurs among the records: “Concerning the matter of the buriall of the Lady Pittadro, who, being under a great scandall of witchcraft, and bein incarcerat in the Tolbuith of this burgh during her trialI before the Justice, died in prison. The Commission of the General Assembly, having considered the report of the Committee appointed for that purpose, Doe give their advyse to the Presbyterie of Dumferling to show their dislike of that fact of the buriall of the Lady Pittadro, in respect of the manner and place, and that the said Presbyterie may labour to make the persons who hes buried her sensible of their offence in so doeing; and some of the persons who buried hir, being personallie present, are desired by the Comission to show themselvis, to the Presbyterie sensible of their miscarriage therein.” Again in 1652 some persons who had been resident in France and who probably had followed the famous prosecutions at Louviers expressed their surprise that in England the gallows and not the stake was the penalty for this species of crime. In the Louviers case, a horrid record of diabolism, demoniac masses, lust and blasphemy, on 21 August, 1647, Thomas Boullé, a notorious Satanist, was burnt alive in the market-square at Rouen, and what is very notable the body of Mathurin Picard who had died five years before, and who had been buried near the choir grille in the chapel of the Franciscan nuns which was so fearfully haunted, was disinterred, being found (so it is said)
intact. In any case it was burned to ashes in the same fire as consumed the wretched Boullé and it seems probable that this corpse was incinerated to put an end to the vampirish attacks upon the cloister. At Maidstone, in 1652, “Anne Ashby, alias Cobler, Anne Martyn, Mary Browne, Anne Wilson, and Mildred Wright of Cranbrooke and Mary Read, of Lenham, being legally convicted, were according to the Laws of this Nation, adjudged to be hanged, at the common place of Execution. Some there were that wished rather they might be burnt to Ashes; alledging that it was a received opinion among many, that the body of a witch being burnt, her bloud is prevented thereby from becomming hereditary to her Progeny in the same evill.”
It is even recorded that in one case the witch herself considered that she should be sent to the stake. A rich farmer in Northamptonshire had made an enemy of a woman named Anne Foster. Thirty of his sheep were discovered dead with their “Leggs broke in pieces, and their Bones all shattered in their Skins.” Shortly after his house and several of his barns were found ablaze. It was suspected that Anne Foster had brought this about by sorcery. She was tried upon this charge at Northampton in 1674, and “After Sentence of Death was past upon her, she mightly desired to be Burned; but the Court would give no Ear to that, but that she should be hanged at the Common place of Execution.”
These two categories are those to which, it is generally believed, cases of vampirism may be assigned, and the remainmg classes are almost entirely peculiar to Czecho-Slovakia, Jugo-Slavia, Greece and Eastern Europe.
The vampire is believed to be one who for some reason is buried with mutilated rites. It will be remarked that this idea has a very distinct connexion with the anxious care taken by the Greek and Roman of classical times that the dead should be consigned to the tomb with full and solemn ceremony. Example might be multiplied upon example and it will suffice to refer to the passage in the Iliad where the soul of Patroclus is represented as urgently demanding the last ceremonial observances at the tomb.
“Sleep’st thou, Achilles, mindless of thy friend,
Neglecting, not the living, but the dead?
Hasten my funeral rites, that I may pass p. 82
Through Hades’ gloomy gates; ere those be done,
The spirits and spectres of departed men
Drive me far from them, nor allow to cross
Th’ abhorred river; but forlorn and sad
I wander through the wide-spread realms of night.
And give now thy hand, whereupon to weep;
For never more, when laid upon the pyre,
Shall I return from Hades; never more,
Apart from all our comrades, shall we two,
As friends, sweet counsel take; for me, stern Death,
The common lot of man, has op’d his mouth;
Thou too, Achilles, rival of the Gods,
Art destin’d here beneath the walls of Troy
To meet thy doom; yet one thing must I add,
And make, if thou wilt grant it, one request.
Let not my bones be laid apart from thine,
Achilles, but together, as our youth
Was spent together in thy father’s house,
Since first my Sire Menœtius me a boy
From Opus brought, a luckless homicide,
Who of Amphidamas, by evil chance,
Had slain the son, disputing o’er the dice
Me noble Peleus in his house receiv’d,
And kindly nurs’d, and thine attendant nam’d;
So in one urn be now our bones enclos’d
The golden vase, thy Goddess-mother’s gift.”
Whom answer’d thus Achilles, swift to foot:
Why art thou here lov’d being? why on me
These several charges lay? whate’er thou bidd’st
Will I perform, and all in one short embrace,
Let us, while yet we may, our grief indulge.”
Thus as he spoke, he spread his longing arms.
But nought he clasp’d; and with a wailing cry,
Vanish’d, like smoke, the spirit beneath the earth.
Having slain her husband the atrocious Clytemnestra heaps sin upon sin and outrages not merely all decent feeling and human respect, but in some mysterious way insults the majesty of heaven itself in that, a supreme act of wanton insolence, she “dared to lay her husband in the tomb without mourning and without lamentation or dirge,” for an adequate show of outward grief was considered an essential and religious part of any Greek funeral. In bitter accents Electra cries:
πάντολμε μᾶτερ, δαΐαισ ἐν ἐκφοραῖς
ἄνευ πολιτᾶν ἅνακτ᾽
ἄνευ δὲ πενθημἄτων
ἔτλας ἀνοίμωκτ?’ον ἄνδρα θάψαι·
As Sophocles has shown us in that great drama which some not without reason consider the supremest excellence of Greek tragedy, the heroism of Antigone carries her to heights of dauntless strength in this cause of divine charity. To scatter a few handfuls of dust upon her brother’s body which lies unburied on the Theban plain, she gladly lays down her own life, she flouts the man-made law of a weak and odious tyrant, resisting him to his very face, calmly as in stern duty bound without vaunt or show of audacity, appealing against the petty and precisian tribunals of a day to the eternal judgement-seat of powers more ancient and more awful than the throne of Zeus himself, casting away her plighted troth to Hæmon as though it were a trifle, and less than a trifle of no account, going gladly and serenely to her tragic doom. This contempt of human ordinances, this icy despising of human passions, of love itself, give the figure of Antigone something statuesque, something superbly cold in the very loveliness of her nobility, and remind us, although in her utter detachment even she, the purest Greek maiden, is far far below the Spanish mystic, of S. Teresa, who in pages that are chilly as ice, yet glow like fire, descants upon the nullity of human affections and the inflexible demand of the eternal law. So in the grand yet hard enthusiasm of Antigone there is no room for sentiment. The only touches which might seem some concession to human weakness but serve to make the absence of romantic sympathies more notable and more terrible. In a passage of the Kommos she bewails her own virgin knot untied, yet she has no more than some six words to throw away upon her betrothed:
ὦ φίλταθ᾽ Αῖ᾽μον, ὧς σ?` ἁτιμάξει πατήρ
When we consider the steadfastness and inflexible purity of her purpose we shall to some extent realise how tremendous was the ideal that inspired her, and we are able to appreciate what price it seemed fitting to a Greek should be paid for the just and ritual performance of the last duties to the dead.
Pausanias tells us that Lysander’s honour was for ever smirched, not because he put to death certain prisoners of war, but because “he did not even throw handfuls of earth upon their dead bodies.” It will be remarked that to the ancient Greek even this symbolism of inhumation sufficed, if
nothing more could be done. Such indeed was the minimum but it was enough, and this little ceremony was by Attic Law enjoined upon all who happened to chance upon a corpse that lay unburied. To us it would seem wholly inadequate, if not nugatory and vain, but to the Greeks–and who knows how much wiser they were in this than are we?–this act had a mystical significance, for it was as Ælian has so happily expressed it “the fulfilment of some mysterious law of piety imposed by nature.” It was even believed that animals when they came upon the dead of their kind, would scrape with their paws a little earth over the body. To the modern man burial in the earth, or it may be cremation, is a necessary and decorous manner for the disposal of the dead. Yet in the Greek imagination these rites implied something far more, and they involved a certain provision for the welfare of that which was immaterial but permanent, the spirit or the soul. So long as the body remains the soul might be in some way tied and painfully linked with it, a belief which as we have noted, was held by Tertullian and many other of the early writers. But the dissolution of the body meant that the soul was no longer detained in this world where it had no appointed place, but that it was able to pass without let or hindrance to its own mansion prepared for it and for which it was prepared. Of old, men dutifully assisted the dead in this manner as a pious obligation, and as we have seen in the most famous case of all, that of Antigone, they were prepared to go to any length and to make any sacrifice to fulfil this obligation. It was in later years, especially under the influence of Slavonic tradition that not only love but fear compelled them to perform this duty to the dead, since it was generally thought that those whose bodies were not dissolved might return, reanimated corpses, the vampire eager to satisfy his vengeance upon the living, his lust for sucking hot reeking blood, and therefore the fulfilment of these funeral duties was a protection for themselves as well as a benefit to the departed.
Very closely linked with this idea is the belief that those persons become vampires who die under the ban of the church, that is to say who die excommunicate. Excommunication is the principal and most serious penalty that the Church can inflict, and being so severe a penalty it naturally presupposes some very grave offence. It may be roughly defined
as a punishment that deprives the guilty of all participation in the common spiritual benefits enjoyed by all the members of the Christian society. There are certainly other corrective measures which entail the loss of certain particular rights; and among these are such censures as suspension for clerics, interdict for clerics and laymen and whole communities, irregularity ex delicto, and others. The excommunicated person does not cease to be a Christian, for his baptism can never be effaced but he is considered as an exile, and even, one may say, as non-existing, for a time at any rate, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority. But such exile comes to an end, and this the Church most ardently desires, so soon as the offender has given adequate satisfaction, yet meantime his status is that of an alien and a stranger.
Since excommunication is the forfeiture of the spiritual privileges of a certain society, it follows that those only can be excommunicated who by any right whatsoever belong to this society. Moreover, strictly speaking, excommunication can only be declared against baptized and living people, a point to be considered in detail later. Moreover, in order to fall within the jurisdiction of the forum externum, which alone can inflict excommunication, the offence incurring this penalty must be public and external. For there is a well-defined separation between those things appertaining to the forum externum, or public ecclesiastical tribunal, and the forum internum, or tribunal of conscience. At the same time, in the Bull “Exsurge Domine,” 16th May, 1520, Leo X, rightly condemned the twenty-third proposition of Luther according to which “excommunications are merely external punishments, nor do they deprive a man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.” Pius VI, “Auctorem Fidei,” 28th August, 1794, also condemned the forty-sixth proposition of the pseudo-synod of Pistoia, which maintained that the effect of excommunication is exterior only, because of its own nature it excludes only from exterior communion with the Church, as if, said the Pope, excommunication were not essentially also a spiritual penalty binding in heaven and affecting souls. The aforesaid proposition was therefore condemned as “falsa et perniciosa,” false and pernicious, already reprobated and condemned in the twenty-third proposition of Luther, and, to say the very least, it incurs the technical mark
“erronea” (erroneous), since it contradicts a certain (certa) theological conclusion or truth which is clearly and necessarily deducible from two premises, of which one is an article of faith, and the other naturally certain. Most assuredly the Church cannot (nor does she seek or wish to) oppose any obstacle to the interior and personal relation of the soul with its Creator. Nevertheless the rites of the Church are the regular and appointed channel through which divine grace is conveyed, and therefore it follows that exclusion from these rites inevitably entails the privation of this grace, to whose prescribed and availing sources the excommunicated person. no longer has access.
It should be mentioned that both from a moral and juridical standpoint the guilt requisite for the incurring of excommunication implies various conditions of which the three most important are, first the full use of reason; second sufficient, if not absolute, moral liberty; and thirdly a knowledge. of the law and even of the penalty, for it follows that if such knowledge be lacking there cannot be that disregard of the ecclesiastical law known as contumacy, the essence of which consists in deliberately performing an action whilst being very fully aware and conscious not merely that the action is forbidden but also that it is forbidden under a certain definite penalty, the exact nature of which is itself defined and known. Wherefore various causae excusantes, extenuating circumstances, are often present, and these so mitigate the culpability that they prevent the incurring of excommunication. It is hardly necessary to enter into an examination of such circumstances as in practice there may well be, and indeed are, many considerations and exemptions which have to be taken into account, but generally speaking lack of the full use of reason, lack of liberty resulting from fear–a person who is physically constrained or morally terrorized has no freedom of will and is not responsible–or ignorance, even affected ignorance, may anyone of them be obstacles to incurring that measure of peccability which is requisite to deserve an extreme spiritual penalty. Affected ignorance is a lack of knowledge in those who might reasonably and without grave difficulty inform and enlighten themselves, but they are not, bound to do so, and since every penal law is to be strictly interpreted, if such a statute positively and in set terms exacts knowledge on the part of
the culprit, he is excused even by affected ignorance. Again, excommunication may be “occult,” when the offence entailing it is known to no one or to almost no one at all. That is to say when no scandal has been given. This, it should be remarked, is valid in the forum internum only, and although he who has incurred occult communication should be absolved as soon as possible, he is not obliged to abstain from external acts connected with the exercise of jurisdiction, and moreover, since he has the right to judge himself and to be judged by his director according to the exact truth and his apprehension thereof, consequently in the tribunal of conscience he who is reasonably certain of his innocence cannot be compelled to treat himself as excommunicated, albeit he must be reasonably and justly persuaded.
