Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire

CONVULSIONARIES.

About the year 1724 the cemetery of St. Médard abounded in amusement, and many miracles were performed there. The following epigram by the duchess of Maine gives a tolerable account of the character of most of them:

Un décrotteur à la Royale,

Du talon gauche estropié,

Obtint, pour grâce speciale,

D’être tortueux de l’autre pied.

A Port-Royal shoe-black, who had one lame leg,

To make both alike the Lord’s favor did beg;

Heaven listened, and straightway a miracle came,

For quickly he rose up, with both his legs lame.

The miracles continued, as is well known, until a guard was stationed at the cemetery.

De par le roi, défense à Dieu

De faire miracles en ce lieu.

Louis to God:— To keep the peace,

Here miracles must henceforth cease.

It is also well known that the Jesuits, being no longer able to perform similar miracles, in consequence of Xavier having exhausted their stock of grace and miraculous power, by resuscitating nine dead persons at one time, resolved in order to counteract the credit of the Jansenists, to engrave a print of Jesus Christ dressed as a Jesuit. The Jansenists, on the other hand, in order to give a satisfactory proof that Jesus Christ had not assumed the habit of a Jesuit, filled Paris with convulsions, and attracted great crowds of people to witness them. The counsellor of parliament, Carré de Montgeron, went to present to the king a quarto collection of all these miracles, attested by a thousand witnesses. He was very properly shut up in a château, where attempts were made to restore his senses by regimen; but truth always prevails over persecution, and the miracles lasted for thirty years together, without interruption. Sister Rose, Sister Illuminée, and the sisters Promise and Comfitte, were scourged with great energy, without, however, exhibiting any appearance of the whipping next day. They were bastinadoed on their stomachs without injury, and placed before a large fire; but, being defended by certain pomades and preparations, were not burned. At length, as every art is constantly advancing towards perfection, their persecutors concluded with actually thrusting swords through their chairs, and with crucifying them. A famous schoolmaster had also the benefit of crucifixion; all which was done to convince the world that a certain bull was ridiculous, a fact that might have been easily proved without so much trouble. However, Jesuits and Jansenists all united against the “Spirit of Laws,” and against . . . . and against . . . . and against . . . . and. . . . . And after all this we dare to ridicule Laplanders, Samoyeds, and negroes!

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:25