Friday, 8 April 2016

Miracle cures - Restout's illustrations (cont)

Here are the cures from the first volume of Montgeron's with their paired illustrations:

Alphonse de Palacio

Montgeron's first case was neither a woman nor a humble working person.  Dom Alphonse de Palacio, was the sixteen-year old son of a Spanish court official,in Paris studying at the Collège de Navarre.  He had been almost blinded in an accident and sought the aid of Europe's leading oculists to no avail.  Having already lost the sight of his left eye, his right one was so inflamed and weakened that on 30th June 1731 Mr Gendron, doctor to the duke of Orléans certified his condition as incurable. He was unable to bear any light. On 2nd July, when he lay his head on the tomb of the Deacon, the sight in his right eye was perfectly restored so that "he could bear with no discomfort the rays of the sun"; he rushed home and stayed up all night to commit his testimony to paper.

 Marguerite Thibault

The Demoiselle Thibault, a elderly woman of 65, was cured at the tomb on 19th June 1731. Her body had become so wretchedly swollen with dropsy that her ulcerated fingers appeared fused together and she had become unable to move left side. Restout captures the dramatic moment which she herself orchestrated (and perhaps restaged for him); she had herself laid at the foot of the tomb on the sheet destined to serve as her shroud, whilst on the stone itself are the slippers that she will wear if healed.  Her incredulous servant looks on. So instantaneous was the cure, that her fluid-filled limbs deflating before the eyes of the spectators.  She was healed so completely that she was said to have jumped around and climbed stairs like a child; six surgeons subsequently certified that she had no paralysis in her joints.

Marie-Anne Couronneau

Another woman in her late sixties, Anne-Marie Couronneau was a servant, though a respectable one - her father had been a rich Protestant merchant from Saumur (she herself was a devout Catholic convert). She had recently smitten by a paralysis which left her unable to speak or move her left side.  Again, she was instantaneously cured at the tomb of the diacre Pâris, on 13th June 1731; her deposition describes a sudden feeling of extraordinary lightness which suffused her body, accompanied by shudders in her paralysed side. Restout captures two moments from her story; in the first picture she is shown stubbornly dragging herself unaided to the cemetery on crutches, using a sling to manoeuvre her useless leg.  In the second, after the cure, she races upstairs, energetically waving the now-redundant crutches.

Marguerite-Françoise Duchêne

At the age of 21 in 1726 a heavy shop sign had fallen on Marguerite-Françoise Duchêne's head. Further falls compounded her misfortunes.  Hers was a gruesome cocktail of illness "a sort of slow dying over several years" - headaches, ruptured blood vessels in her stomach, which induced daily bloody vomiting, inflamed tumours in her side, hydropsy, paralysis and apoplectic fits.

Brought to the cemetery, she experienced progressive healing during several visits which took place between 16th and 21st July 1731. She was one of the first recorded to have experienced convulsion-like movements:  "From the first moment that la demoiselle Duchene was placed on the tomb, all her members were agitated with an inconceivable force".  On first day, her headaches, sickness and vomiting disappeared. Next day her chest deflated and she was able to speak. Her tumour subsequently disappeared.  On the 19th her hydropsy  dispelled in a prodigious sweat before eyes of onlookers.  Finally she was relieved of her paralysis  able to walk normally.

Philippe Sergent

Like Louise Beignet Philippe Sergent was a worker in the textile trades. A wool carder from Dinant near Liège,  he had suffered from rheumatism and paralysis over many years, to the extent that the right side of his body had atrophied, particularly his leg. He had come to Paris and been admitted to the Bicêtre shortly before his miraculous cure.  Montgeron relates movingly his struggle to journey from the hospital to his uncle's house.  By the time he came to the cemetery, supported by his wife, he was close to death, with his skin turning blue.  On 10th July 1731, the third day of his vigil, he dramatically recovered. He testified to feeling the strength "rush" back into his limbs which, although they remained wasted, instantaneously regained their normal  colour. He immediately went to the sacristy to make his deposition, abandoning his crutch and stick.  Physicians at Bicêtre verified his complete return to health.  He resumed his trade, living very modestly despite bribes that were apparently offered to him to deny his miraculous cure. In  April 1732,  warned that Hérault intended to have him imprisoned, he left Paris and henceforth followed a nomadic existence, staying at various times in Reims, Dinant, Naumur, Mons and Liège.

