Convulsionaries of St. Médard

views updated

Convulsionaries of St. Médard

An extraordinary outbreak of convulsions and religious ecstasy occurred during the first half of the eighteenth century in the cemetery of St. Médard, Paris. It was initiated by the Jansenists, a religious group suffering much persecution at the hands of the government and the Church.

The outbreak began with a few isolated cases of miraculous healing. One was the case of a Mlle. Morsaron, a paralytic, who had for her confessor an enthusiastic Jansenist. He recommended that she seek the tomb of St. Francis de Paris in the cemetery of St. Médard. After she had gone there a few times, she recovered her health. The news spread abroad, and other cures followed.

Violent convulsions became a feature of the crisis that preceded these cures. At length, the healing of an unusually obstinate case at the tomb of St. Francis preceded by a crisis of more than ordinary severity, was the signal for a violent outburst of epidemic frenzy. People of both sexes and all ages began to visit.

People from the provinces helped to swell the ranks, until there was not a vacant foot of ground in the neighborhood of St. Médard. On January 27, 1732, the cemetery was closed by order of the king. On its closed gate a wit inscribed the lines.

   De par le roi défense à Dieu
   De faire miracle en ce lieu.

However, the king's ordinance did not put an end to the epidemic, which spread from Paris to many other towns. In 1741ten years after its commencementconvulsionary healing seemed to have died away. In 1759, however, it reappeared in Paris with vigor. It disappeared once more the following year, although isolated examples persisted as late as 1787.


Dingwall, E. J. Some Human Oddities. London: Home & Van Thal, 1947.