It may now be briefly inquired, who can excommunicate? The general principle is that whoever enjoys jurisdiction in the forum externum can excommunicate, but only his own subjects. Therefore whether excommunications be technically a iure or ab homine they may come from the supreme Pontiff alone or from a general council for the whole Church; from the Bishop for his diocese; from a Prelate nullius for quasi-diocesan territories; and from regular Prelates for their subjects, that is to say for religious orders. Yet further anyone can excommunicate who has jurisdiction in the forum externum by virtue of his office even although this be delegated, for instance, legates, vicars capitular, and vicars-general can exercise this power. But a parish priest cannot inflict this penalty, nor may he even declare that it is incurred which is to say he may not pronounce this in an official manner as a judge. The right to absolve evidently belongs to him who can excommunicate and who has imposed the censure, and obviously it belongs to any person delegated by him to this effect, since the power, being of jurisdiction, may be committed to another. Technically, excommunications are divided into four classes: those particularly reserved to the supreme Pontiff; those simply reserved to the supreme Pontiff; those reserved to the Bishop (to the ordinary); and those nemini reseruatae, that are not reserved. Accordingly, generally speaking, only the Holy Father can absolve from the first two kinds of excommunication, although naturally his power extends to all kinds; Bishops (and ordinaries)
can rescind excommunications of the third class; whilst the fourth kind, nemini reseruatae, can be revoked by any priest having authority without the need of a particular delegation. Over and above this, there exist in practice certain concessions since bishops enjoy very liberal faculties and indults, which are moreover, most widely communicable whereby they are empowered to absolve in foro interno from all cases except those which are most definitely and nominatim reserved to the Supreme Pontiff. There are also the circumstances technically known as “Urgent Cases,” when the power granted is valid for all cases, without exception, legally reserved though they may be to the highest authorities, even to the Pope himself, and even for the absolution of an accomplice (Holy Office, 7th June, 1899). Finally canon law lays down that at the point of death or in danger of death, all reservations cease and all necessary jurisdiction is supplied by the Church. “At the point of death,” says the Council of Trent (Session XIV, c. vii), “in danger of death,” says the Rituale Romanum, any priest can absolve from all sins and censures, even if he be without the ordinary faculty of confessor or if he himself be excommunicated. He may even do this in the presence of another priest who is duly and canonically authorized, enjoying jurisdiction (Holy Office, 29th July, 1891).
It has been said by a modern historian: “The awful import of Excommunication barely can be realized at the present time. People idly wonder why the excommunicated take their case so seriously–why they do not turn to find amusement, or satisfaction, in another channel,–why they persist in lying prone in the mire where the fulmination struck them. And, indeed, in modem times the formal sentence rarely is promulgated, and only against persons of distinction like the German Dr. Döllinger or the Sabaudo King Vittoremanuele II di Savoja, whose very circumstances provided them with the means to allay the temporal irritation of the blow.” The immediate effects of excommunication are summed up in the two famous verses:
Res sacrae, ritus, communio, crypta, potestas,
praedia, sacra, forum, ciuilia iura uetantur.
It may be well now to glance very briefly at the history of the actual practice of excommunication. Among the Jews
exclusion from the synagogue was a real excommunication, and it is this to which reference is made in 1 Esdras x, 7 and 8: “and proclamation was made in Juda and Jerusalem to all the children of the captivity, that they should assemble together into Jerusalem. And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the ancients, all his substance should be taken away, and he should be cast out of the company of them that were returned from captivity.” It was this exclusion which was feared by the parents of the man who was born blind, who when they were questioned by the Pharisees would give no definite answer with reference to the healing of their son, “because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves, that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” Again we are told, “many of the chief men also believed in him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, that they might not be cast out of the synagogue.” The Apostles were told: “they will put you out of the synagogues; yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.” This penalty exercised by the Jews foreshadowed later censures, for it is said: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and Publican. Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven.” According to the Orthodox Church this power was transmitted to the successors of the apostles that is to say the bishops, so that they too had the faculty of binding and loosing. But something very definite was further implied. This faculty had actual physical consequences and the Greeks held that excommunication arrested the decomposition of a body after death. In fact the incorruptibility of the body of any person bound by a curse was made a definite doctrine of the Orthodox Church. The very wording of the text certainly admitted of such an interpretation. ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ· Καί ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε έπὶ τῆς γῆς, ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ·
The word λύω “loose” expresses equally the ideas of dissolution
and of absolution, while δέω “bind” signifies their respective and several opposites. Accordingly forms of absolution had to be provided which might be read over bodies found in such a condition, for it was thought that this might be brought about by well-nigh any curse, although an episcopal anathema was considered the most weighty and the most terrible. Nevertheless it might be that these conditions resulted from the curse of a parent even from an imprecation uttered by a man against himself, or from the ban of a priest, for in the Orthodox Church the power of excommunicating belonged to priests as well as to bishops, but they should not exercise it without episcopal sanction. One such absolution runs thus: “Yea, O Lord our God, let Thy great mercy and marvellous compassion prevail; and, whether this Thy servant lieth under curse of father or mother, or under his own imprecation, or did provoke one of Thy holy ministers and sustained at his hands a bond that hath not been loosed, or did incur the most grievous ban of excommunication by a bishop, and through heedlessness and sloth obtained not pardon, pardon Thou him by the hand of Thy sinful and unworthy servant; resolve Thou his body into that from which it was made; and stablish his soul in the tabernacle of saints.” So in the burial service an orison is made that the body may be dissolved into the dust of which it was made, διάλ?yσον εἰσ τὰ ἐξ ῶ?! συνετέθη, and in a solemn Requiem, is offered the supplication, “Unbind the curse, be it of priest or of arch-presbyter,” Λῦσον κατάραν, ἐίτε ἱερέως ἐίτε ἀρχιερέως.
Naturally, as is clearly expressed, the curse which the Orthodox Church regarded as most weighty and most effective was the ban of excommunication by a bishop, and therefore the formula of excommunication doomed the offender to remain whole after death, and the body was not freed until absolution had been read over it and the excommunication formally revoked.
However, a considerable difficulty arose. It was discovered that excommunication sometimes failed to produce the expected physical result, and the body crumbled to dust in the ordinary way. Accordingly this had to be reckoned with and explained and Leone Allacci in his De quorundam Graecorum opinationibus cites a nomocanon de excommunicatis which sets out to explain how it is that sometimes excommunication
can fail of its result. “Concerning persons excommunicate the which sadly incur episcopal excommunication and after death are found with their bodies ‘not loosed’ (ἄλυτα).”
Certain persons have been duly, rightly, and lawfully excommunicated by their bishops, as evil doers and transgressors of the divine law, and they have without penance and amendment, or without receiving absolution died in the state of excommunication, and so have been buried, and in a short time after their bodies have been found “loosed” (λελυμένα) and shredded joint from joint, bone from bone.
Exceeding strange and marvellous is this that he who hath been lawfully excommunicated should after his death be found with his body “loosed” (λελυμένος τὸ σῶμα) and the joints of the body separate.
So extraordinary a circumstance was immediately submitted to a conclave of expert theologians, who after long debate decided that any excommunicated person whose body did not remain whole had no more hope of salvation because he was no longer in a state to be “loosed” and absolved by the bishop who had excommunicated him, but that he was already damned in hell. If not absolutely essential, the removal of the ban was if possible to be affected by the same person who had pronounced it, and this provides, against an excommunicated person obtaining absolution too easily. Of course a superior might rescind the anathema pronounced by one of his subjects, a bishop could always remove an excommunication pronounced by a simple priest, but under certain conditions this regulation must certainly prove excessively awkward. There is, f or example, the well known instance told by Christophorus Angelus in his Ἐγχειρίδιον περὶ τῆσ καταστάσεως τῶν σήμερον εὐρισκομένων Ἑλλήνων, who relates that a bishop was excommunicated by a council of his peers, and his body remained “bound, as it were iron, for the space of a hundred years,” after which time a second council of bishops at the same place pronounced absolution, and immediately as they spoke the words the body “crumbled to dust.”
The nomocanon de excommunicatis goes on to say that those that are found excommunicate, namely with their bodies whole and ‘not loosed’ (ἄλυτα), these require absolution, in order that the body also may attain freedom from the
bond (δέσμον) of excommunication. For even as the body is found bound (δεδέμενον) in the earth, so is the soul bound (δεδεμίνη) and tormented by Satan. And whensoever the body receives absolution and is loosed (λυθῇ), from excommunication, by the power of God the soul likewise is set free from the bondage of the Devil, and receiveth the life eternal, the light that hath no evening, and the joy ineffable.”
Leone Allacci considered this Orthodox dogma of the physical results of excommunication and a subsequent absolution to be certain beyond any matter of dispute, and he mentions several cases, which he says were well known and proved, which demonstrate the truth of this belief. Athanasius, Metropolitan of Imbros, recorded that at the request of the citizens of Thasos he read a solemn absolution over several bodies, and before the holy words were even finished all had dissolved into dust. Very similar was the example of a converted Turk who was subsequently excommunicated at Naples, and who had been dead some years before he obtained absolution from two Patriarchs, and his body dissolved, so that he was at rest.
An even more remarkable instance is that of a priest who had pronounced a sentence of excommunication, and who afterwards turned Mohammedan. This did not affect the victim of his curse, who though he had died in the Christian faith, yet remained “bound.” This circumstance which caused the greatest alarm was reported to the Metropolitan Raphael, and at his earnest request the Mohammedan, though after much delay and hesitation consented to read the absolution over the body of the dead Christian. As he was pronouncing the final words the body fell completely to dust, The Mohammedan thereupon returned to his former faith and was put to death for so doing.
I do not know whether this is the same tradition as is recorded by Mr. Abbott in his Macedonian Folk-lore, p. 211, but I gather that the examples are not identical, although they have various points of similarity. I quote Mr. Abbott’s most striking account at length. “How great is the dread of an ecclesiastic’s wrath can be realized from the following anecdote related to the writer as a ‘true story’ by a person who entertained no doubts as to its authenticity. ‘Many years ago there was an Archbishop of Salonica who once in a moment of anger cursed a man of his diocese: “May the earth refuse to
receive thee.” (ἡ γῆσ νὰ μή σε δεχτῇ). Years went by, and the Archbishop embraced Islam. Owing to his erudition and general ability, he was raised by the Mohammedans to the office of head Mullah. Meanwhile, the individual who had incurred the prelate’s wrath died, and was buried in the usual fashion. Now it came to pass that when, at the expiration of three years, the tomb was opened, the inmate was found intact, just as if he had been buried the day before. Neither prayers nor offerings availed to bring about the desired dissolution. He was inhumed once more; but three years later he was still found in the same condition. It was then recalled to mind by the widow that her late husband had been anathematized by the apostate Archbishop. She forthwith went to the ex-prelate and implored him to revoke the sentence. This dignitary promised to exert his influence, which it appears had not been diminished a whit by his apostasy; for once a bishop always a bishop. Having obtained the Pasha’s permission, he repaired to the open tomb, knelt beside it, lifted up his hands and prayed for a few minutes. He had hardly risen to his feet when, wondrous to relate, the flesh of the corpse crumbled away from the bones, and the skeleton remained bare and clean as if it had never known pollution.'”
It will not be impertinent here to give c. xiii, of the Power of Excommunication, and upon what frivolous occasions it is made use of, from Ricaut’s The Present Stale of the Greek and Armenian Churches, 8vo, 1679.
“The Third Command of the Church is Obedience towards their Spiritual Pastors and Teachers, 1 Cor. iv, 1, Let a man so account of us as of the Ministers of Christ, and Stewards of the Mysteries of God: which is text that they often repeat in their Churches.. and raise consequences from thence of the sublimity of their Office, and of the reverence and honour due from the people toward their Clergy; so that though they want the advantages of Riches and Ornament to render them respected in the eyes of the Vulgar; yet their people being affected with their divine and separated Qualifications, do not submit only in spiritual matters, but even in Temporals refer themselves to the determination of their Bishop, or Metropolite, according to that of S. Paul, 1 Cor. vi. 1, Dare any of you having a matter against another, go to Law before the unjust, and not before the Saints? But that which most enforces this
Duty of Obedience, is a sense of the Power of Excommunication, which rests in the Church, of which they so generally stand in fear, and the most profligate and obdurate conscience in other matters startles at this sentence, to which whilst any is subjected, he is not only expelled the limits of the Church., but his conversation is scandalous, and his person denied the common benefits of Charity and assistance, to which Christian or Humane duty doth oblige us.
“In the Exercise of this censure of Excommunication, the Greek Church is so ready and frequent, that the common use of it might seem to render it the more contemptible; but that the Sentence is pronounced with so much horrour, and the same effects which have ensued thereupon, not only to the living, but also to the Corps and Carcasses of such who have dyed under Excommunication, are related with that evidence and certainty as still confirms in the people the efficacy of that Authority which the Church exercises therein. The form of Excommunication is either expressive of the party with his name and condition, secluding him from the use of Divine Ordinances, or otherwise indefinite of any person who is guilty of such or such a Crime or Misdemeanour. As. for Example, if any person is guilty of Theft, which is not discovered, an Excommunication is taken out against him, whosoever he be, that hath committed the Theft, which is not to be remitted until Restitution is made; and so the fault is published and repeated at a full Congregation, and then follows the Sentence of Excommunication in this form.
“If they restore not to him that which is his own, and possess him peaceably of it, but suffer him to remain injured and damnifyed; let him be separated from the Lord God Creatour, and be accursed, and unpardoned, and undissolvable after death in this World, and in the other which is to come. Let Wood, Stones, and Iron be dissolved but not they: May they inherit the Leprosie of Gehazi, and the Confusion of Judas; may the earth be divided and devour them like Dathan and Abiram; may they fight and tremble on earth like Cain, and the wrath of God be upon their heads and Countenances; may they see nothing of that for which they labour, and beg their Bread all the days of their lives; may their Works, Possessions, Labours, a Services be accursed; always without effect or success, and blown away like dust; may they have the curses of the holy
and righteous Patriarchs Abram, Isaac and Jacob; of the 318 Saints who were the Divine Fathers of the Synod of Nice, and of all other holy Synods; and being without the Church of Christ, let no man administer unto them the things of the Church, or bless them, or offer Sacrifice for them, or give them the Ἀντίδωρον or the blessed Bread, or eat, or drink, or work with them, or converse with them; and after death, let no man bury them, in penalty of being under the same state of Excommunication, for so let them remain until they have performed what is here written.
“The effect of this dreadful Sentence is reported by the Greek Priests to have been in several instances so evident, that none doubts or disbelieves the consequences of all those maledictions repeated therein; and particularly, that the body of an excommunicated person is not capable of returning to its first Principles until the Sentence of Excommunication is taken off. It would be esteemed no Curse amongst us to have our Bodies remain uncorrupted and entire in the Grave, who endeavour by Art, and Aromatic spices, and Gums, to preserve them from Corruption: And it is also accounted, amongst the Greeks themselves, as a miracle and particular grace and favour of God to the Bodies of such whom they have Canonized for Saints to continue unconsumed, and in the moist damps of a Vault, to dry and desiccate like the Mummies in Egypt, or in the Hot sands of Arabia. But they believe that the Bodies of the Excommunicated are possessed in the Grave by some evil spirit, which actuates and preserves them from Corruption, in the same manner as the Soul informes and animates the living body; and that they feed in the night, walk, digest, and are nourished, and have been found ruddy in Complexion, and their Veins, after forty days Burial, extended with Blood, which, being opened with a Lancet, have yielded a gore as plentiful, fresh, and quick, as that which issues from the Vessels of young and sanguine persons. This is so generally believed and discoursed of amongst the Greeks, that there is scarce one of their Country Villages, but what can witness and recount several instances of this nature, both by the relation of their Parents, and Nurses, as well as of their own knowledge, which they tell with as much variety as we do the Tales of Witches and Enchantments, of which it is observed in Conversation, that scarce one story is ended before another begins of like wonder. But to let pass the
common and various Reports of the Vulgar, this one may suffice for all, which was recounted to me with many asseverations of its truth, by a grave Candiot Kaloir, called Sofroino, a Preacher, and a person of no mean repute and learning at Smyrna.
