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The Pope-maker, Or The Holy Man
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The Pope-maker, Or The Holy Man
By Monseigneur de Crequy
_Of a hermit who deceived the daughter of a poor woman, making her
believe that her daughter should have a son by him who should become
Pope; and how, when she brought forth it was a girl, and thus was the
trickery of the hermit discovered, and for that cause he had to flee
from that countery._
The borders of Burgundy furnish many adventures worthy to be written and
remembered, and have provided the present story, not to speak of many
others which could be related. I will here only speak of an adventure
which happened formerly in a big village on the river Ousche.
There was, and is still, a mountain near, on which a hermit--of
God knows what sort--made his residence, and who under the cloak of
hypocrisy did many strange things, which did not come to the knowledge
of the common people until the time when God would no longer suffer his
most damnable abuses to continue.
This holy hermit was during all his life as lewd and mischievous as an
old ape, but surpassed all ordinary mortals in cunning. And this is what
He sought amongst all the women and pretty girls the one most worthy to
be loved and desired, and resolved that it was the daughter of a poor,
simple woman,--a widow who was very devout and charitable--and made up
his mind that, if he could have his way, she should become his prey.
One night, about midnight, when the weather was very rough and stormy,
he descended from the mountain and came to the village, and passing by
bye-roads and footpaths, came to where the mother and daughter lived,
without being seen or heard. He knew the house, which was not large, and
to which he had often been for devotional purposes.
He bored a hole in a part of the wall not exposed, and near the spot
where stood the bed of the simple widow woman, and passing a long,
hollow stick, with which he was provided, and without awaking the widow,
placed it near her ear, and said in a low voiced three times,
"Hear my voice, woman of God. I am an angel of the Creator, and have
been sent to you to announce that for your many good deeds which you
have performed there shall issue from your seed, that is your daughter,
one who shall unite, reform, and restore his bride the Church. And it
shall be in this manner. Thou shalt go to the mountain, to the holy
hermit, and take thy daughter, and relate to him at length that which
God now commands you by me. He shall know thy daughter, and from them
shall spring a son, the elect of God, and destined to fill the Holy Seat
of Rome, who shall do such good deeds that he may fitly be compared to
St. Peter and St. Paul. Hearken to my voice! Obey God!"
The foolish widow, much astonished and surprised, and half ravished with
delight, really believed that God had sent this messenger. She vowed to
herself that she would not disobey, and it was long ere she slept again,
and then not very soundly, so greatly did she desire and await the day.
Meanwhile the good hermit returned to his hermitage in the mountain. The
much-desired day at last dawned, and the sun pierced into the chamber of
the said widow, and both mother and daughter rose in great haste.
When they were up and dressed, and their little household set in order,
the mother asked her daughter if she had heard anything in the night.
The daughter replied, "No, mother; nothing."
"It was not to you," said the mother, "that the message was first
delivered, albeit it concerns you greatly."
Then she related at length the angel's message which God had sent her,
and asked her what she should reply thereto?
The girl, who was like her mother, simple and devout, replied; "Praise
be to God. Whatever pleases you, mother, shall be done."
"That is well spoken," replied the mother. "Let us go to the mountain to
the holy man, as the angel bade us."
The hermit was on the watch to see whether the foolish woman would bring
her innocent daughter, and beheld them coming. He left his door half
open, and knelt down in prayer in his chamber, in order that he might be
found at his devotions.
It happened as he wished, for the good woman and her daughter, when they
saw the door open, entered at once; and when they beheld the hermit in
holy contemplation, as though he had been a god, they did homage to him.
The hermit, with his eyes bent down to the earth, said in a humble
voice; "God save you both."
Then the poor, old woman, anxious that he should know the cause of her
coming, took him on one side, and told him from beginning to end the
story--which he knew better than she did. And as she related the tale
with great veneration and respect, the hermit folded his hands and
turned up his eyes to heaven, and the good old woman wept, more for joy
than for grief; and the poor girl also wept when she saw this good and
holy hermit pray with such deep devotion she did not know why.
When the story was finished, the old woman awaited the reply, which he
did not hasten to give. But after a certain time he spoke, and said,
"Praise be to God! But, my dear friend, are you really sure that the
message you say you heard, may not have been some fancy or illusion
created by your own heart? The matter is a serious one."
"I certainly heard the voice, father, which brought me this joyful
message, as plainly as I now hear you, and I do not think I was asleep."
