Vintras, Eugène (1807-1875)
Vintras, Eugène (1807-1875)
A Normandy peasant of great devoutness, who in the year 1839 was nominated by a strange sect named the Saviours of Louis XVII as a fitting successor to their prophet Thomas Martin who had just died. The sect believed that the child of Louis XVII and Marie Antoinette did not die in prison and would be restored to the throne of France. The Saviours addressed a letter to the pretended Louis XVII and arranged that it should fall into the hands of Vintras. It abounded in good promises for the reign to come and in mystical expressions calculated to attract the attention of a naive excitable character as they believed Vintras to be. Later, in a letter, Vintras himself described the manner in which this communication reached him as follows:
"Towards nine o'clock I was occupied in writing, when there was a knock at the door of the room in which I sat, and supposing that it was a workman who came on business, I said rather brusquely, 'Come in.' Much to my astonishment, in place of the expected workman, I saw an old man in rags. I asked merely what he wanted. He answered with much tranquility, 'Don't disturb yourself, Pierre Michel.' Now, these names are never used in addressing me, for I am known everywhere as Eugène, and even in signing documents I do not make use of my first names. I was conscious of a certain emotion at the old man's answer, and this increased when he said: 'I am utterly tired, and wherever I appear they treat me with disdain, or as a thief.' The words alarmed me considerably, though they were spoken in a saddened and even a woeful tone. I arose and placed a ten sous piece in his hand, saying, 'I do not take you for that, my good man,' and while speaking I made him understand that I wished to see him out. He received it in silence but turned his back with a pained air. No sooner had he set foot on the last step than I shut the door and locked it. I did not hear him go down, so I called a workman and told him to come up to my room. Under some business pretext, I was wishing him to search with me all the possible places which might conceal my old man, whom I had not seen go out. The workman came accordingly. I left the room in his company, again locking my door. I hunted through all the nooks and corners, but saw nothing.
"I was about to enter the factory when I heard on a sudden the bell ringing for mass, and felt glad that, notwithstanding the disturbance, I could assist at the sacred ceremony. I ran back to my room to obtain a prayer book and, on the table where I had been writing, I found a letter addressed to Mme. de Generès in London; it was written and signed by M. Paul de Montfleury of Caen, and embodied a refutation of heresy, together with a profession of orthodox faith. The address notwithstanding, this letter was intended to place before the Duke of Normandy the most important truths of our holy Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion. On the document was laid the ten sous piece which I had given to the old man."
Vintras immediately concluded that the bringer of the letter was a messenger from heaven and became devoted to the cause of Louis XVII. He became a visionary. He had bloody sweats, he saw hearts painted with his own blood appear on hosts, accompanied by inscriptions in his own spelling. Many believed him a prophet and followed him, among them several priests, who alleged that they partook of his occult vision. Doctors analyzed the fluid which flowed from the hosts and certified it to be human blood. While his enemies referred these miracles to the devil, a small band regarded Vintras as a new Christ.
But one follower named Gozzoli published scandalous accounts of his activities, alleging that horrible obscenities and sacrilegious masses took place in their private chapel at Tillysur-seules. The unspeakable abominations alluded to were contained in a pamphlet entitled Le Prophète Vintras (1851). The sect was formally condemned by the pope, and in response Vintras designated himself sovereign Pontiff.
He was arrested on a charge of exploiting his followers for money, tried at Caen, and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. When freed in 1845, he went to England and in London resumed his leadership role. In the relative freedom provided in England, he carried on the group's affairs for some time and eventually returned to France and settled in Lyons.
Waite, Arthur E. Studies in Mysticism. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906.