A demonic spectacle

The Jansenist movement in France had been condemned on a number of occasions by the time Deacon François of Paris, a fervent Jansenist and extremely popular man of the cloth, died on May 1, 1727. His followers prayed at the deceased deacon's tomb, hoping for a miracle that would incite the Church to admit the error of its ways and cease its unjust persecution of the Jansenist movement.

A pauper named Léro, suffering from bleeding ulcers on his left leg which doctors had been unable to cure, spent nine days at the deacon's tomb, praying for a miracle. On the ninth day he rose up, completely cured.

The news spread quickly, and soon a huge crowd had gathered around the tomb, made up of people suffering from all sorts of ailments. Over the next five years, thousands of miraculous cures were reported to have taken place in the cemetery where the deacon lay buried. The scene must have resembled Dante's inferno - imagine one of Mesmer's group sessions, with people going into convulsions, creating an atmosphere akin to mass hysteria, with the added element of torture being administered as penance - beating, burning, stoning, whipping, etc. Strangely enough, in many cases flagella-

tion and other forms of torture actually seemed to improve a patient's condition. By modern standards, of course, the spectacle seems sickening.

The Church, worried about a possible revolt, demanded that King Louis XV put an end to the demonic demonstrations. The king, horrified by accounts of mass hysteria, grotesque convulsions and other bizarre occurrences, closed the cemetery on January 29, 1732.

The people responded by posting a notice on the cemetery gates: As King Louis decreed, God take heed, miracles no more, beyond this door.

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