"Well," said he, "I should be unwilling to act against the wishes of my
Creator; but it seems best to me that you and I should again sleep upon
this matter, and if the angel should appear to you again, come back and
tell me, and God will give us good counsel. We should not believe too
readily, good mother. The devil, who is always envious of the good, has
many tricks, and can change himself into an angel of light. Believe me,
mother, it is no light thing you ask of me, and it is no marvel if I
seem to hesitate. Have I not sworn before God, a vow of chastity? And
here you bring me word that I am to break my oath! Return to your house
and pray to God, and to-morrow we shall see what will happen. God be
After much discussion, they left the hermit and returned home
To cut the story short, our hermit, at the accustomed time set forth,
carrying a hollow stick instead of a staff, and putting it near the
pillow of the foolish woman, delivered much the same message as on the
previous night; and that being done, returned at once to his hermitage.
The good woman, filled with joy, rose early and related all the story
to her daughter, showing how the vision of the previous night had been
confirmed. "There is no time to be lost! We must go to the holy man!"
They went, and he saw them coming, and took his breviary and acted the
hypocrite as before, but God knows he was not thinking of his devotions.
And just as he had finished, and was about to recommence, there were the
two women in front of his hut saluting him, and you may fancy that the
old lady hurried through her narration; whereupon the good man made the
sign of the cross, and feigning great surprise, said,
"Oh God! my Creator! What is this? Do with me as you will--though, if
it were not for thy great grace, I am not worthy to perform such a great
"But see, father!" said the much-abused and deceived woman: "the message
is true, since the angel has again appeared unto me."
"In truth, my dear friend, this matter is of great importance and very
difficult and strange, so that I yet can give but a doubtful reply.
Not that I would tempt God by demanding another vision, but there is a
saying 'The third time is sure'. Therefore I beg and desire of you to
let pass this night also, and await the pleasure of God, and if of His
great mercy it please Him to show us also this night as on the previous
nights, we will do as He bids us to His praise."
It was not with a good grace that the foolish old woman was induced to
put off this act of obedience to God, but she knew the hermit was wiser
than she was.
When she was in bed, and thinking over all these marvellous visions,
this perverse hypocrite came down from his mountain, placed his hollow
stick to her ear, as before, and commanded her, once for all, to
obey the message and take her daughter to the hermit for the purpose
She did not forget, as soon as it was day, to do her duty, and when
she and her daughter had given thanks to God, they set out for the
hermitage, where the hermit came forth to meet them, and saluted and
blessed them in the name of God.
The good woman, more joyous than ever, informed him of the last vision.
The hermit took her by the hand and led her into the chapel, and
the girl followed them. There they made most devout prayers to the
all-powerful God who had vouchsafed to show them this mystery.
Then the hermit delivered a short sermon, touching dreams, visions,
apparitions, and revelations, which often come to certain people, and
alluded to the cause for which they were there assembled, and God knows
that he preached well and righteously.
"Since God willed and commanded that he should create a successor to the
Pope, and had deigned to reveal His will not once or twice, but three
times, he must needs believe and conclude that great results must follow
from this deed. It is my opinion," he concluded, "that we should no
longer defer the execution of His orders, seeing that we have already
delayed so long, through refusing to believe in this holy vision."
"That is well said, father. What would it please you to do?" replied the
"You will leave your fair daughter here," said the hermit, "and she and
I will pray together, and moreover do whatever God shall teach us."
The good widow was much pleased, and her daughter was content to obey.
When the hermit found himself alone with the damsel, he made her strip
entirely as though he would baptise her, and you may fancy that the
hermit did not long remain dressed. But why make a long story? He lay
with her so long, and so often repeated it both in his cell and at her
home, that at last she could not leave the house for shame, for her
belly began to swell,--at which you need not be told she was overjoyed.
But if the daughter rejoiced to find herself pregnant, the mother
rejoiced a hundred times more, and the hypocritical hermit also
pretended to rejoice at the news, though inwardly he was bitterly vexed.
The poor credulous mother, really believing that her daughter would
bring forth a son who should in due time be Pope of Rome, could not
help relating the story to one of her intimate friends, who was as
much astonished as though she had found horns growing on her head, but,
nevertheless, suspected no trickery.
Ere long the neighbour had told the other male and female neighbours,
how the daughter of such an one was pregnant by the holy hermit of a son
who was to be Pope of Rome.
"And what I tell you," she said, "the mother of the girl told me, and
God revealed it to her."
The news soon spread through all the neighbouring towns. Soon afterwards
the girl was brought to bed, and duly delivered of a female child, at
which she and her foolish mother were both astonished and angry, and
the neighbours also, who expected the holy hermit to have been there to
receive the child.
The report spread quite as quickly as the previous one, and the hermit
was one of the first to hear of it, and quickly fled into another
country--I know not where--to deceive another woman or girl, or perhaps
into the desert of Egypt to perform penance, with a contrite heart, for
his sin. However that may be, the poor girl was dishonoured; which was a
great pity, for she was fair, good, and amiable.
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