“‘I knew’ (said he) ‘a certain person, who for some misdemeanours committed in the Morea, fled to the Isle of Milo, where though he avoided the hand of Justice, yet could not avoid the Sentence of Excommunication, from which he could no more fly, than from the conviction of his own Conscience, or the guilt which ever attended him; for the fatal hour of his death being come, and the Sentence of the Church not being revoked, the Body was carelessly and without Solemnity interred in some retired and unfrequented place. In the mean time the Relations of the deceased were much afflicted, and anxious for the sad estate of their dead Friend, whilst the Paisants and Islanders were every night affrighted and disturbed with strange and unusual apparitions, which they immediately conclude arose from the Grave of the accursed Excommunicant, which, according to their Custom, they immediately opened, and therein found the Body uncorrupted, ruddy, and the Veins replete with Blood: The Coffin was furnished with Grapes, Apples, and Nuts, and such fruit as the season afforded: Whereupon Consultation being made, the Kaloires resolved to make use of the common remedy in those cases, which was to cut and dismember the Body into several parts, and to boyl it in Wine, as the approved means to dislodge the evil Spirit, and dispose the body to a dissolution: But the friends of the deceased, being willing and desirous that the Corps should rest in peace, and some ease given to the departed Soul, obtained a reprieve from the Clergy, and hopes, that for a sum of Money (they being Persons of a competent Estate) a Release might be purchased from the Excommunication under the hand of the Patriarch: In this manner the Corps were for a while freed from dissection, and Letters thereupon sent to Constantinople, with this direction, that in case the Patriarch should condescend to take off the Excommunication, that the day, hour and minute that he signed the Remission should be inserted in the Date. And now the Corps were taken into the Church (the Country-people not being willing they should
remain in the Field) and Prayers and Masses daily said for its dissolution, and pardon of the Offender: When one day after many Prayers, Supplications and Offerings (as this Sofronio attested to me with many protestations) and whilst he himself was performing Divine Service, of a sudden was heard a rumbling noise in the Coffin of the dead party, to the fear and astonishment of all persons then present; which when they had opened, they found the Body consumed and dissolved as far into its first Principles of Earth, as if it had been seven years interred. The hour and minute of this dissolution was immediately noted and precisely observed, which being compared with the Date of the Patriarchs release, when it was signed at Constantinople, it was found exactly to agree with that moment in which the Body returned to its Ashes.’ This story I should not have judged worth relating, but I heard it from the mouth of a grave person, who says, ‘That his own eyes were Witnesses thereof; and though notwithstanding I esteem it a matter not assured enough to be believed by me, yet let it serve to evidence the esteem they entertain of the validity and force of Excommunication. I had once the curiosity to be present at the opening of a Grave of one lately dead, who, as the people of the Village reported, walked in the night, and affrighted them with strange Phantasmes; but it was not my fortune to see the Corps in that nature, nor to find the Provisions with which the spirit nourishes it, but only such a Spectacle as is usual after six or seven days Burial in the Grave; howsoever, Turks as well as Christians discourse of these matters with much confidence.’
“This high esteem and efficacy being put on Excommunication, one would believe that the Priests should endeavour to conserve the reverence thereof, being the Basis and main support of their Authority; and that therefore they should not so easily make use thereof on every frivolous occasion, that so familiarity might not render it contemptible and the salvation of men’s Souls not seem to be played with on every slight and trivial Affair: But such is the much to be lamented poverty in this Church, that they are not only forced to sell Excommunications, but the very Sacraments; and to expose the most reverend and mysterious Offices of Religion unto sale for maintenance and support of Priesthood.
“The taking off Excommunications after death hath been usual, but the Excommunicating after death may seem a strange kind of severity; for so we read that Theodosius, Bishop of Alexandria, excommunicated Origen two hundred years after his decease.
“On the same Authority of Excommunication depends the power of re-admission again into the Church, which according to the Greek Canon is not to be obtained easily, or at every cold request of the Penitent, but after proof of trial first made of a hearty and serious conversion, evidenced by the constant and repeated actions of a holy life, and the patient and obedient performance of Penance imposed and enjoined by the Church. Such as have apostatized from the Faith, by becoming Turks, under the age of 14 years, upon their repentance, and desire of return to the Church, sought earnestly with tears, signified and attested by forty days fasting with bread and water, accompanied with continual Prayer day and night, are afterwards received solemnly into the Church in presence of the Congregation, the Priest making a Cross on the Forehead of the Penitent with the Oyl of Chrism, or the μύρον Χρίσματος usually administered to such who return from the ways of darkness and mortal sins.
“But of such who in riper years fall away from the Faith (as many Greeks do for the sake of Women, or escape of punishment) their re-admission or reception again into the Church is more difficult; for to some of them there is enjoined a Penance of six or seven years humbling themselves with extraordinary Fasts, and continual Prayer; during which time they remain in the nature of Catechumeni, without the use or comfort of the Eucharist, or Absolution, unless at the hour of death; in which the Church is so rigorous, that the Patriarch himself is not able to release a Penance of this nature, imposed only by a simple Priest; and for receiving Penitents of this nature there is a set Form or Office in the Greek Liturgy.
“But now we have few Examples of those Apostates who return from the Mohametan to the Christian faith; for none dares own such a Conversion but he who dares to dye for it; so that that practice and admirable part of Discipline is become obsolete and disused. Yet some there have been, even in my time, both of the Greek and Armenian Churches, who have afforded more Heroick Examples of Repentance, than any of
those who have tryed themselves by the Rules and Canons prescribed; for after that they denyed the Faith, and for some years have carried on their heads the Badge or distinction of a Mohametan, feeling some remorses of Conscience, they have so improved the same by the sparks of some little grace remaining, that nothing could appease or allay the present torment of their minds, but a return to that Faith from whence they were fallen. In this manner, having communicated their anguish and desires to some Bishop or grave person of the Clergy, and signifying with all their Courage and Zeal to die for that faith, which they have denyed; they have been exhorted, as the most ready expiation of their sin, to confess Christ at that place where they have renounced him; and this they have resolutely performed by leaving off their Tulbants, and boldly presenting themselves in publick assemblies and at the time of publick prayers in the Church; and when the Turks have challenged them for having revolted or relapsed again from them, they have owned their Conversion, and boldly declared their resolution to dye in that old Faith wherein they were baptized; and, as a Token or Demonstration thereof, being carried before the Justice of the City or Province, they have not only by words owned the Christian doctrine, but also trampled their Turkish Tulbants or Sashes under their Feet, and withstood three times the demand, whether they should still continue to be Mohametans, according as it is required in the Mohametan Law: For which, being condemned to dye, they have suffered death with the same cheerfulness and courage that we read of the Primitive Martyrs, who daily Sacrificed themselves for the Christian Verity.
“Considering which, I have, with some astonishment, beheld in what manner some poor English men, who have fondly and vilely denyed the faith of Christ in Barbary and the parts of Turky, and become, as we term them Renegados, have afterwards (growing weary of the Customes of Turks to which they were strangers) found means of escape, and returned again into England, and there entered the Churches, and frequented the Assembly of God’s people, as boldly as if they had been the most constant and faithful of the Sheepfold: At which confidence of ignorant and illiterate men I do not so much admire, as I do at the negligence of our
Ministers, who acquaint not the Bishops herewith, to take their Counsel and Order herein: But perhaps they have either not learned, or so far forgot the ancient Discipline of ours, and all other Christian Churches, as to permit men, after so abominable a Lapse and Apostasie, boldly to intrude into the Sanctuary of God with the same unhallowed hands and blasphemous mouths, with which they denyed their Saviour and their Country. But what can we say hereunto? Alas! Many are dissenters from our Church; which by our divisions in Religion, hath lost much or its Power, Discipline and esteem amongst us; and men, being grown careles and cold in Religion, little dream or consider of such methods of Repentance; for whilst men condem the Authority, and censures of the Church, and disown the power of the Keys, they seem to deprive themselves of the ordinary means of Salvation, unless God, by some extraordinary light and eviction supplies that in a sublimer manner, which was anceintly effected by a rigorous observation of the Laws and Canons of the Church.
“It is a strange Vulgar Errour that we maintain in England, that the Greek Church doth yearly excommunicate the Roman, which is nothing so; and common reason will tell us, That a Church cannot excommunicate another, or any particular Member thereof, over which it pretends no Jurisdiction or Authority; and that the Greek Church hath no such Claim of Dominion or Superiority over the Roman, no more than it own a subjection to it, is plainly evinced in the third Chapter of this Book: and this I attest to be so, upon enquiry made into the truth thereof, and on Testimony of Greek Priests eminent and knowing in the Canons and Constitutions of their Church: Though we cannot deny but that anceintly one Patriarch might renounce the Communion of another, over whom he had no Jurisdiction, for his notorious Heresie; as S. Cyril did to Nestorius before the Assembly of the Council of Ephesus.”
It has been said that excommunication can only be incurred by living persons, but in this the belief and practice of the Orthodox Church differ from the Catholic Church, since, as has already been remarked, Theodosius of Alexandria who died in 567 excommunicated Origen who died in 253 or 254. Moreover, the fact that Theodosius was deposed for
heresy by Pope S. Agapitus I on that pontiff’s arrival in Constantinople, in 536, would not according to the Greek idea invalidate this excommunication. With regard to living persons those who have never been baptized are not members of the Christian Society, and therefore obviously they cannot be deprived of rights they have never enjoyed; whilst as even the baptized cease, at death, to belong to the Church Militant, the dead cannot be excommunicated. This is not to say that technically, after the demise of some member of the Christian community it may be declared that such a person incurred excommunication whilst on earth. In the same strict sense he may be released from excommunication after his death, and the Rituale Romanum contains the following right for absolving an excommunicated person already dead.
“RITUS ABSOLUENDI EXCOMMUNICATUM IAM MORTUUM. If it so come to pass that any excommunicated person who has departed from this life gave evident signs of contrition, in order that he shall not be deprived of ecclesiastical burial in consecrated ground, but rather that he shall be holpen by the prayers of the Church, in so far as this may be done, let him be absolved after this manner.
“If the body be not yet buried, let it be lightly beaten with a rod or small cords after which it shall be absolved as followeth; and then having been absolved let it be buried in consecrated ground.
But if it hath been already buried in unconsecrated ground, if it may be conveniently done, let the body be exhumed, and after it hath been lightly beaten in like manner and then absolved let it be buried in consecrated ground; but if the body cannot conveniently be disinterred, then the grave shall be beaten lightly and the absolution shall be pronounced.
“And if the body be already buried in consecrated ground, it shall not be disinterred, but the grave shall be lightly beaten.
“Let the Priest say the Antiphon: The bones that have been humbled shall rejoice in the Lord; together with the psalm Miserere.
“And when they have made an end of the psalm let the body be absolved, and the Priest shall say: By the authority granted unto me I absolve thee from the bond of excommunication, which thou hast incurred (or, which thou art said to have
incurred) on account of such and such a thing, and I restore thee to the communion of the faithful, in the, in the name of the Father, + , and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
“Then shall be said the psalm, De profundis, and at the end thereof:
V. Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon him.
Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison. Our Father.
V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. From the gate of hell.
R. O Lord, deliver his soul.
V. May he rest in peace.
V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to Thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Prayer. Grant, we beseech Thee O Lord, to the soul of thy servant, who hath been held in the bond of excommunication, a place of refreshment, rest and repose, and the brightness of Thy eternal light. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.”
It is now necessary to inquire into certain extraordinary cases which are recorded and which are true beyond all manner of doubt of persons who died excommunicated and whose bodies were seen to rise from the tomb and leave the sacred precincts where they were buried. In the first place we have the very famous account given by S. Gregory the Great of the two dead nuns, generally called the “Suore Morte.” Two ladies of an illustrious family had been admitted to the sisterhood of S. Scholastica. Although in most respects exemplary and faithful to their vows, they could not refrain from scandal, gossip, and vain talk. Now S. Benedict was the first to lay down the strictest and most definite laws concerning the observance of silence. In all monasteries and convents, or every order, there are particular places, called the “Regular Places” (the Church, refectory, dormitory, etc.) and special times, above all the night hours, termed the “Great silence,” wherein speaking is unconditionally prohibited. Outside these places and times there are usually
accorded “recreations” during which conversation is not only permitted but encouraged, though it must be governed by rules of charity and moderation. Useless and idle prattling is universally forbidden at all times and in all places. Accordingly, when it was reported to S. Benedict that the two nuns were greatly given to brabble indiscreetly, the holy Abbot was sore displeased, and sent them the message to the effect that if they did not learn to refrain their tongues and give a better example to the community he must excommunicate them. At first the sisters were alarmed and penitent, and promised to amend their idle ways; but the treacherous habit was too strong for their good resolves; they continued to give offence by their naughty chatter, and in the midst of their folly they suddenly died. Being of a great and ancient house they were buried in the church near the high altar; and afterwards on a certain day, whilst a solemn High Mass was being sung, before the Liturgy of the Faithful began, and the Catechumens were dismissed by the Deacon crying: “Let those who are forbidden to partake, let those who are excommunicated, depart from hence and leave us!” Behold, in the sight of all the people the two nuns rose up from their graves, and with faces drooping and averted, they glided sadly out of the Church. And thus it happened every time the Holy Mysteries were celebrated, until their old nurse interceded with S. Benedict, and he had pity upon them and absolved. them from all their sins so that they might rest in peace.
