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1540 (c) - The Heptameron, of Margaret of Angouleme, queen of Navarre

D 27 March 2008     H 02:04     A Pierre     C 0 messages A 2828 LECTURES


agrandir

Source : The Heptameron, of Margaret, queen of Navarre., with a memoir of the author, by Walter.K. Kelly – London – 1855 – Books Google

Incest of a priest who got his sister with child under the cloak of sanctity and how it was punished

The Count Charles d’Angouleme, father of Francis I, and a prince of great piety, being one day at Coignac, some one told him that in a village named Cherves there was a maiden who lived with such austerity that it was a marvel, yet she was with child, and did not even make any secret of it, but assured everybody that she had never known man, and that she knew not how it had happened to her, unless it was the work of the Holy Ghost. The people readily gave credit to this delusion, and looked upon the girl as a second Virgin Mary, the more so as she had been known to be so well behaved from her childhood, and never to have shown the least sign of a disposition to mundane vanities. She not only fasted at the seasons appointed by the church, but also made several voluntary fasts every week, and never stirred from the church as long as there was any service going on in it. The common people made so much account of this manner of life, that every one flocked to see her as though she were a living miracle, and fortunate was he who could touch her gown. The priest of the parish was her brother, a man in years, of an austere life, and a reputed saint. So rigorously did he treat his sister, that he had her shut up in a house, whereat the people were greatly displeased, and the affair made so much noise, that it came, as I have already said, to the ears of Count Charles, who seeing the delusion into which everybody had fallen, resolved to put an end to it

To this end, he sent a referendary and an almoner, both of them worthy men, to ascertain the truth. They went to the spot, inquired into the fact as carefully as possible, and applied to the priest, who was so vexed at the affair, that he begged them to be present at the verification he hoped to make of it. Next morning the priest celebrated mass, his sister who was very big, being present on her knees. After it was over, he took the corpus Domini, and said to his sister in presence of the whole congregation.
“Wretch that thou art, here is He who suffered death for thee, in whose presence I ask thee if thou art a virgin as thou hast always assured me”. She replied boldly and fearlessly that she was so. “How then is it possible that thou art pregnant, yet still a virgin?” “All I can say,” she replied “is that it is the grace of the Holy Ghost, who does in me whatever he pleases ; but also I cannot deny the grace which God has done me in preserving me a virgin. Never have I had even a thought of marrying”

Her brother then said to her, ”I give thee here the precious body of Jesus Christ, which thou wilt take to thy damnation if thou dost not speak the truth ; whereof will be witnesses these gentlemen, who are here present on the part of my lord the count.”

The girl, who was about thirteen years of age, then made oath as follows ; “I take the body of Our Lord here present to my condemnation before you, sirs, and you my brother, if ever man has touched me any more than you.” So saying, she received the body of Our Lord.

The referendary and the almoner went away quite confounded, not being able to believe that any one would lie after such an oath, and they made their report to the count, whom they tried to bring to entertain the same belief as themselves. But he being a wise man, after much thought, made them repeat the very words of the oath ; and having well weighed them, he said, “She told you that never man touched her any more than her brother. I am persuaded that it was her brother who got her with child, and that she seeks to conceal his incest by prevarication. We, who believe that Jesus Christ is come, must not expect another. Return then to the place, and put the priest in prison ; I am sure he will confess the truth.”

They executed their orders, but unwillingly and not without remonstrating against the necessity of putting such a scandal upon a good man. The priest was no sooner committed to prison than he confessed his crime, and owned that he had instructed his sister to speak as she had done, in order to conceal the intercourse between them, and this not only to baffle inquiry by so slight a device, but also to secure to themselves universal esteem and veneration by this false statement. Being asked how he could carry his wickedness to such an excess as to make his sister swear upon Our Lord’s body, he replied, that his audacity had not reached that length, and that he had used an ordinary wafer, which was neither consecrated nor blessed.

All this having been reported to the Count d’Angoulême, he sent the affair before the courts of justice. Execution was delayed until the sister was delivered of a fine boy. After her delivery the brother and sister were burned, to the great astonishment of all the people, who had beheld a monster so horrible under such a garb of holiness, and so detestable a crime under the appearances of a life so laudable and regenerate.

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