The case of Philippe Sergent, with his blue limbs, was later picked out by the famous 19th-century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot as an example of a hysterical paralysis known as "blue oedema", which he described in his famous book on faith-healing, La Foi qui guérit (1892) See:

Pierre Gautier

Restout's preliminary sketch
Taking place in April / May 1733,  Pierre Gautier's cure is an example of a miracle accomplished at a distance through the intercession of diacre Pâris. The 17-years old "of obscure condition" from Pézenas in Languedoc was almost blind, having lost the sight of his left eye after smallpox at the age of five and recently been injured in the right eye with a bodkin. In April 1733 after praying to the Deacon, his right eye miraculously recovered. Sceptics were silenced when  a second miracle resulted in scar tissue falling from his left eye, resulting in the complete recovery of his sight.  Restout's slightly startling illustrations carefully capture the condition of the eyes before and after.  Bishop Colbert of Montpellier was so impressed  by the miracle that he personally summoned the boy for inspection, and wrote a letter to Louis XV confirming his miraculous cure.

Louise Coirin

Louise Coirin too was cured without visiting the cemetery personally at all. Since 1716 she had suffered from a horrible breast tumour and paralysis in her side; she asked friends to take some of her clothing to the tomb and pray for her. On 12 August 1731 soil from the grave site was brought to her bedside and she began miraculously to heal;  her full recovery took place over the weeks that followed.

This cure was more protracted than some and might seem more susceptible to rational explanation, though at this distance it is impossible to offer a proper medical diagnosis. Somewhat surprisingly, given the gruesome physical symptoms, Jean-Martin Charcot singled it out in support of his theory of "blue oedema":

The most famous case--that of Mlle. Coirin--has been carefully examined by Dr. Charcot:

Mlle. Coirin had a dangerous fall from her horse, in September 1716, in her thirty-first year. The medical details may be looked for in Dr.Charcot's essay or in Montgeron. 'Her disease was diagnosed as cancer of the left breast,' the nipple 'fell off bodily.' Amputation of the breast was proposed, but Madame Coirin, believing the disease to be radically incurable, refused her consent. Paralysis of the left side set in (1718), the left leg shrivelling up. On August 9, 1731, Mlle. Coirin 'tried the off chance' of a miracle, put on a shift that had touched the tomb of Paris, and used some earth from the grave.  On August 11, Mlle.Coirin could turn herself in bed; on the 12th the horrible wound 'was staunched, and began to close up and heal.'  The paralysed side recovered life and its natural proportions. By September 3, Mlle. Coirin could go out for a drive.

 All her malady, says Dr. Charcot, paralysis, 'cancer,' and all, was 'hysterical;' 'hysterical oedema,' for which he quotes many French  authorities and one American. 'Under the physical [psychical?] influence brought to bear by the application of the shift ... the oedema, which was due to vaso-motor trouble, disappeared almost instantaneously. The breast regained its normal size.' 
[quoted in Andrew Lang, The Making of Religion, 1890-1]

Marie Carteri

Marie Carteri was a young woman  brought to Paris from Nanterre by her parents and cured at Saint-Médard on 4th September 1731.  She suffered from fistulas of the lacrymosal glands of her eye, with an advanced infection which had eaten into the bone of her nose and caused her face to swell horribly.  It is difficult to understand how this affliction can have been cured spontaneously; however, this case is yet another example of the misery inflicted by quite simple medical conditions in the 18th-century - eyes are particularly vulnerable  to injury and untreated infection.

Louise Hardouin

The case of Demoiselle Hardouin was the first certified and widely publicised cure  to feature convulsions.  A seamstress (maîtresse-couturière) aged 39, she had become progressively paralysed in her legs and left side following a stroke in 1725; in 1731 a further stroke now left her completely helpless, unable to walk or talk.  Near death, on 2nd August 1731 she had herself taken to the cemetery in a sedan chair;  Restout captures the moment when she is manoeuvred out still huddled in the chair in which she had fainted.  When laid on the tomb, her body twisted with convulsions, but soon "tranquility, repose and peace replaced the violent tremors".  To the amazement of onlookers she was able to walk back to her carriage unaided


Plates from:

Summaries of Montgeron's text:  P.-F. Mathieu, Histoire des miraculés et des convulsionnaires de Saint-Médard (Didier, 1864) p.115ff.

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