S. Augustine tells us that the names of the Martyrs upon the diptychs were recited, but not to pray for them, whilst the names of nuns, who were recently deceased were recited in order to offer prayers on their behalf. Perhibet praeclarissimum testimonium Ecclesiastica auctoritas, in qua fidelibus notum at, quo loco Martyres, et quo defunctae Sanctimoniales ad Altaris Sacramenta recitantur. It has been suggested that it was at this point the two nuns may have withdrawn from the church, but S. Gregory expressly says that it was at the moment when the Deacon chanted in a loud voice the ritual praise bidding those who were not in full communion go forth from the holy place.
S. Gregory also relates that a young monk left the monastery without permission and without receiving any blessing
or dismissal from the Abbot. Unhappily he died before he could be reconciled, and he was duly buried in consecrated ground. On the next morning his corpse was discovered lying huddled up and thrown out of his grave, and his relations in terror hastened to S. Benedict, who gave them a consecrated Host, and told them to put It with all possible reverence upon the breast of the young religious. This was done, and the tomb was never again found to have cast forth the body.
This custom of putting a Eucharistic Particle in the grave with a dead person may seem to many very extraordinary, but it was by no means unknown in former centuries. in the Uita Basilii, the Life of S. Basil the Great, which was often attributed to Amphilochius of Iconium, but is now recognized to be spurious and of about the ninth century, we are told that S. Basil reserved a portion of a consecrated Particle, even a third part, in order that It should be buried with him. Several Synods, howbeit assemblies of no supreme authority, had already condemned this practice, and others of a later date prohibited it as contrary to the end of the Blessed Sacrament as instituted by Jesus Christ.
None the less in various places the custom persisted of reverently putting Particles in the graves of persons who were much honoured for their sanctity, and thus in the tomb of S. Othmar (Audomar), who died 16th November, 759, on the island of Werd in the Rhine, and whose body was transferred ten years later to the monastery of S. Gall, being solemnly entombed in 867 in the new Church of S. Othmar at S. Gall, a number of Particles were found to have been placed on the spot where his head reposed.
In a life of S. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Patron of Durham, which is reprinted by the Bollandists, it is said that at one of the Translations of his body a number of Particles were found in the coffin. Amalarius of Metz, upon the authority of the Venerable Bede says in his great treatise De ecclesiasticis officiis that these Particles were put upon the breast of the saint before he was buried: “oblata super Sanctum pectus posita.” This circumstance however, is not mentioned by Bede, but it occurs in the Uita S. Cuthberti, written between 698 and 705 by a monk of Lindisfarne. Amalarius considers that this custom was doubtless derived
from the Roman Church, and that thence it was communicated to England. Nicholas-Hugues Ménard, the famous Maurist, in his glosses upon the S. Gregorii I Papae Liber Sacramentorum, which he printed, Paris, 1646, from a manuscript Missal of S. Eligius, states that it was not this custom which was condemned by the various Councils, but an abuse which had crept up and which consisted in giving communion to the dead, and actually placing the Sacred Host in their mouths. However that may be, we know that Cardinal Humbert, of Silva Candida, legate of S. Leo IX, in the middle of the eleventh century, in his answer to the various objections and difficulties which had been raised by Michael Caerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, author of the second and final schism of the Byzantine Church, reproached the Greeks with the custom of burying any Particles which might remain over after the Communion of the people at Holy Mass.
It is said that even to-day in many places throughout Greece upon the lips of the dead is laid a crumb of consecrated bread from the Eucharist. Out of reverence this has often been replaced by a fragment of pottery on which is cut the sign of the Cross with the legend I.X.NI.KA. (Jesus Christ conquers) at the four angles. Theodore Burt, The Cyclades, informs us that locally in Naxos the object thus employed is a wax cross with the letters I.X.N. imprinted thereon, and this moreover still bears the name ναῦλον, fare, showing that the tradition is closely connected with the old custom of placing the “ferryman’s coin” in the mouth of a dead man, the fee for Charon. Now Charon, who has assumed the form Charos, is entirely familiar to the modem Greek peasant, but his is not merely as classical literature depicts him, Portitor Stygis, the boatman of Styx, he is Death itself, the lord of ghosts and shadows. Until recent years, at all events, the practice prevailed in many parts of Greece of placing in the mouth (more rarely on the breast) of a deceased person a small coin, and in the district of Smyrna this was actually known as “passage-money,” τὸ περατίκιον Yet strangely enough although both custom and name survived the reason for the coin had been forgotten, and for a century or more (save it might be obscurely in some very remote spot) it was not associated in any way with Charos. Possibly the original meaning of the coin has vanished in the mists of dateless
antiquity, and even in classical days the original significance was lost, so it came then to be explained that the obol was Charon’s fee, whereas this is but a late and incorrect interpretation of a custom whose meaning went deeper than that, which had existed before mythology knew of a ferryman of hell.
The soul was supposed to escape by the mouth, which as it is an exit from the body is also the entrance to the body, and naturally it is by this path that the soul, if it were to return to the body, would re-enter, or by which an evil spirit or demon would make its way into the body. The coin, then, or charm seems most likely to have been a safeguard against any happening of this kind. In Christian days the Holy Eucharist or a fragment inscribed with sacred names will be the best preventative. Moreover not infrequently the piece of pottery placed in the mouth of the dead has scratched upon it the pentacle of magic lore. It is extremely significant that in Myconos this sign is often carved on house doors to preserve the inmates from the vampire, vrykolakas. So in Greece at all events the custom of burying a consecrated Particle with a corpse, or of putting a crumb of the Host between the dead man’s lips originated as a spell to counteract the possibility of vampirism.
It should be remarked that a consecrated Host placed in the tomb where a vampire is buried will assuredly prevent the vampire from issuing forth out of his grave, but for obvious reasons this is a remedy which is not to be essayed, since it savours of rashness and profanation of God’s Body.
There are in history many other examples of excommunicated persons who have not been able to rest in consecrated ground. In the year 1030, S. Godard, Bishop of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, was obliged to excommunicate certain persons for their crimes and filthy sacrileges. Nevertheless, so powerful were the barons and over-lords, their protectors, that they buried the bodies of their followers in the Cathedral itself, in the very sanctuary. Upon this the bishop launched the ban of excommunication against them also; but, none the less, utterly disregarding the censures they forced their way into the various churches. Upon the next high festival in truth, the rebellious nobles were present with a throng of armed attendants in the Cathedral itself. The aisles were
packed with worshippers, and afar off spanned by the vaulted roof the High Altar blazed with a myriad tapers whose glow was reflected in the mirror of polished gold and the crystal heart of great reliquaries. The Bishop, his canons around him, pontificated the Mass. But after the Gospel, S. Godard turned from the altar, and in ringing tones of command bade all those who were under any censure or ban to leave the sacred building. The living smiled contemptuously, shrugged a little and did not stir, but down the aisles were seen to glide in awful silence dark shadowy figures, from whom the crowds shrank in speechless dread. They seemed to pass through the doors out of the sacred place. When the service was done the bishop absolved the dead, and lo, the ghastly train appeared to re-enter their tombs. Thereupon the living were so struck with fear that they sought to be reconciled, and after due penance absolution was granted them.
At the instigation of Abbot Odolric of Conques the Council of Limoges held in 1031 proclaimed the “Truce of God” that is to say a temporary suspension of hostilities, and the fathers threatened with general excommunication those feudal lords who would not swear to maintain it. There thence arose a consideration of the effects of excommunication, and it was agreed by all that although so severe a sentence must not be lightly denounced, once delivered the utmost respect must be paid to its provisions. In order to illustrate this, the Bishop of Cahors related a recent event which was known to his whole diocese and which could be proved by a number of independent witnesses. For his ceaseless rapine and unrepented murders, his evil examples of a lewd and licentious life, his blasphemies and infidelity, a certain nobleman whose castle was hard by the city had been excommunicated, and not long afterwards he had fallen in some midnight foray. The friends of the deceased never doubted that the bishop would give absolution, and they made great instance that he should do so, in order that the dead man might be buried with solemn dirge and requiem, with meed of trentals hereafter sung, in the vault of his ancestors, which was one of the most striking monuments in S. Peter’s Church. However, the whole territory had for so long been harried by marauding violence that the bishop considered an example must be made in order to teach the rest of the plundering nobles a lesson,
and he refused either to raise the ban or to permit the wonted ceremonies at the funeral. Nonetheless in defiance of his orders an armed band of soldiers marched into the town, and buried the dead body in the tomb, carefully closing it and mortarizing it after them. However, on the following morning the body was discovered naked, bruised and banged in the market square as though it had been violently thrown out of the church, although there was no mark or sign that the tomb had been in any way tampered with or touched. The soldiers, who had buried their leader, having opened the monument found only the cerements in which the corpse had been erstwhile wound, and so they buried it there a second time, placing seals and bars upon the church door inasmuch as it was impossible for anyone to enter. On the following morning, however, the body was discovered to have been thrown forth with even more contumely than before. Nevertheless they interred it a third time, but with the same result. This was repeated no less than five times in all, and at last they huddled the poor rotting carrion as best they might into a deep hole dug in some lonely spot far from consecrated ground. These terrible circumstances filled the hearts of all with such amaze that the neighbouring barons one and all, very humbly betook themselves to the bishop, and under most solemn promises made a treaty binding themselves to respect all the privileges of the church and amend their lives in every particular.
A very remarkable incident is related in the Greek Menion that is to say the collection of the twelve books, one for every month, that contain the offices for immovable feasts in the Byzantine rite, and which in some wise correspond to the Propiuum sanctorum in the Roman breviary. The legend, it is true, offers certain difficulties which will be considered later, but it is certainly worth repeating as showing the extreme, and indeed exaggerated views the Greeks attached to excommunication. A certain coenobite of the desert near Alexandria had been excommunicated by the archimandrite for some act of disobedience, whereupon he forsook his monastery, left the desert and came to the city. No sooner, however, had he arrived here than he was arrested by the orders of the Governor, stripped of his habit, and ordered to offer sacrifice in the temple to idols. The Coenobite
refused, and after having been long tortured in vain, at length he was put to death, his head being struck off, and the trunk thrown out beyond the town walls to be devoured by the wild beasts. But the Christians took it up during the night and having embalmed it with rich spices and shrouded it in fair linen, they buried it honourably in a prominent place in the Church, since they regarded him, and with justice, as a Martyr. But upon the next Sunday when the Deacon had chanted the ritual formula, bidding the Catechumens and those who should not be present to withdraw, all were sore amazed when the tomb suddenly opened and the body of the Martyr glided there from and was seen lingering in the narthex of the church. When the Mass was done the body seemed to return once more to its grave.
The whole community was filled with fearful awe and confusion, and a Basilian nun of great piety having fasted and prayed for the space of three days received a revelation from an angel who informed her that the Coenobite was still excommunicate since he had disobeyed his superior, and that he would remain under the ban until the superior himself granted him absolution. Thereupon a company of honourable persons journeyed to the monastery, and besought the archimandrite to pronounce the words. In all haste the holy old man accompanied them to the church. Here they opened the tomb of the Martyr and a full absolution was pronounced. Thereafter he lay at rest in his appointed place.
There are several details in this account which appear very suspicious. In the first place, at the period that the desert was the resort of Coenobites, the days of persecution, so far as Alexandria was concerned, at any rate, were a thing of the past. In the city complete toleration prevailed, and indeed if there had been any prosecutions, not Christianity but the Pagan rites would have been suppressed and the heathen temples closed. Christianity in this century was honoured throughout the whole of Egypt, and Alexandria was one of the strongholds. In the second place, the monks of the desert were not Coenobites, that is to say members of a definite religious community having a Superior, but they were rather solitary hermits, belonging to no religious family, each being independent, and no hermit would have had the power to excommunicate one of his fellows. In the third place, no
details are given with regard to the reasons why this monk was supposed to have incurred a major excommunication, and this, the gravest of all censures, is the only ban which excludes from participation in the sacred Mysteries. It is true, perhaps, that if a Religious broke his vows, left his monastery, abandoned his habit, and disregarding the commands of the Church betook himself to some populous city where he proceeded to live, as a secular, a life that was far from careful, such a person would presumably give great scandal and by his actions he might indeed incur the major excommunication, but we are not told that in the case of the Coenobite anything of this sort happneed, we are not informed of aggravating circumstances, and further it must be borne in mind that at the period these events were said to take place the hermits of the desert were not, as are Religious to-day, bound by vows of stability and of obedience to their Superiors, who had not the right to pronounce a sentence of Major excommunication.
It should perhaps be explained that until recently excommunication was of two kinds, Major and Minor. Sabetti thus concisely explains: “Excommunicatio est censura, per quam quis priuatur communione Ecclesiæ; seu censura, qua Christianus bonis spiritualibus Ecelesiæ communibus, quorum distributio ad ipsam pertinet, uel omninio uel ex parte priuatur. Separat igitur excommunicatum a societate seu communione uisibili fidelium et bonis quae eam, ut talis est, consequuntur.
Distinguitur excommunicatio in maiorem, quæ priuat omnibus bonis Ecclesiæ communibus, et minorem, quæ bonis aliquibus tantum priuat. Maior in iure nonnunquam anathema uocatur; atque tunc præsertim, quando propter hæresim uel hæresis suspicionem infligitur, ant peculiaribus quibusdam adhibitis cærimoniis solemnius denuntiatur.–Insuper excommunicati excommunicatione maiori, alii dicuntur tolerati, quos fideles non tenentur uitare; alii non tolerati seu uitandi, quos uitare debent.” Briefly this is to say that minor excommunication is a prohibition from receiving the sacraments, what we call in theology the passive use of the sacraments. Major excommunication is that which we have already defined, and which now practically remains in force, whilst the technical anathema does not differ essentially from excommunication but is emphasized with special
ceremonies and the most solemn promulgation of this terrible sentence.
In a life of S. Augustine the Apostle of England, which has been printed by the Bollandists, John Brompton relates the following history. S. Augustine had long been endeavouring to persuade a certain nobleman of great wealth to pay the appointed tithes, but out of obstinacy these were constantly refused, which did great mischief and caused others to become discontented and impudently follow so bad an example. On a certain great feast day whilst High Mass was being solemnly sung S. Augustine was inspired to pronounce to the people that all who had been excommunicated must leave the sacred edifice. To the horror and amaze of the assistants an ancient tomb was seen to open, and there issued forth the desiccated yet incorrupt body of a man who had been buried a century and a half before. When the service was done S. Augustine in solemn procession went to the tomb whither the dead man had been seen to glide back as “ite missa est” was chanted, and here he solemnly adjured him, bidding him say why he had appeared. The dead man replied that he was excommunicate. The Saint asked where was buried the priest who had pronounced the sentence. It appeared that the tomb was in the cathedral at no great distance. Going thither the Archbishop bade the priest declare why he had excommunicated the dead man. A dark shadowy figure was seen to hover among the pillars of the nave and a low far-off voice answered: “I excommunicated him for his misdeeds, and particularly because he robbed the church of her due, refusing to pay his tithes.” “Let it suffice, brother,” returned the Saint, “and do you now at our bidding and at our request absolve him and free him from the censure.” The shadowy figure repeated the loosening words, and faded from sight. They then returned to the tomb of the dead man, who said in a gentle whisper: “I thank you, O my father, for now at last may I find rest and repose.”
