[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010. Copyright as such.]
We must now report some of the most famous instances of the possession and obsession of the demon. Every body is talking at this time of the possession (by the devil) of the nuns of Loudun, on which such different opinions were given, both at the time and since. Martha Broissier, daughter of a weaver of Romorantin, made as much noise in her time; but Charles Miron, Bishop of Orleans, discovered the fraud, by making her drink holy water as common water; by making them present to her a key wrapped up in red silk, which was said to be a piece of the true cross; and in reciting some lines from Virgil, which Martha Broissier's demon took for exorcisms, agitating her very much at the approach of the hidden key, and at the recital of the verses from Virgil. Henri de Gondi, Cardinal Bishop of Paris, had her examined by five of the faculty; three were of opinion that there was a great deal of imposture and a little disease. The parliament took notice of the affair, and nominated eleven physicians, who reported unanimously that there was nothing demoniacal in this matter.
In the reign of Charles IX or a little before, a young woman of the town of Vervins, fifteen or sixteen years of age, named Nicola Aubry, had different apparitions of a specter, who called itself her grandfather, and asked her for masses and prayers for the repose of his soul. Very soon after, she was transported to different places by this specter, and sometimes even was carried out of sight, and from the midst of those who watched over her.
Then, they had no longer any doubt that it was the devil, which they had a great deal of trouble to make her believe. The Bishop of Laon gave his power (of attorney) for conjuring the spirit, and commanded them to see that the proces-verbaux were exactly drawn up by the notaries nominated for that purpose. The exorcisms lasted more than three months, and only serve to prove more and more the fact of the possession. The poor sufferer was torn from the hands of nine or ten men, who could hardly retain their hold of her; and on the last day of the exorcisms sixteen could not succeed in so doing. She had been lying on the ground, when she stood upright and stiff as a statue, without those who held her being able to prevent it. She spoke divers languages, revealed the most secret things, announced others at the moment they were being done, although at a great distance; she discovered to many the secret of their conscience, uttered at once three different voices, or tones, and spoke with her tongue hanging half a foot out of her mouth. After some exorcisms had been made at Vervins, they took her to Laon, where the bishop undertook her. He had a scaffolding erected for this purpose in the cathedral. Such immense numbers of people went there, that they saw in the church ten or twelve thousand persons at a time; some even came from foreign countries. Consequently, France could not be less curious; so the princes and great people, and those who could not come there themselves, sent persons who might inform them of what passed. The Pope's nuncios, the parliamentary deputies, and those of the university were present.
The devil, forced by the exorcisms, rendered such testimony to the truth of the Catholic religion, and, above all, to the reality of the holy Eucharist, and at the same time to the falsity of Calvinism, that the irritated Calvinists no longer kept within bounds. From the time the exorcisms were made at Vervins, they wanted to kill the possessed, with the priest who exorcised her, in a journey they made her take to Notre Dame de Liesse. At Laon, it was still worse; as they were the strongest in numbers there, a revolt was more than once apprehended. They so intimidated the bishop and the magistrates, that they took down the scaffold, and did not have the general procession usually made before exorcisms. The devil became prouder thereupon, insulted the bishop, and laughed at him. On the other hand, the Calvinists having obtained the suppression of the procession, and that she should be put in prison to be more nearly examined, Carlier, a Calvinist doctor, suddenly drew from his pocket something which was averred to be a most violent poison, which he threw into her mouth, and she kept it on her stomach whilst the convulsion lasted, but she threw it up of herself when she came to her senses.
All these experiments decided them on recommencing the processions, and the scaffold was replaced. Then the outraged Calvinists conceived the idea of a writing from M. de Montmorency, forbidding the continuation of the exorcisms, and enjoining the king's officers to be vigilant. Thus they abstained a second time from the procession, and again the devil triumphed at it. Nevertheless, he discovered to the bishop the trick of this suppositious writing, named those who had taken part in it, and declared that he had again gained time by this obedience of the bishop to the will of man rather than that of God. Besides that, the devil had already protested publicly that it was against his own will that he remained in the body of this woman; that he had entered there by the order of God; that it was to convert the Calvinists or to harden them, and that he was very unfortunate in being obliged to act and speak against himself.
The chapter then represented to the bishop that it would be proper to make the processions and the conjurations twice a-day, to excite still more the devotion of the people. The prelate acquiesced in it, and everything was done with the greatest éclât, and in the most orthodox manner. The devil declared again more than once that he had gained time; once because the bishop had not confessed himself; another time because he was not fasting; and lastly, because it was requisite that the chapter and all the dignitaries should be present, as well as the court of justice and the king's officers, in order that there might be sufficient testimony; that he was forced to warn the bishop thus of his duty, and that accursed was the hour when he entered into the body of this person; at the same time, he uttered a thousand imprecations against the church, the bishop, and the clergy.
Thus, at the last day of possession, everybody being assembled in the afternoon, the bishop began the last conjurations, when many extraordinary things took place; amongst others, the bishop desiring to put the holy Eucharist near the lips of this poor woman, the devil in some way seized hold of his arm, and at the same moment raised this woman up, as it were, out of the hands of sixteen men who were holding her. But at last, after much resistance, he came out, and left her perfectly cured, and thoroughly sensible of the goodness of God. The Te Deum was sung to the sound of all the bells in the town; nothing was heard among the Catholics but acclamations of joy, and many of the Calvinists were converted, whose descendants still dwell in the town. Florimond de Raimond, counselor of the parliament of Bordeaux, had the happiness to be of the number, and has written the history of it. For nine days they made the procession, to return thanks to God; and they founded a perpetual mass, which is celebrated every year on the 8th of February, and they represented this story in bas-relief round the choir, where it may be seen at this day.
In short, God, as if to put the finishing stroke to so important a work, permitted that the Prince of Condé, who had just left the Catholic religion, should be misled on this subject by those of his new communion. He sent for the poor woman, and also the Canon d'Espinois, who had never forsaken her during all the time of the exorcisms. He interrogated them separately, and at several different times, and made every effort, not to discover if they had practiced any artifice, but to find out if there was any in the whole affair. He went so far as to offer the canon very high situations if he would change his religion. But what can you obtain in favor of heresy from sensible and upright people, to whom God has thus manifested the power of his church? All the efforts of the prince were useless; the firmness of the canon, and the simplicity of the poor woman, only served to prove to him still more the certainty of the event which displeased him, and he sent them both home.
Yet a return of ill-will caused him to have this woman again arrested, and he kept her in one of his prisons until her father and mother having entreated an inquiry into this injustice to King Charles IX, she was set at liberty by order of his majesty.
An event of such importance, and so carefully attested, both on the part of the bishop and the chapter, and on that of the magistrates, and even by the violence of the Calvinistic party, ought not to be buried in silence. King Charles IX, on making his entry into Laon some time after, desired to be informed about it by the dean of the cathedral, who had been an ocular witness of the affair. His majesty commanded him to give publicity to the story, and it was then printed, first in French, then in Latin, Spanish, Italian, and German, with the approbation of the Sorbonne, supported by the rescripts of Pope Pius V and Gregory XIII his successor. And they made after that a pretty exact abridgment of it, by order of the Bishop of Laon, printed under the title of Le Triomphe du S. Sacrament sur le Diable.
These are facts which have all the authenticity that can be desired, and such as a man of honor cannot with any good-breeding affect to doubt, since he could not after that consider any facts as certain without being in shameful contradiction with himself.
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