Tales of the Devil
The following tales are from sermon stories from these three
Jacques de Vitry was born probably before 1180, studied
theology at Paris, and was ordained priest in 1210. He preached
first in 1213 in favor. of the crusade against the Albigenses.
The following year he led a large army of crusaders to the siege
of Toulouse. He next preached a crusade against the Saracens.
In 1214 he was elected bishop of Acre, was approved by the Pope
in 1215, and was consecrated 1216. He took a prominent part in
the crusade of 1218-1221. In the winter of 1219-1220 he wrote
his well known historical work. In 1226 or 1227 he resigned his
bishopric, and devoted himself again to preaching the crusade
against the Albigenses. In1228 he was made a cardinal, and bishop
of Tusculum. In 1239, probably, he was elected patriarch of Jerusalem.
He died about 1240. The anecdotes quoted are taken from the exempla in the sermones vulgares, ad status or ad omne hominum
genus, 74 in number. Thes eexempla have been edited with great
learning by Thomas Frederick Crane, M. A., under the title The
Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, for the Folk Lore Society, 1890.
This is the best work on the subject.
Étienne de Bourbon, a Dominican, was born towards
the end of the twelfth century and died about 1261. In his youth
be passed some years in the schools of the church of Saint-Vincent
at Macon. Later be studied at the University of Paris. In his
writings there are a number of interesting anecdotes concerning
student-life in his days. As an inquisitor he acquired much information
about,the heretics, which he incorporated in his writings. Although
he was zealous in his work he was prudent, and rejected many fables
current about the heretics. He wrote sermons which were popular
and widely used. The title shows his purpose, Tractatus de
diversis materiis praedicabilibus. The tales used in this
pamphlet are from Anecdotes Historiques, Légendes et
Apolologues tirés du recueil inédit d'Etienne de
Bourbon, dominicain duxiiie siècle, publés pour
la Société de l'Histoire de France, par A. Lecoy
de la Marche, Paris, 1877.
Caesar of Heisterbach was born about 1180, possibly in
Cologne, and died before 1250. He was " master of the novices
" and prior in the monastery at Heisterbach. His Dialogue was one of the commonest sources for sermon-stories. The best
edition of his work is Caesarii Heisterbacensis monachi ordinis
Cisterciensis Dialogus Miraculroum, edited by Strange, 2 Vols.,
Paris, 1851. The biographical facts given above are taken mainly
from the introductions to the editions cited.
The object of these sermon-stories was to arouse interest and
to convey moral truths. Jacques de Vitry said, " It is necessary
to employ a great many proverbs, historical stories and anecdotes,
especially when the audience is tired and begins to gett sleepy."
Etienne de Bourbon said that Jacques owed his great success to
this practice. The use of anecdotes spread rapidly and widely,
and many collections have been preserved. For bibliographies and
Hauréau: Notices et Extraits de quelques
manuscrits latins de la Bibliothéque nationale, 6 vols.,
TALES OF THE DEVIL.
1. THE DEVIL CONFESSED THAT HE HAD ENTERED A WOMAN
BECAUSE SHE HAD BEEN DELIVERED TO HIM BY HER HUSBAND
Caesar of Heisterbacb, Dist. V, Cap. XI. (Vol.
I, p. 291)
When our abbot was celebrating mass last year on the Mount of
the Holy Saviour near Aachen, a possessed woman was brought to
him after the mass. When he had read the gospel lesson concerning
the Ascension over her head and at these words, "They shall
lay hands on sick and they shall recover," had placed his
hand upon her head, the devil gave such a terrible roar that we
were all terrified. Adjured depart, he replied, "The Most
High does not wish it yet." When asked in what manner he
entered, he did not reply nor did he permit the woman to reply.
Afterward she confessed that when her husband in anger said, "Go
to the devil 1" she felt the latter enter through her ear.