Certain authorities have cast very grave doubts upon this story, for they point out that firstly, even in the time of S. Augustine himself there was no obligation in Britain to pay tithes, and these were most assuredly not required under pain of excommunication. This is very true, but there is no
reason at all why the legend should not be correct in detail although very considerably antedated. It is more than probable that the incident occured in a far later century, and that the chronicler of Canterbury attributed it, perhaps in geniune error, for the tale had come down by word of mouth, or perhaps with pardonable inexactitude, to the days of S. Augustine around whose great and glorious figure had clustered so many reverend legends, so many ancient traditions.
Melchior, Abbot of the Cistercian house of Zwettl, in his work De Statu Mortuorum relates that a young scholar of the town of Saint-Pons, having unfortunately incurred the penalty of excommunication was killed, and shortly afterwards he appeared to one of his friends begging him to betake himself to the Bishop of Rhodez and from him to seek absolution. The friend did not hesitate to do as he was asked, and although it was mid-winter with the snow lying deep upon the ground, for it was a season of exceptional severity, he at once set out upon the journey. When he had gone some little distance the road branched, and he was undecided which path to take. With much hesitancy he proceeded towards the left, when he felt (as he thought) his cloak gently pulled, but at first he took no notice, deeming it merely the wind and the storm. A moment after his cloak was caught again and there could be no mistaking the tug. He turned and found himself gently guided into the other road. Eventually he reached the town, and obtained audience of the Bishop, who upon hearing his tale at once raised the ban with a full and plenary absolution. The young man discovered that had he continued the path to the left he must have wandered far among the snow-drifts where he would inevitably have perished of cold and exposure. That night his friend appeared to him with a glad and smiling countenance and thanking him for the pains he had been at assured him that he should by no means lose his reward.
Dom Augustin Calmet records at length a letter, dated 5 April, 1745, which he received from a correspondent who had read with great interest the manuscript of this learned writer’s Dissertation sur les apparitions des anges, des démons et des esprits. The writer says: “A man living at Létraye, a village which is not very many leagues from the town of Remiremont (Vosges), lost his wife at the beginning of last p. 113 February, but married again in the week before Lent. At eleven o’clock in the evening on his marriage day, the late wife appeared and spoke to the new bride, and the result of this was that the bride declared that she must on behalf of the dead woman undertake to perform seven pilgrimages. Since that day and always at the very same hour the ghost has appeared and it was distinctly heard to speak by the parish priest as well as by a number of other persons. On the 15 March, at the very moment when the woman was about to proceed to the church of S. Nicolas to which the pilgrimage was to be made, the ghost suddenly stood in her path and bade her hasten, adding that she must not allow herself to be alarmed, or in any way deterred by any accident or sickness that might befall her on the way.
Accordingly the woman set out with her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister-in-law, and she is very certain that the dead wife remained by her side until she actually came to the door of the church of S. Nicolas. When these good people arrived at a distance of some two leagues from the place, S. Nicolas’ church, they were obliged to halt at an inn by the wayside which is known as “The Shelter” (les Baraques). Here the woman suddenly became so ill that the two men were compelled to carry her right up to the church, but no sooner had she arrived at the door than she was able to walk without any difficulty and her pain vanished in a moment. “This amazing occurrence was related to me and also to the Father Sacristan by all the four pilgrims; and it was reported that the last thing which the dead woman told the new bride was that when one half of the pilgrimages had been duly accomplished she would be seen no more. The plain and straightforward way in which these good folk told us the story does not allow one to doubt that they were reporting actual facts.” Upon this relation, Calmet comments: “It is not said that the young woman who died was under any sentence of excommunication; but apparently she was bound by a solemn promise or a vow that she must have made to perform these pilgrimages, which she obliged her successor to discharge on her behalf. It should be remarked that the ghost did not enter the church dedicated to S. Nicolas, but apparently for some reason remained at the door.”
A very extraordinary circumstance is related by Wipert, Archdeacon of the celebrated see of Toul, who wrote the life of Pope S. Leo IX, a Pontiff, who had been for more than twenty years Bishop of Toul, and who died in March, 1054. The historian tells us that some years before the death of S, Leo IX, the citizens of Narni, a little burgh which is picturesquely situated on a lofty rock at the point where the river Nera forces its way through a narrow ravine to join the Tiber, were one day greatly surprised and indeed alarmed to see a mysterious company of persons who appeared to be advancing towards the town. The magistrates, fearing some surprise, gave orders that the gates should be fast closed, whilst the inhabitants incontinently betook themselves to the walls. The procession, however, which was clothed in white and seemed from time to time to vanish among the morning mists and then once again to reappear, was obviously no inimical. band. They passed on their way without turning to right or to left, and it is said they seemed to be defiling with measured pace almost until eventide. All wondered who these persons could be, and at last one of the most prominent citizens, a man of great resolution and courage resolved to address them. To his amazement he saw among them a certain person who had been his host many years before Ascoli, and of whose death he had been not recently informed. Calling upon him loudly by his name he asked: “Who are you, and whence cometh this throng?” “I am your old friend,” was the reply, “and this multitude is phantom; we have not yet atoned for the sins we committed whilst on earth, and we are not yet deemed worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; therefore are we sent forth as humble penitents, lowly palmers, whose lot it is with pains and with much moil to visit the holy sanctuaries of the world, such as are appointed unto us in order. At this hour we come from the shrine of S. Martin, and we are on our way to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Farfa.” The goodman was so terrified at these words that he fell as in a fit, and he remained ill for a full twelvemonth. It was he who related this extraordinary event to Pope S. Leo IX. With regard to the company there could be no mistake; it was seen not by one person or even by a few, but by the whole town. Although naturally enough the appearance of so vast a number would give rise
to no little alarm since hostile designs would be suspected, so crowded a pilgrimage in the eleventh century would not by any means be a unique, even if it were an exceptional event. Whole armies of pious persons were traversing Europe from shrine to shrine, whilst the enthusiasism for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was greatly on the increase and was, before many years had passed to culminate in the Crusades. Even by the end of the tenth century hospices had been built throughout the whole valley of the Danube, the favoured route to the Holy Land, where pilgrims could replenish their provisions. In 1026, Richard, Abbot of Saint-Vannes, led seven hundred pilgrims into Palestine, all expenses being discharged by Richard II, Duke of Normandy. In 1065, over twelve thousand Germans, who had crossed Europe, under the command of Gunther, Bishop of Bamberg, while on their way through Palestine had to seek shelter in a ruined fortress where they defended themselves against troops of marauding Bedouins. Gunther actually died in this year at Odenberg (Sopron) in Hungary while engaged on a Crusade. In 1073, Pope S. Gregory VII was seriously contemplating the leading of a force of fifty thousand men to the East, military pilgrims who would repulse the Turks, rescue the Holy Sepulchre, and re-establish Christian unity. Therefore in itself the appearance of this company of pilgrims outside the walls of Narni, if remarkable, would be a very possible and understandable circumstance.
In his Antidote against Atheism, III, 12, Dr. Henry More relates some remarkable instances of multitudinous phantoms. He says: “Our English Chronicles also tell us of Apparitions, armed men, foot and horse, fighting upon the ground in the North part of England, and in Ireland, for many evenings together, seen by many hundreds of men at once, and that the grass was trodden down in the places where they were seen to fight their Battles: which agreeth with Nicolea Langbernhard her Relation of the cloven-footed Dancers, that left the print of their hoofs in the ring they trod down for a long time after.
“But this skirmishing upon the Earth, puts me in mind of the last part of this argument, and bids me look up into the Air. Where, omitting all other Prodigies, I shall only take notice of what is most notorious, and of which there can by
no means be given any other account, than that it is the effect of the Spirits. And this is the Appearance of armed Men fighting and encountering one another in the Sky. There are so many examples of these Prodigies in Historians, that it were superfluous to instance in any. That before the great slaughter of no less than fourscore thousand made by Antiochus in Jerusalem, recorded in the second of Maccabees Chapter 5. is famous. The Historian there writes, ‘That through all the City, for the space almost of fourty days, there were seen Horsemen running in the Air in cloth of Gold, and arm’d with Lances, like a band of Soldiers, and Troops of Horsemen in array, encountring and running one against another, with shaking of shields, and multitude of pikes, and drawing of swords, and casting of darts, and glittering of golden ornaments, and harness of all sorts.’ And Josephus writes also concerning the like Prodigies that happen’d before the destruction of the City by Titus, prefacing first, that they were incredible, were it not that they were recorded by those that were Eve-Witnesses of them.
“The like Apparitions were seen before the Civil Wars of Marius and Sylla. And Melanchthon affirms, that a world of such Prodigies were seen all over Germany, from 1524 to 1548. Snellius, amongst other places, doth particularize in Amortsfort, where these fightings were seen not much higher than the house-tops; as also in Amsterdam, where there was also a Sea-fight appearing in the Air for an hour or two together, many thousands of men looking on.”
It is not said that it was actually the bodies of those who were dead who were thus seen passing by the walls of Narni, on the contrary we are given to understand that it was a spectral host, but with regard to those persons who were excommunicated we are to believe that physically they are bound by the ban, and that in the cases of resuscitation it is the actual body which appears. It is related in the life of Libentius I, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, who died 4 January, 1013, ruling his see during the reign of King Svend Tdeskaeg, that he excommunicated a number of pirates, and that one of them having been slain was buried on the Norwegian coast. Here by some chance well-nigh fifty years later the body was dug up, and being found intact most widespread terror ensued, until at length a bishop
was found who understanding the circumstances pronounced the necessary absolutions, when the corpse crumbled to dust. One account states that this prelate was Alured of Winchester, although it seems difficult to suppose that this is correct. It is related that the bodies of those who have been struck by lightning are very often found intact, an opinion maintained by the medical writer Zachias, but Ambroise Paré explained this since he says that such persons are as it were embalmed with the sulphur, which is a preventative of corruption acting in the same way as salt. During a terrible fire at Quebec in 1705, the Ursuline Convent was destroyed and unhappily five nuns perished. More than twenty years later their bodies which had been buried in a layer of hot ashes were not merely found intact but even bled copiously in a thick stream.
Malva relates in his Turco-græcia that at the time of a certain Patriarch of Constantinople, who he names Maximus or Emanuel, and whom he places towards the end of the fifteenth century, the Ottoman Sultan was desirous of inquiring into the truth of this belief which was so universally held by the Greeks, namely that the body of a person who had died excommunicate remained whole. The Patriarch caused to be opened, the tomb of a woman, who was notorious as having been the mistress of an Archbishop of Constantinople, and the body was found entire. The Turkish officials then enclosed it in a coffin which was bound round and hermetically sealed with the Emperor’s own signet. The Patriarch after having said the appointed prayers, pronounced a solemn absolution over the dead woman, and three days afterwards when the coffin was opened there was only to be seen a handful of dust. Upon this Calmet aptly remarks: “I do not see any miracle here, since everybody knows that sometimes bodies are found entire and complete in a monument or sarcophagus, and that they crumble to dust immediately they are exposed to the air,” and the learned Abbot very pertinently adds: “I do not see how the Archbishop of Constantinople could after death validly absolve a person who was presumably impenitent and who had died excommunicate.” It will readily be remembered in this connexion that the famous vaults of S. Michan’s church in Dublin, for some reason possess the horrid property of preserving corpses from decay for centuries. As Mr. H. F. p. 118 Berry tells us in his Preface (p. vi) to The Registers of the Church of S. Michan, Dublin, 1907: “As is well-known the preservative qualities of the vaults under S. Michan’s Church are most remarkable, and decay in the bodies committed to them is strangely arrested. The latest writer on the subject (D. A. Chart, Story of Dublin) in a short notice of the Church, speaks of being struck (among others) “by a pathetic baby corpse, from whose plump mists still hang the faded white ribbons of its funeral.” This coffin bears the date, 1679; yet the very finger and toe nails of the child are still distinct. The antiseptic qualities are believed to be largely attributable to the extreme dryness of the vaults and to the great freedom of their atmosphere from dust particles.”
It is generally admitted that the circumstances which attend the decomposition of the human body are very difficult in their manifold complications since atmosphere, situation with other accidents play so important and obscure a part, whence these laws are still very imperfectly understood owing to the immense practical difficulties, one might almost say the impossibility, of systematic investigation. Doctors A. C. Taylor and F. J. Smith in their Medical Jurisprudence which is universally accepted as a standard and completely authoritative work, comment on these phenomena in very plain terms, frankly acknowledging the doubts and uncertainty that still envelop the whole question.” The action of the environment, the inherent potentialities of the microbes, and the state of their vitality at any moment involve such an enormous number of varying and variable factors that it becomes quite impossible to explain on a rational basis of ascertained fact . . . the extraordinary variations in the circumstances of putrefaction that have been observed.” And a little later the same authorities tell us that “sometimes one body has been found more decomposed after six or eight months burial than another which has lain interred for a period of eighteen months or two years.” An eminent American medical expert, Dr. H. p. Loomis, says: “I have seen bodies buried two months that have shown fewer of the changes produced by putrefaction than others dead but a week.”
