Summons by the Dying

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Summons by the Dying

It was once maintained by theologians that if anyone who was unjustly accused or persecuted should, with his dying breath, summon his oppressor to appear before the supreme tribunal, the person thus summoned would die on the day fixed by his innocent victim. Thus the grand master of the Templars cited the pope and the king of France to appear before God on a certain date, and as the story goes, both died at the appointed time.

François I, duke of Brittany, hired assassins to murder his brother in 1450. The dying prince summoned his murderer before the highest of all courts, and François shortly expired. Yet another instance is that of Ferdinand IV of Spain, who was summoned by two nobles whom he had condemned unjustly; he died at the end of 30 days.

Many more examples could be quoted to show how firmly rooted was this belief in the power of the dying to avenge their death by supernatural means. Fear, and possibly remorse, acting on the imagination of the guilty person might well cause him to expire at the stated time, and authenticated accounts of death caused by these agents are not unknown. This conclusion is further borne out by the fact that if the condemned man was guiltythat is, if the judge's conscience was clearthe summons had no effect.

An old story tells of Gonzalo of Cordova (1453-1515), who sentenced a soldier to death for sorcery. The soldier exclaimed that he was innocent and summoned Gonzalo to appear before God. "Go, then," said the judge, "and hasten the proceedings.

My brother who is in heaven, will appear for me." Gonzalo did not die at that time, as he believed he had acted justly and had no fear of the consequences of the summons.

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Summons by the Dying

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