Moreover that woman was from the province of Aachen and very well
2. CONCERNIG GERARD, A KINGHT, WHOM THE DEVIL CARRIED
IN A MOMENT FROM THE CHURCH OF ST. THOMAS IN INDAI TO HIS OWN
Caesar of Heisterbacb, Dist. VIII, Cap. LIX. (Vol.II,
In a village which is called Holenbach there lived a certain knight
named Gerard. His grandsons are still living, and hardly a man
can found in that village who does not know the miracle which
I am king to tell about him. He loved St. Thomas the Apostle so
ardently and honored him so especially above the other saints
that he never refused any pauper seeking alms in the name of that
one. Moreover he was accustomed to offer to the saint Many private
services, such as prayers, fasts and the celebration of masses.
One day, by the permission of God, the devil, the enemy of all
good men, knocking at the knight's gate, in the form and dress
of a pilgrim, sought hospitality in the name of St. Thomas. He
was admitted with all haste and, since it was chilly and he pretended
to be catching cold, Gerard gave to him his own fur cape, which
was not badly worn, to cover himself with when he went to bed.
When the next morning he who had seemed a pilgrim did not appear,
and the cape was sought and not found, his wife in anger said
to the knight, " You have often been deceived by wanderers
of this kind and yet You persist in your superstitions But he
replied calmly, "Do not be disturbed, St. Thomas will certainly
make good this loss to us." The devil did this in order to
provoke the knight to impatience on account of the loss of his
cape, and to extinguish in his heart his love for the Apostle.
But what the devil had prepared for his destruction redounded
to the glory of the knight; by it the latter was incited the more
strongly, the former was confused and punished. For after a little
time Gerard wanted to go to the abode of St. Thomas, and when
he was all ready to start, he broke a gold ring into two pieces
before the eyes of his wife, and joining them together in her
presence, gave one piece to her and kept the other himself, saying,
"You ought to trust this token. Moreover, I ask you to wait
five years for my return, and after that you can marry any one
you please." And she promised.
He went on a very long journey and at length with great expense
and very great labor reached the city of St. Thomas the Apostle.
There he was saluted most courteously by the citizens and received
with as great kindness as if he had been one of them and well
known to them. Ascribing this favor to the blessed Apostle he
entered the oratory and prayed, commending himself, his wife,
and all his possessions to the saint. After this, remembering
the limit fixed, and thinking that the five years ended on that
very day, he groaned and said, "Alas! my wife will now marry
some other man." God had delayed his journey on account of
what is to follow.
When he looked around in sorrow he saw the above mentioned demon
walking about in his cape. And the demon said, "Do you know
me, Gerard?" He said, it No, I do not know you, but I know
cape." The demon replied, "I am he who sought hospitality
from you in the name of the Apostle; and I carried off your cape,
for which I have been severely punished." And he added, "I
am the devil, and I am commanded to carry you back tto your own
house before nightfall, because your wife has married another
man and is now sitting with him at the wedding banquet."
Taking him up, the devil crossed in part of a day from India to
Germany, from the east to the west, and about twilight placed
him in his own house without injury
Entering his own house like a stranger, when he saw his own wif
eating with her spouse, he drew near and in her sight taking out
the half of the ring, he sent it to her in a cup. When she saw
it, she immediately took it out and joining it to the part given
to her she recognized him as her husband. Immediately jumping
up she rushed to embrace him, proclaiming that he was her husband
Gerard and saying good-bye to her spouse. Nevertheless, out of
courtesy Gerard kept the latter with him that night.
In this as in the preceding miracle it is sufficiently evident
how much the blessed Apostles love and glorify those who love
3. TWO HERETICS WORKED MIRACLES BY THE AID OF THE
Caesar of Heisterbach, Dist. V, Cap. XVIII. (Vol
I, pp. 296, ff.)
Two men simply clad, but not without guile, not sheep but ravening
wolves, came to Besançon, feigning the greatest piety.