The Greeks, as we have seen in some detail, generally regarded the fact that a body was found intact as a sign that the person
had died excommunicate or under some curse, and was at any rate in a state of unhappiness, of painful detention or probation. It is now necessary to consider an aspect of the question which is diametrically and entirely opposed to this idea, namely those cases where incorruption is an evidence of extraordinary sanctity, when the mortal remains of some great saint having been exhumed after death are found to be miraculously preserved for the veneration of the faithful. It is not perhaps even to-day generally recognized how solemn and weighty, how lengthy and detailed a process is that inquiry which must precede those decrees regarding religious honour paid to a deceased person distinguished for eminent holiness of life whether it be that permissive cultus known as Beatification, or that complete preceptive universal cultus known as Canonization. The real trial of a subject proposed for Canonization may be said to begin when a number of very exhaustive examinations have already been made, which for all their rigour are preliminary and ordinary, and the Apostolic process commences which investigates the Virtues and Miracles of the person. S. Thomas defines a miracle as an effect which is beyond the “Order of the whole of created nature.” And he explains this by telling us that, if a man throws a stone up into the air, such a motion is no wise miraculous, for though it exceed the powers in a nature of a stone, it is produced by the natural power of man, and therefore it does not exceed the power of the whole of created nature. Besides genuine miracles a number of marvellous phenomena may be and indeed are exhibited, many of which are due to natural powers, as yet imperfectly known or entirely unknown, to hallucination, or to fraud. Therefore miracles do not constitute sanctity of themselves, and Benedict XIV discusses in his great work De Seruorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione, IV, pars. I, c. iv, De Fine Miraculorum, et de differentiis inter uera et falsa Miracula. The same great authority lays down that heroic virtues are the first and most decisive witness to sanctity; “visions, prophecies and miracles are only of secondary importance, and they are absolutely ignored if proof of heroic virtues is not forthcoming.” This is further insisted upon by Scacchus, and Castellinus prudently says: “Not all the just are to be canonized by the Church, but those who have shone forth with heroic
virtues.” However, the value of miracles must not be underestimated, and unfortunately in many directions there seems a tendency to fall into this grave error. Benedict XIV has a very important and weighty chapter, De Miraculorum necessitate in causis Beatificationis et Canonizationis, which might be studied with profit and instruction. It is not possible to give in detail here the various classes of Causes whose circumstances require a various number of miracles, but it may suffice to say that if the virtues or the martyrdom of the subject are proved by eye-witnesses two miracles are required for beatification and two for canonization. If, however, the virtues or the miracles have been established by evidence which is not that of eye-witnesses (testes de auditu), four miracles are required for beatification and two for canonization. It should be remarked that in all cases the miracles required for canonization must be wrought after beatification, and must be proved by eye-witnesses. Among these miracles which have to be established by evidence before a decree of Beatification is pronounced, the supernatural preservation of the body of a saint is sometimes admitted, and although such a miracle is investigated with the most scrupulous care none the less it is regarded as a high and exceptional distinction. It is generally hoped that at the exhumation of a person whose cause has been begun the body may be found to be preserved incorrupt, but this is by no means invariably the case. Thus Monsignor Benson in a letter dated 4 March, 1904, written from Rome, says: “Mr.—– and I went yesterday to the exhuming of the body of Elizabeth Sanna, who died thirty-five years ago in the odour of sanctity. They hoped to find the body incorrupt; but it was not so . . . it was very interesting to see the actual bones of the Saint, and the Franciscan habit in which she was buried as a Tertiary of S. Francis; and to think that very possibly every one of the fragments would be a venerated relic some day.”
It must then be carefully borne in mind that the preservation of the bodies of saints is a very remarkable miracle, and is in no wise to be compared with that preservation of bodies which may occur from time to time under conditions with which we are imperfectly acquainted. It may be well to give a few examples of this supernatural phenomenon. p. 121 Not altogether unconnected and certainly deserving of a brief consideration are those cases of irradiation when the bodies or the garments, or perhaps the rooms of great saints and mystics became luminous, emitting rays of light, a fact which although certainly it did not originate the introduction of the nimbus or aureola into art may probably have influenced painting to a very large extent. It is a great mistake to say with Gerard Gietmann that all such symbols are suggested by natural phenomena, scientifically accounted for in text books on physics. Although the nimbus was early in use in the monuments of Hellenic and Roman art this had little, if any, influence in the Middle Ages and in earlier Christian times. For as Durandus tells us, and correctly, it was to passages in the Scriptures that reference was made for authority to depict the halo as signifying holiness and dignity. “Sic omnes sancti pinguntur coronati, quasi dicerunt. Filiae Hierusalem., uenite et uidete martyres cum coronis quibus coronauit eas Dominus. Et in Libro Sapientiae: Iusti accipient regnum decoris et diadema speciei de manu Domini. Corona autem huisusmodi depingitur in forma scuti rotundi, quia sancti Dei protectione diuina fruuntur unde cantant gratulabundi: Domine ut scuto bonae uoluntatis tuae coronasti nos” (For thus are all the Saints depicted, crowned, as if they were to say: “O daughters of Jerusalem, come ye and see the Martyrs with the crowns with which their Lord crowned them.” And in the Book of Wisdom: “The Just shall receive a kingdom of glory and a crown of beauty at the hands of the Lord.” Now a crown of this kind is depicted in the form of a round buckler, because they enjoy the heavenly protection of God, wherefore they sing in perfect happiness: “O Lord thou hast crowned us as with the shield of thy good-will.”) It may be remarked that Pope Gregory the Great (about 600) allowed himself to be painted with a square nimbus, and Johannes Diaconus tells us that this was the sign for a living person and not a crown. Other examples of this ornamentation have come down to us from the following centuries and they show that even children were sometimes represented with this square nimbus.
It were impertinent to trace the development of the nimbus halo, glory, and aureola in art, but this cannot fail to have been affected by the irradiation of the mystics and ecstaticas. p. 122 The Dominican convent of Adelhausen, which was founded by the Consort of Egon II of Urach, Count of Freiburg (1218-36), is famous in the history of German mysticism and was the theatre of the most amazing phenomena. Christina Mechthild Tuschelin, a nun of this house who, it is said, only broke silence once during the whole of her religious life, was very frequently illumined with such a glory of brightness that nobody could look upon her, and at times the community were obliged to request her to absent herself from the choir in order that they might recite their office without distraction.
Another famous Dominican, S. Vincent Ferrer, was often surrounded by light, and on more than one occasion it was thought that either he, or indeed the whole room was ablaze, and persons ran there in great alarm to extinguish the fire, Often too, his white habit was actually scorched although there was no fire in the room.
It may be worth noting that the appearance of a room or a building upon fire has been remarked under very different conditions and proceeding from a very different origin. When the notorious Dr. John Dee was Warden of Manchester College, a position he obtained in 1595 and resigned on account of failing health in 1602 or 1603, he often excited suspicion by the extraordinary, and some whispered unhallowed, nature of his studies which he often pursued in spite of his seventy years and more until the break of day. One mid-night, the whole college was aroused by the fierce glare of a mighty fire, and it was seen that the warden’s lodgings were bursting into flame in every direction. In a few moments a crowd had hastily rushed to the spot and buckets of water were brought, when the flames suddenly died away, and almost immediately Dr. Dee appeared from his house to thank them for their care and assure them that he had been able to subdue the conflagration. It is said that on the next day the building bore no mark of fire, which circumstance together with the fact that he had so mysteriously extinguished the flames went far to increase his sombre reputation in the town.
The halo is by no means merely an artistic symbolism. A bright glow was often perceived to surround the head of S. Rose of Lima, and the same was not infrequently remarked in the cases of Thomas Lombard and the lay brother Barnaby of Pistoia. This is also recorded of S. Ravello, a Bishop of
Ferrara, and of S. Afra of Augsburg, whose Passio is not later than the end of the fourth century. The Olivetan chronicles in their record of the founder of this austere reform, Bernardo Ptolomei, say that he was often seen to be encircled with light, a phenomenon which also distinguished Giovanni-Battista de Lanuza, and the Poor Clare, Antonia of Florence, who died in 1472. A glory in the shape of a star was observed on the forehead of Diego Lauda, and this is also related of that marvellous ecstatic Cecilia Baldi of Bologna. The description of S. Dominic which Cecilia Cesarini used to give must be very familiar to all. She loved to tell how, save when the sorrow of others moved him to compassion, he was always joyous and happy, and very frequently a radiant light played about his temples and illumined his sweet smiles. The countenance of Dominica of S. Mary literally blazed with light when she received Holy Communion, and the same marvel was observed in the case of Ida of Louvain, a stigmatized Cistercian nun of the Convent of Valrose, who died in 1300.
There are many more recent examples of this supernatural light, as for instance in the case of S. Alphonsus Liguori whose countenance when he preached one day in the Cathedral of Foggia, a ferverino in honour of Our Lady became exceedingly luminous and beamed with rays of dazzling brilliance. Again the Venerable Antony Claret, who died 24 October, 1870, was not infrequently seen to be haloed in a great splendour of golden glory whilst saying Mass in the Royal Chapel at Madrid. This miracle was witnessed by many, and Queen Isabella II solemnly took oath to that effect, requiring it to be placed upon record. The same phenomenon was witnessed by the whole congregation when the Venerable Claret was addressing them from the pulpit in the Cathedral at Vichy.
It will not appear surprising that this irradiation often seems to reach its greatest intensity at the hour of death when the last bonds which tie man to the earth are being broken. S. John of the Cross in his last moments was surrounded by so brilliant a corruscation that those who were present were bound to turn away their eyes dazzled and blinded. When a pious widow, Gentile of Ravenna was dying the whole room appeared to shine, a phenomenon which was repeated in the case of Diego Ortiz, whilst the same is recorded of the p. 124 Dominican nun, Maria Villani of Naples (1584-1670), who has had few rivals in her profound works on mysticism.
Very many other examples might be given, but we will now mention a few instances in which the irradiation continued even after the soul had left the body. Such was the case with S. Alfrida, a daughter of King Offa of Mercia; whilst the bodies of S. Juventius and S. Maximus reflected so penetrating a brilliance that nobody could bear to gaze upon them. Similar circumstances are said to have occurred at the tomb of S. Wilfred who was enshrined in the Church of S. Peter at Ripon, and also at the tomb of S. Kunigunde, who is buried in the Cathedral of Bamberg.
Of Blessed Walter the Premonstratensian Abbot of Ilfeld in Hanover, who died in 1229, the Nobertine chronicle tell us that when the holy body was being carried on its bier to the tomb, so great a glory shone all around it that the religious who were inceding in solemn procession after the remains of their dead father were fain to veil their eyes. “B. Walterus. . . Moriens cum ad sepulchrum deferretur, tanta lux diuinitus immissa defuncti corpus irradiauit, ut religiosi adsistentes eam uix ferre possent.” Upon this an old poet wrote the following lines:
De B. Waltero circa cuius feretrum coposia lux resplenduit.
Corporis bos radios pia gens stupet, immemor ante
Illius aetherea cor rutilasse face.
Et quid-ni stupeat, solem dum mergitur undis,
Clarius exstinctam spargere posse facem?
Ecce suae carnis WALTERVS lege solutus,
Ad tumulum moestis fratribus abripitur.
Non patitur uirtus, indignaturque sepulcro
Claudier, in cincres, non abitura leues:
Ucrum oritur, radio circumfulgente Feretrum,
Ut solet Eois Lucifer ortus aquis.
O uir Sancte, tuis si lux hic tanta fuisti,
In coelo qualis quantaque stella micas!
It is not surprising that persons whose holiness and asceticism bad been so great during their lives, that their bodies were subjected to so extraordinary a phenomenon as irradiation, should after death have remained incorrupt. The connexion between the two is very obvious, and it should be remarked that incorruption is one of the commonest circumstances
recorded in hagiology. Although it is impossible to give more than a few examples from very many, it may be mentioned that in the case of S. Edward the Confessor, who died 5 January, 1066, when the body was examined in 1102, it was found to be incorrupt, the limbs flexible, and the cerements fresh and clean: whilst two years after canonization (1161) the body, stiff incorrupt, was translated to a tomb of the greatest magnificence. When eighty years after the first deposition the body of S. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, who died 1200 and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral, was taken up to be translated to a richer shrine it was found to be wholly intact. Perhaps one of the most remarkable instances of the mortal remains of a Saint which are yet supernaturally preserved is that of the Poor Clare, S. Catherine of Bologna, who died 9 March, 1463 and whose body is venerated in a small yet exquisitely elegant sanctuary attached to the convent of Corpus Domini at Bologna. It is a remarkable circumstance that here it is not preserved under crystal or glass but is seated, dressed in sumptuous brocades, jewelled and crowned, in an embroidered chair in the centre of the room. The body is desiccated, but in no sense decayed. In the Carmelite Convent of the Piazza Savonarola at Florence is the body of S. Maria Madalena de’Pazzi who died 25 May, 1607. This was exhumed in 1608, on account of the damp, when it was found to be entire and flexible, and it was officially certified to be intact in 1639 and again in 1663. It is still perfect and whole where it repose; in an elaborate shrine of crystal and gold. In the same Church is the incorrupt body of Maria Bartolomea Bagnesi, a Dominican Tertiary, whose death took place on Whit-Tuesday 1577. The body of another great Saint of Florence, S. Antoninus, which was unburied for eight days, remained flexible. This great Archbishop died 2 May, 1459, and in 1589, when his tomb was examined the holy remains were found to be still intact.
In Montefalco, high among the Umbrian uplands, lies the body of the Augustinian S. Clare, one of the glories of that ancient Order so rich in hallowed and venerable names, and one of the most marvellous ecstaticas of all time. Born about 1275, perhaps a few years earlier, she became Abbess of the Convent of Montefalco and seemed to dwell more in Heaven than on earth. Gifted with the spirit of prophecy
and the grace of working miracles, she was the subject of extraordinary ecstasies and raptures, which were prolonged from days to weeks. She died, 17 August, 1308, at three o’clock in the morning, and when her heart was extracted from her body this was opened and therein impressed upon the very flesh were seen a figure of Christ crucified, the scourge, the Crown of Thorns, the column, the lance, three nails, the sponge and reed. This relic is venerated at Montefalco to-day. Even now her body lies there perfect and intact. The hands and face are clearly visible, exquisitely pale and lovely, untouched by any fleck of corruption. It has not been embalmed, but Lorenzo Tardy says that throughout Italy of all the bodies of Saints which are venerated incorrupt the body of S. Clare of Montefalco is the loveliest and most free from any spot or blemish during the passing years.
Moreover when her heart was opened the blood flowed forth in great abundance and was carefully collected in a glass vial. Although normally coagulated it has preserved in colour a bright fresh red as though newly spilled. At rare intervals this blood liquefies and becomes from being opaque and congealed, humid, lucent, transparent, and freely-flowing. On occasion it has been known actually to spume and bubble. There are ample records that this took place in 1495, 1500, 1508, 1570, 1600, and 1618.
