Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 50

How Homenas showed us the archetype, or representation of a pope.

Mass being mumbled over, Homenas took a huge bundle of keys out of a trunk near the head altar, and put thirty-two of them into so many keyholes; put back so many springs; then with fourteen more mastered so many padlocks, and at last opened an iron window strongly barred above the said altar. This being done, in token of great mystery he covered himself with wet sackcloth, and drawing a curtain of crimson satin, showed us an image daubed over, coarsely enough, to my thinking; then he touched it with a pretty long stick, and made us all kiss the part of the stick that had touched the image. After this he said unto us, What think you of this image? It is the likeness of a pope, answered Pantagruel; I know it by the triple crown, his furred amice, his rochet, and his slipper. You are in the right, said Homenas; it is the idea of that same good god on earth whose coming we devoutly await, and whom we hope one day to see in this country. O happy, wished-for, and much-expected day! and happy, most happy you, whose propitious stars have so favoured you as to let you see the living and real face of this good god on earth! by the single sight of whose picture we obtain full remission of all the sins which we remember that we have committed, as also a third part and eighteen quarantaines of the sins which we have forgot; and indeed we only see it on high annual holidays.

This caused Pantagruel to say that it was a work like those which Daedalus used to make, since, though it were deformed and ill drawn, nevertheless some divine energy, in point of pardons, lay hid and concealed in it. Thus, said Friar John, at Seuille, the rascally beggars being one evening on a solemn holiday at supper in the spital, one bragged of having got six blancs, or twopence halfpenny; another eight liards, or twopence; a third, seven caroluses, or sixpence; but an old mumper made his vaunts of having got three testons, or five shillings. Ah, but, cried his comrades, thou hast a leg of God; as if, continued Friar John, some divine virtue could lie hid in a stinking ulcerated rotten shank. Pray, said Pantagruel, when you are for telling us some such nauseous tale, be so kind as not to forget to provide a basin, Friar John; I’ll assure you, I had much ado to forbear bringing up my breakfast. Fie! I wonder a man of your coat is not ashamed to use thus the sacred name of God in speaking of things so filthy and abominable! fie, I say. If among your monking tribes such an abuse of words is allowed, I beseech you leave it there, and do not let it come out of the cloisters. Physicians, said Epistemon, thus attribute a kind of divinity to some diseases. Nero also extolled mushrooms, and, in a Greek proverb, termed them divine food, because with them he had poisoned Claudius his predecessor. But methinks, gentlemen, this same picture is not over-like our late popes. For I have seen them, not with their pallium, amice, or rochet on, but with helmets on their heads, more like the top of a Persian turban; and while the Christian commonwealth was in peace, they alone were most furiously and cruelly making war. This must have been then, returned Homenas, against the rebellious, heretical Protestants; reprobates who are disobedient to the holiness of this good god on earth. ’Tis not only lawful for him to do so, but it is enjoined him by the sacred decretals; and if any dare transgress one single iota against their commands, whether they be emperors, kings, dukes, princes, or commonwealths, he is immediately to pursue them with fire and sword, strip them of all their goods, take their kingdoms from them, proscribe them, anathematize them, and destroy not only their bodies, those of their children, relations, and others, but damn also their souls to the very bottom of the most hot and burning cauldron in hell. Here, in the devil’s name, said Panurge, the people are no heretics; such as was our Raminagrobis, and as they are in Germany and England. You are Christians of the best edition, all picked and culled, for aught I see. Ay, marry are we, returned Homenas, and for that reason we shall all be saved. Now let us go and bless ourselves with holy water, and then to dinner.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59