Moreover they were pale and thin, they went about barefooted and
fasted daily, they did not miss a single night the matins in the
cathedral, nor did they accept anything from any one except a
little food. When by such hypocrisy they had attracted the attention
of every one, they began to vomit forth their hidden poison and
to preach to the ignorant new and unheard of heresies. In order,
moreover, that the people might believe their teachings they ordered
meal to be sifted on the sidewalk and walked on it without leaving
a trace of a footprint. Likewise walking upon the water they could
not be immersed; also, they had little huts burnt over their heads,
and after those had been burnt to ashes, they came out uninjured.
After this they said to the people, 'If you do not believe our
words, believe our miracles."
The bishop and the clergy hearing of this were greatly disturbed.
And when they wished to resist those men, affirming that they
were heretics and deceivers and ministers of the devil, they escaped
with difficulty from being stoned by the people. Now that bishop
was a good and learned man and a native of our province. Our aged
monk, Conrad, who told me these facts and who was in that city
at the time, knew him well.
The bishop seeing that his words were of no avail and that the
people entrusted to his charge were being subverted from the faith
by the devil's agents, summoned a certain clerk that he knew,
who was very well versed in necromancy, and said, "Certain
men in my city are doing so and so. I ask you to find out from
the devil by your art who they are, whence they come, and by what
means so many and so wonderful miracles are wrought. For it is
impossible that they should do wonders through divine inspiration
when their teaching is so contrary to God's." The clerk said,
"My lord, I have long renounced that art." The bishop
replied, "You see clearly in what straits I am. I must either
acquiesce in their teachings or be stoned by the people. Therefore
I enjoin upon you for the remission of your sins that yon obey
me in this matter."
The clerk, obeying the bishop, summoned the devil, and when asked
why he had called him responded, "I am sorry that I have
deserted you. And because I desire to be more obedient to you
in the future than in the past, I ask you to tell me who these
men are, what they teach, and by what means they work so great
miracles." The devil replied, "They are mine and sent
by me, and they preach what I have placed in their mouths."
The clerk responded, "How is it that they cannot be injured,
or sunk in the water, or burned by fire?" The demon replied
again, "They have under their arm-pits, sewed between the
skin and the flesh, my compacts in which the homage done by them
to me is written; and by virtue of these they work such miracles
and can not be injured by any one." Then the clerk, "What
if those should be taken away from them?" The devil replied,
"Then they would be weak, just like other men." The
clerk having heard this, thanked the demon, saying, "Now
go, and when you are summoned by me, return."
He went to the bishop and recited these things to him in order.
The latter filled with great joy summoned all the people of the
city to a suitable place and said, "I am your shepherd, ye
are my sheep. If those men, as you say, confirm their teaching
by signs, I will follow them with you. If not, it is fitting that
they should be punished and that you should penitently return
to the faith of your fathers with me." The people replied,
,We have seen many signs from them. The bishop replied "But
I have not seen them." Why protract my words? The plan pleased
the people. The heretics were summoned. A fire was kindled in
the midst of the city. Nevertheless before the heretics entered
it, they were secretly summoned to the bishop. He said to them,
"I want to see if you have any evil about you." Hearing
this they stripped quickly and said with great confidence, "Search
our bodies and our garments carefully." The soldiers, truly,
following the instructions of the bishop, raised their arms and
noticing under the arm-pits some scars that were healed up broke
them open with their knives and extracted from them the little
scrolls which had been sewed in.
Having received these the bishop went forth with the heretics
to the people and, having commanded silence, cried out in a loud
voice, "Now shall your prophets enter the fire, and if they
are not injured I will believe in them." The wretched men
trembled and said, "We ar not able to enter now." Then
the bishop told the people of the evil which had been detected,
and showed the compacts. Then all furious hurled the devil's ministers,
to be tortured with the devil in eternal flames, into the fire
which had been prepared. And thus through the grace of God and
the zeal of the bishop the growing heresy was extinguished and
the people who had been seduced and corrupted were cleansed by
University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations
and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published
for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia,
University of Pennsylvania Press [1897?-1907?]. Vol II, No 4,
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