It is known that new blood has frequently oozed from the arm of S. Nicolas, O.S.A., which is preserved at Tolentino, but the most famous of these blood-miracles is, of course, that of S. Januarius, the Patron of Naples. Here the blood of the Saint which is contained in two phials, enclosed in a silver reliquary, is held out by the officiating priest eighteen times in the year before the congregation in the Cathedral. Upon the altar is exposed the silver bust containing the Head of the Saint. After an interval, sometimes a space of hardly more than two minutes and sometimes (but very rarely) well nigh an hour the congealed mass in the phials becomes crimson and liquid, and on occasion froths and bubbles up within the ampolla. Science having exhausted itself to find some explanation of the phenomenon confesses a miracle. The same liquefaction takes place with regard to some other Relics of peculiar sanctity, the blood of S. p. 127 John Baptist, of S. Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, of S. Patricia, and especially of S. Pantaleone, Relics of whose blood preserved at the Convent of the Incoronazione, Madrid, at Naples, and at Ravello, liquefy upon the feast day of the Saint afterwards returning to a congealed substance. It would appear a relic of the blood of S. Pantaleone at Valle della Lucarina remains liquid all the year round. As one might expect, sceptics both without–and alas! within the Church have attempted to find some natural explanation, but without avail. One notoriously rationalistic writer is “strongly inclined to believe that such alleged blood-relics always liquefied if they were exposed long enough to light and air,” a suggestion which is demonstrably false. The same maggot-monger has audaciously ventured to declare: “If we could suppose some substance or mixture had been accidentally discovered which hardened when shut up in the dark, but melted more or less rapidly when exposed to the light of day in a warmer atmosphere, it would be easy to understand the multiplication of alleged relics of this character, which undoubtedly seems to have taken place in the latter part of the sixteenth century.” It is instructive to remark what wild hypotheses men will build and what shifts men will seek who endeavour to escape from facts.
On 20 May, 1444, the celebrated missionary and reformer S. Bernardine of Siena died at Aquila in the Abruzzi. It was the Vigil of the Ascension and in the choir the friars were just chanting the Antiphon to the Magnificat, Pater, manifestaui nomen tuum hominibus . . . ad Te uenio, alleluja. The body was kept in the Church for twenty-six days after death, and what is very remarkable there was a copious flow of blood after twenty-four days. The people of Siena requested that so great a treasure might be handed over to them, but the local magistrates refused to do this, and with obsequies of the greatest splendour, S. Bernardine was laid to rest in the Church of the Coventuals. Six years later, 24 May, 1450, the Saint was solemnly canonized by Nicolas V. On 17 May, 1472, the body, yet without speck or mar, was translated to the new Church of the Observants at Aquila, which had been especially built to receive it, and here it was enclosed in a costly shrine presented by Louis XI of France. This Church having been completely destroyed by an earthquake
in 1703, was replaced by another edifice where the relics of S. Bernardine are still venerated. The body was still intact in the seventeenth century.
With regard to the flow of blood, the same phenomenon was observed and even yet continues in the case of S. Nicolas of Tolentino, who died 10 September, 1306, and who is buried in his Basilica there. Two hundred years after his death some persons who had concealed themselves in the church over night endeavoured to cut off an arm and carry it as a relic. No sooner had they commenced this operation and gashed the flesh with a knife than blood flowed freely as from a living body.
The first Patriarch of Venice, S. Lorenzo Giustiniani, died I January, 1455, and so great was the concourse of people to venerate his remains that the body lay in the Church of San Pietro di Castello (formerly SS. Sergio e Bacco) for no less than sixty-seven days, exposed to the air. Although it had not been embalmed the face continued of a fresh and ruddy complexion as in life. The body of the Franciscan, S. John Capistran, who died 23 October, 1456, was found to be incorrupt in 1765; and the body of the Augustinian nun, S. Rita of Cascia is still intact in her convent shrine among the Tuscan Hills. The body of S. Didacus, a lay brother of the Friars Minor who died at Alcala on 12 November, 1463 was exhumed four days after death and remained above ground for six months, supple and whole; it was still without blemish in 1562. As late as 1867, the body of the foundress of the Ursulines, S. Angela Merici, who died at Brescia, 27 January, 1540, was found to be entire.
It may not impertinently be remarked here that the Orthodox Russian Church includes in its calendar a number of bishops, monks, and holy hermits, whose bodies have been discovered to be intact at some considerable period after death, and if not actually in these days an entirely necessary condition for canonization incorruption is at any rate regarded as evidence of extraordinary sanctity. At Kieff there is (or was) a famous sanctuary which contained the bodies of no less than seventy-three venerable religious. I have been told by those who have visited this shrine that these are incorrupt, although dark and mummified. They are robed in rich vestments and laid out in open coffins for general honour and
worship. Hassert speaks of the body of S. Basil of Ostrog, which was entire although much desiccated.” At Cetienje Schwarz saw the body of S. Peter I, the Vladika, who died in 1830. “Dieser dürre, steinharte Kadaver,” he calls it. It should be remarked that these remains are always described as parched, sere and withered, and in no way retaining the freshness, the natural colour and complexion of life, which so often distinguishes the incorrupt bodies of Saints of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps to these mummified Relics, there could be few contrasts more striking indeed than the body of S. Catherine of Genoa–to take the first example that occurs–which, when I venerated it some years ago in the chapel of her own Ospedale seemed as though the Saint were but reposing in her shrine, as though she might open her eyes and gently smile upon her clients who knelt in humblest prayer. The extraordinary phenomena connected with the body of S. Teresa who died at Alba de Tormes, 4 October, 1582, are so well-known and have been so often described in detail that it is only necessary slightly to refer to them. The nuns fearing that this great treasure would be taken from them hastily buried her on the morrow after her death. A mass of bricks, stones, mortar and lime was hurriedly piled on the coffin lid. For many days strange knockings were heard as from the grave itself. There issued a mysterious perfume which varied not only in degree but in kind, for sometimes it was like lilies, sometimes like roses, sometimes like violets and often like jasmin. The community upbraided themselves that they had not given their mother more honourable burial, and at length it was resolved that the body should be secretly exhumed. This took place on 4 July, 1583. It was discovered that the lid of the coffin had been broken by the rubble heaped upon it, and the wood was rotten and decayed. The habit was stained and smelt of damp and earth, but the holy remains were as sound and entire as on the day they were laid in earth. They removed the mouldering clothes, washed the body, scraping off the earth with knives, and it was remarked that the scrapings of earth were redolent of the same perfumes as filled the grave. Moreover, both earth and cerements were saturated with a fragrant oil that exuded from the body. Yepes who wrote in 1614, the
year the Saint was beatified particularly draws attention to this fragrant effusion, and later when the remains were again examined it was found that a sheet of fair linen with which the body had been covered was odorous from the same defluxion. This phenomenon classes S. Teresa among the Saints who are technically known as Myroblites (μυρόβλυτες,) from whose Relics exude balm and aromatic ichors. Of these perhaps S. Nicolas of Myra, who lies at Bari, is the most famous. There may also be named S. Willibrord, the Apostle of Holland; S. Vitalian; S. Lutgarde; S. Walbruga; S. Rose, of Viterbo; the Blessed Mathia de’ Nazzarei, a poor Clare of Matelica; S. Hedwige, of Poland; S. Eustochium; S. Agnes of Montepulciano, the Dominican nun; S. Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi; and the ecstatic Carmelite Marguerite Van Valkenissen, foundress of the convent of Oirschot in Brabant.
It was this incorruptibility which was the immediate cause of the first official steps being taken to secure the beatification and canonization of Teresa de Jesus. Before the body was replaced after exhumation the Provincial, Father Geronymo de la Madre de Dios, better known as Gracian, cut off the left hand and bore it away with him to Avila in a locked casket, when blood flowed freely from the wound. Two years later it was decreed by the general Carmelite Chapter that the body should be translated to the convent of Avila, which as the birthplace of the Saint and as her first foundation undoubtedly had the best claim to these Relics. But in order to spare the nuns of Alba the fathers decided that the transference should be performed secretly, and accordingly the officials who were entrusted with this business opened the tomb at nine o’clock on the night of 24th November, 1585, and in fulfilment of their orders, whilst the sisterhood was engaged at Matins in the choir above, exhumed the body. To mitigate the grief of the convent it was decided that the left arm should be severed and that they should be allowed to retain this. Fray Gregorio de Nacianceno who was entrusted with this overcome with emotion, drew a sharp knife and severed the limb. He afterwards told Ribera that it was the greatest sacrifice of himself God had ever called upon him to make. It was remarked that the bone was as sound, and the flesh as soft, and its colour as natural as
if the saint were alive. When the precious remains arrived at the convent of San José of Avila it was laid on record that the body without sign of corruption, for when they lifted it out of the chest it seemed that of one asleep. Ribera has left us a minute description of the remains which he examined thoroughly on 25th March, 1588, and his account is so interesting it will not be impertinent to quote it in full. He writes: “I saw the sainted body, greatly to my satisfaction, on 25th March of this year of 1588, as I examined it thoroughly, it being my intention to give the testimony I give here. I can describe it well. It is erect, although bent somewhat forward, as is usual with old people; and by it, it can well be seen that she was of very good stature. By placing a hand behind it to lean against, it stands up, and can be dressed and undressed as if she were alive. The whole body is of the colour of dates, although in some parts a little whiter. The face is of a darker colour than the rest, since, the veil having fallen over it, and gathered together a great quantity of dust, it was much worse treated than other parts of the body; but it is absolutely entire, so that not even the tip of the nose has received any injury. The head is as thickly covered with hair as when they buried her. The eyes are dried up, the moisture they possessed having evaporated, but as for the rest entire. Even the hairs on the moles on her face are there. The mouth is slightly shut, so that it cannot be opened. The shoulders, especially, are very fleshy. The place whence the arm was out is moist, and the moisture clings to the hand, and leaves the same odour as the body. The hand exceedingly shapely, and raised as if in the action of benediction, although the fingers are not entire. They did ill in taking them, since the hand that did such great things, and that God had left entire, ought for ever to have remained so. The feet are very beautiful and shapely, and, in short, the whole body is covered with flesh. The fragrance of the body is the same as that of the arm, but stronger. So great a consolation was it to me to see this hidden treasure, that to my thinking it was the best day I ever had in my life, and I could not gaze at her enough. One anxiety I have, lest some day they should separate it, either at the request of great personages or at the importunity of the monasteries; for by no means should this be done, but it should remain as God left it, as a testimony
of his greatness, and the most pure virginity and admirable sanctity of the Mother Teresa de Jesus. To my thinking, neither he who asks it nor he who grants it, will act like true sons of hers.”
Having dealt with so celebrated a case in some detail we may very briefly pass in review some four or five other instances more premising that these have been selected from a very great many, something at random, and not because they present any remarkable or unique phenomena which it would not be tolerably easy to parallel in other accounts. On the other hand they are no less memorable than is the case of S. Teresa herself: For example, the body of S. Pascal Baylon, who died at Villa Reale, 15th May, 1592, although covered with quick-lime, was found nine months later to be entire and incorrupt, and in 1611 expert surgeons declared that the preservation was miraculous. Again the body of S. Philip Neri, who died 25th May, 1595, was discovered perfectly intact eight months after burial, and was still entire when examined in 1599, 1602, and 1639. In the cases of two saints who died in 1608, Francis Caracciolo, who expired at Agnone in the Abruzzi, 4th June, 160 8; and Andrea Avellino, who was struck down by apoplexy at Naples on 10th November of the same year, there were noticed curious blood phenomena. The body of S. Francis remained flexible, and when an incision was made blood freely flowed. The body of S. Andrea was found incorrupt more than a year after he had been buried. A quantity of blood that had been received in a phial did not congeal, but is constantly observed to be still liquid. In the case of S. Camillus de Lellis who died at Rome, 14th July, 1614, the body remained soft and flexible. At her convent in the Umbrian aerie of Città di Castello reposes the unflecked and whole body of the Capuchiness, S. Veronica Giuliam, who died 9th July, 1727. There it may be seen, reposing as though she were not dead, but slept.
This list might be greatly prolonged without much research or difficulty; however, it is no doubt already sufficiently ample, and I have thought it worth while to treat the subject of the incorruptibility of the bodies of saints in some detail, as though of course, this phenomenon is in itself not to be regarded as evidence of sanctity, the preservation of the body of a person who has led a life of heroic virtue when this
eminent holiness has been officially and authoritatively recognized, may be admitted as a miracle, that is to say as supernatural. More than once attention has been drawn to the fact that there exist parodies of these phenomena, and as incorruptibility is often attached to sanctity so is it an essential of the very opposite of holiness, the demonism of the vampire. It has been said that the vampire, as a demon reanimates the corpses of entirely innocent people, but this is very doubtful and it is probable that the only bodies thus to be infested and preserved by dark agency are those of persons who during their lives were distinguished by deeds of no ordinary atrocity. Very often too the vampire is a corpse reanimated by his own spirit who seeks to continue his own life in death by preying upon others and feeding himself upon their vitality that is to say by absorbing their blood since blood is the principle of life.
Dr. T. Claye Shaw in his study, A Prominent Motive in Murder has given us a most valuable and suggestive paper upon the natural fascination of blood which may be repelling or attractant, and since Dr. Havelock Ellis has acutely remarked that “there is scarcely any natural object with so profoundly emotional an effect as blood,” it is easy to understand how nearly blood is connected with the sexual manifestations, and how distinctly erotic and provocative the sight or even the thought of blood almost inevitably proves. It would appear to be Plumröder, who in 1830 was the first to draw definite attention to the connexion between sexual passions and blood. The voluptuous sensations excited by blood give rise to that lust for blood which Dr. Shaw terms hemothymia. A vast number of cases have been recorded in which persons who are normal, find intense pleasure in the thought of blood during their sexual relations, although perhaps if blood were actually flowing they might feel repulsion. Yet “normally the fascination of blood, if present at all during sexual excitement, remains more or less latent, either because it is weak or because the checks that inhibit it are inevitably very powerful.”
