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Lateau, Louise

LATEAU, LOUISE

Stigmatic; b. Bois d'Haine, Belgium, Jan. 29, 1850;d. there, Aug. 25, 1883. She came of poor parents. Her health seems to have been good until she was savaged by a cow when she was 13. From that time she suffered successively from abscesses, throat trouble, neuralgic pains, and blood-spitting and was several times believed to be dying. She also began to have visions, and in 1868 she was gradually stigmatized, the wounds in the side, feet, and hands appearing one after the other and bleeding on Fridays, when she also fell into ecstasy. On the other days of the week she continued to work, but she ate practically nothing, and from spring 1871 onward was unable to take any solid food. She drank very little and later, it is alleged, nothing at all. In 1876 she became bedridden and from then on is believed to have lived only on Holy Communion. She also developed other faculties generally associated with stigmatization such as clairvoyance and hierognosis, that is, discernment of blessed objects and of the authenticity of relics.

The phenomena aroused great interest throughout Belgium and elsewhere, and in 1868 an ecclesiastical commission was appointed to investigate them. Its members subjected Louise to severe tests including the "recall," that is, the termination of an ecstasy or trance by a mental or oral command, and by making her work on Fridays in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the phenomena from appearing. The German physician, Prof. R. Virchow, considered her a fraud, but on the other hand, the Belgian Academy of Medicine, after a lengthy investigation, confessed themselves unable to explain the phenomena naturally (see stigmatization).

Bibliography: m. didry and a. wallemacq, Belgian Mystic of the Nineteenth Century: Louise Lateau of Bois-d'Haine, 185053, tr. f. izard (London 1931); La Stigmatisée belge: La servante de Dieu, Louise Lateau, de Bois-d'Haine (3d ed. Louvain 1947). a. thiÉry, Nouvelle Biographie de Louise Lateau d'après les documents authentiques, 3 v. (Louvain 191521).

[h. graef]

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