Blood is the vital essence, and even without any actual sucking of blood there is a vampire who can–consciously, or perhaps unconsciously–support his life and re-energize his frame by drawing upon the vitality of others. He may
be called a spiritual vampire, or as he has been dubbed a “psychic sponge.” Such types are by no means uncommon. Sensitive people will after complain of weariness and loss of spirits when they have been for long in the company of certain others, and Laurence Oliphant in his Scientific Religion has said: “Many persons are so constituted that they have, unconsciously to themselves, an extraordinary faculty for sucking the life-principle from others, who are constitutionally incapable of retaining their vitality.” Breeders tell us that young animals should not be herded with old ones; Doctors forbid young children being put to sleep with aged individuals. It will be remembered that when King David was old and ailing his forces were recruited by having a young maiden brought into closest contact with him, although he was no longer able to copulate. Et rex Dauid senuerat, habebatque aetatis plurimos dies: cumque operiretur uestibus, non calefiebat. Dixerunt ergo ei serui sui: Quaeremus domino nostro regi adolescentulam uirginem, et stet coram rege, et foueat eam, dormiatque in sinu suo, et calefaciat dominum nostrum regem. Quaesierunt igitur adolescentulam speciosam in omnibus finibus Israel, et inuenerunt Abisag Sunamitidem, et adduxerunt eam ad regem. Erat autem puella pulchra nimis, dormiebatque cum rege, et ministrabat ei, rex uero non cognouit eam, III Kings (AV. I Kings) 1, 1-4. (Now King David was old, and advanced in years; and when he was covered with clothes he was not warm. His servants therefore said to him: “Let us seek for our lord the king, a young virgin, and let her stand before the king, and cherish him, and sleep in his bosom, and warm our lord the king.” So they sought a beautiful young woman in all the coasts of Israel, and they found Abisag, a Sunamitess, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was exceeding beautiful, and she slept with the king; and served him, but the king did not know her.) The vitality of the young and lovely maiden served to re-energize the old Monarch, who thus drew upon her freshness and youth, although there was no coitus.
In an article on Vampires, Borderland, Vol. III, No. 3, July, 1896, pp. 353-358, Dr. Franz Hartmann, mentions the “psychic sponge” or mental vampire. He says: “They unconsciously vampirize every sensitive person with whom
they come in contact, and they instinctively seek out such persons and invite them to stay at their houses. I know of an old lady, a vampire, who thus ruined the health of a lot of robust servant girls, whom she took into her service and made them sleep in her room. They were all in good health when they entered, but soon they began to sicken, they became emaciated and consumptive and had to leave the service.”
Vampirism in some sort and to some degree may be said to leave its trace throughout almost all nature. Just as we have the parasitic men and women, so have we the parasitic plants, and at this point there imposes itself upon us some mention of the animal which directly derives a name from habits which exactly resemble those of the Slavonic Vampire–the Vampire Bat. There has been much exaggeration in the accounts which travellers have given of these bats and many of the details would seem to have been very inaccurately observed by earlier inquirers. The Encyclopædia Britannica says that there are only two species of blood-sucking bats known–Desmodus rufus and Diphylla ecaudata. These inhabit the tropical and part of the sub-tropical regions of the New World, and are restricted to South and Central America. Their attacks on men and other warm-blooded animals were noticed by very early writers. Thus Peter Martyr (Anghiera)
who wrote soon after the conquest of South America, says that in the Isthmus of Darien there were bats which sucked the blood of men and cattle when asleep to such a degree as even to kill them. Condamine in the eighteenth century remarks that at Borja, Ecuador, and in other districts they had wholly destroyed the cattle introduced by the missionaries. Sir Robert Schomburgh relates that at Wicki, on the river Berlice, no fowls could be kept on account of the ravages of these creatures, which attacked their combs making them appear white from loss of blood.
Although long known to Europeans the exact species to which these bats belonged were not to be determined for a long time, and in the past writers have claimed many frugivorous bats, especially Vampyrus spectrum, a large bat of most forbidding appearance, to be the true Vampire. Charles Darwin was able to fix at least one of the blood-sucking species. He says that the whole circumstance was much doubted in
England, but “we were bivouacking late one night near Coquimbo in Chile, when my servant, noticing that one of the horses was very restive went to see what was the matter, and fancying he could detect something, suddenly put his hand on the beast’s withers, and secured the vampire.” (Naturalist’s Voyage Round the World, p. 22.)
Travellers say the wounds inflicted by these bats are similar in character to a cut from a sharp razor when shaving. A portion of the skin is taken off, and a large number of severed capillary vessels being thus exposed, a constant flow of blood is maintained. From this source the blood is drawn through the exceedingly small gullet of the bat into the intestine-like stomach, whence it is, probably, gradually drawn off during the slow progress of digestion, while the animal sated with food, is hanging in a state of torpidity from the roof of its cave or from the inner side of a hollow tree.
This is exactly the Vampire who with his sharp white teeth bites the neck of his victim and sucks the blood from the wounds he has made, gorging himself, like some great human leech, until he is replete and full, when he retires to his grave to repose, lethargic and inert until such time as he shall again sally forth to quench his lust at the veins of some sleek and sanguine juvenal.
NOTES TO CHAPTER II.
[1. Apocalypse, xxi, 8: “But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Also, xxii, 15: “Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and unchaste, and murderers, and servers of idols, and everyone that loveth and maketh a lie.”
2. The House of Souls, London, 1906, pp. 113-118.
3. Scotch Historical Society, xxv, p. 348.
4. A Prodigious and Tragicall History of the Arraignment . . . of six Witches at Maidstone . . . by H. F. Gent, 1652, p. 7.
5. A Full and True Relation of the Tryal, Condemnation, and Execution of Ann Poster, 1674, p. 8.
6. The Iliad of Homer, “Rendered into English Blank Verse. By Edward Earl of Derby.” John Murray, 1864. Vol. II, Book xxiii, ll. 92-119.
7. Choephorae, 429-433.
8. One may compare the corresponding passage in the Antigone of Alfieri:
Emone, ah! tutto io sento,
Tutto l’amor, che a te portava: io sento
Il dolor tutto, a cui ti lascio.
9. Pausanias, IX. 32. 6.
10. Aelian, Περὶ Ζώων ἱδιότητος, V, 49.
11. Chronicles of the House of Borgia, Baron Corvo, p. 283.
12. S. John, ix, 22, seq.
13. S. John, xii, 42.
14. S. John, xvi, 2; and S. Luke, vi, 22.
15. S. Matthew, xviii, 16-18.
16. Theodore Balsamon, I, 27 and 569; apud Migne.
17. Jacques Goar, “Ἐυχολόγιον, siue Rituale Graecorum,” Paris, 1667, p. 685.
18. C, xiii.
19. Balsamon, I, 64-5 and 437.
20. Cambridge, 1619.
21. Op. cit., xv.
22. “Under Justinian, Theodore Askidas and Domitian of Caesarea refused to condemn Origen. It remains an open question whether Origen and Origenism were ever anathematized. Authorities are divided, and modern writers hesitate to pronounce. The balance of opinion seems to be that Origen. was not condemned, at least it does not appear that Popes Vigilius, Pelagius I, Pelagius II, S. Gregory the Great, recognized any such condemnation.
23. Reigned 535-36.
24. Dialogues, Book II, c. xxiii.
25. The Holy Rule; especially cs. vi-vii.
26. This subject was painted by Lucio Massari, a pupil of Ludovico Caracci, in the cloisters of the Benedictine convent of San Michele-in-Bosco, Bologna. Unfortunately the fresco has perished, but it is to some extent known from engravings.
27. De Sancta Uirginitate, xlv.
28. Dialogues, Book II, c, xxiv.
29. Born 339 or 340; died between 394 and 403.
30. The Council of Constantinople held in 692 under Justinian II, commonly called the Council in Trullo. The Orthodox Greek Church reckons this Council to be oecumenical, but this was not so recognized in the West. S. Bede (De sexta mundi aetate) even terms it a reprobate synod; and Paul the Deacon (Hist. Lang., VI, p. 11) an erratic assembly.
Also the Third Council of Carthage.
31. The cult of S. Othmar began to spread almost immediately after his death.
32. Iso of S. Gall wrote De miraculis S. Othmari, libri duo, which is given by Migni Patres Latini, cxxi, 779-796, and in the Monumenta Germaniae Historiae Scriptorum, II, 47-54.
33. The Historia Translationis Sancti Cuthberti as printed by the Bollandists and by Stevenson (Eng. Hist. Soc., 1838) is superseded by the fuller text in the Rolls Series and in the Surtees Society, LI, London, 1868.
34. IV, xli.
36. This also appears in the edition of the Works of S. Gregory of 1705. Muratori (De rebus liturgicis, vi) highly praises the Commentary of Dom Ménard.
37. He died 1058. See Will, Aeta et Scripta quae de controuersiis ecclesiae graccae et latinae saeculo XI composita extant, Leipsig, 1861; and Adrian Fortescue, The Orthodox Eastern Church, London, 1907.
38. Or τὸ περατίκι. Schmidt, Das Volksleben der Neugriechen suggests that in the local dialect it may be περατίκιν.
39. Protodikos, Περὶ τῆς παῤ ἡμῖν ταφῆς, 1860, says that in certain districts of Asia Minor the custom was still connected with Charos; and in the same year Skordeles, Πανδώρα, xi, p. 449, stated that “until a short time ago” the coin for Charos was placed in the month of the dead at Stenimachos in Thrace.
Such a practice even prevailed in England, and in some country places was observed far later than might be supposed. I have been shown by a friend a silver coin of the reign of Queen Anne which was placed in the mouth of his
great-grandmother when she lay dead, and only removed immediately before the nailing down of the coffin.
40. Menaion (μηναῖον from μήν “month”) is the name of each separate book, whence the set of Offices is generally called Menaia. The first printed edition was made by Andrew and James Spinelli at Venice, 1528-1596; and reprinted, 1596-1607. The latest Greek editions were published at Venice in 1873, Orthodox rite; and at Rome in 1888, Uniate rite.
41. The Vow of Stability, stabilitas loci, which unites the monk for life to the particular monastery in which his vows were made, was insisted upon by S. Benedict, who thus greatly altered the pre-existing practice and put an end to the Sarabaites and Gyrovagi against whom the holy patriarch inveighes so sternly in the first chapter of the Rule.
42. Compendium Theologiae Moralis. Sabetti-Barrett. Editio Uicesima Quinta. Pustet, 1916, p. 984.
43. sub die 26 Maii.
44. First edition, 1746.
45. Remiremont, a monastery and nunnery of the Rule of S. Benedict, was founded by SS. Romanicus and Amatus in 620. The monastery became a Priory of the Canons Regular of S. Augustine who, in 1623, bestowed upon the Benedictines of the Congregation of S. Vannes. Both houses were suppressed during the French Revolution. See Gallia Christiana, Paris, 1785, xiii, 1416; and Guinot’s ‘Etude historique sur l’abbaye de Remiremont Epinal, 1886.
46. The place of pilgrimage was Notre Dame du Trésor, one of the most famous sanctuaries of the diocese of Sainte-Dié (S. Deodatus).
47. He was consecrated in 1027; and enthroned as Pope, 12th February, 1049.
48. Apud Watterich, Pontificum Romanorum Uitae, I. Leipzig, 1862.
49. The Abbey of Farfa is about twenty-pix miles from Rome. It is said that in the days of the Emperor Julian or of Gratian Caesar the Syrian S. Laurentius dedicated a church to Our Lady here. Archæological discoveries in 1888 seem to show that the first monastery, devastated by the Vandals circa 457, had been built on the site of a heathen temple. The principal founder of Farfa was Thomas de Mauricume. He had spent three years as a humble palmer at Jerusalem, and whilst in prayer before the Holy Sepulchre, Our Lady appeared to him and bade him return to Italy, and there to restore Farfa. The Duke of Spoleto, Faroald, was also commanded to help in the good work. Since 1842 the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina, a suburbicarian bishop, bears also the title of Abbot of Farfa.
The body of S. Martin was venerated in his basilica at Tours. This sanctuary was famous as a place of pilgrimage until 1562, when the Protestant hordes attacked and demolished it, the shrine and the Holy Relics, the special object of their hate, being destroyed. The church was restored but again devastated under the French Revolution. Of recent years a basilica, which is unfortunately of small dimensions, has been erected and here, on 11th November, the solemnity of S. Martin is celebrated with much pomp and a great concourse of the faithful.
50. Lambert of Hersfeld, apud Monumenta Germaniae Historiae Scriptorum, V, 168.
52. Lib. I, pp. 26-27.
53. Calmet, op. cit., vol. II, c. xxx, p. 125.
54. Vol. I, p. 282, ed. 1920.
55. Op. cit., p. 295.
56. Apud Witthaus and Becker, Medical Jurisprudence, Vol. I, p. 446.
57. Romas, MDCCXC, vol. VII, pp. 51-68.
58. De notis et signis Sanctitatis, c. iv, 2.
59. De certitudine gloriae Sanctorum, in app. ad. c. iv.
60. The beatification of this great Servant of God is confidently awaited.
61. The Life of Monsignor Hugh Benson, by C. C. Martindale, S. J., London, 1016, vol. II, p. 180.
62 Professor of Aesthetics, S. Ignatius College, Valkenburg, Holland.
63. Rationale diuinorum Officiorum, I, iii, 19 seq.
64. Canticles, iii, 2.
65. Wisdom, v, 17.
66. Migne, Patres Latini, LXXV, 231.
67. One night in summer at the conclusion of Matins when the community were all surprised to see daylight, Mechtild involuntarily exclaimed: “Why, dear sisters, it is already day!” The Spirit of the Dominican Order, by Mother Frances Raphael, O.S.D., Second Edition, London, 1910, p. 144.
68. Life of the Venerable Anthony M. Claret, by the Rev. Eugene Sugranes, C.M.F., Texas .
69. Epigrammata de Uiris Uitae Sanctimonia Illustribus ex Ordire Premonstratensi, Augustini Wickmans, C.R.P., Taminiae, 1895, p. 30, and pp. 16-17.
70. Vita di Santa Chiara di Montefalco . . . scritta dal Rmo. p. Maestro Lorenzo Tardy. Roma, 1881.
71. Memorie Istoriche della Vita, Miracoli, e Culto di S. Gianuario Martire . . raccolte da D. Camillo Tutini. Napoli, 1710.
72. Reise Luich Montenegro, Vienna, 1893, p. 27.
73. Montenegro, Leipzig, 1883, pp. 81-82.
74 The Lancet, 19th June, 1909.
75. Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Vol. III. “Analysis of the Sexual Impulse,” pp. 120-121. Second Edition. Philadelphia. 1926.
76. Dr. Havelock Ellis, op. cit., p. 121.
77. Whence I take the following account of the vampire bat.]