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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of the Seductions of the Devil




It often happens that the devils transform themselves into angels of light, in order to foster in human hearts whatever is fiendish. In proof of which, a most remarkable instance is subjoined.

When Valentine filled the episcopal see of Arles[1], there stood on the outskirts of the diocese, a castle, the lady of which invariably quitted church before the celebration of mass. This peculiarity gave her husband much uneasiness, and he determined to ascertain the reason of so singular a proceeding. On a certain day, the Gospel being ended, she was about to retire, when, after much violent struggling, she was forcibly detained by her husband and his attendants. The priest then continued the service, and at the instant that he proceeded to consecration, a diabolical spirit, raising himself up, flew away, carrying along with him a portion of the chapel. As for the lady, she was seen no more; and part of the very tower is yet standing, in testimony of the truth of the above relation. (89)


My beloved, the castle is the world; and the lord of it a discreet confessor.


  1. A town in France.


Note 89.Page 317.

Many strange stories are related of spirits; among others, let the reader take the following. A young and beautiful girl, of a noble Scottish family, consorted with a spirit, who was discovered in her bed. The clamour flies abroad, the neighbours come in to be spectators of the wonderment, and amongst them the parson of the parish, who was a scholar, and a man of unblemished life and conversation: who seeing this prodigious spectacle, broke out into these words of St. John the Evangelist, Et verbum caro factum est And the Word was made flesh: which was no sooner spoke, but the devil arose, and suddenly vanished in a terrible storme, carrying with him the roofe of the chamber, and setting fire on the bed wherein he had lien, which was in a moment burned to ashes. Shee was within three days after delivered of a monster, such as the father appeared unto them, of so odible an aspect, that the mid wives caused it instantly to be burnt, lest the infamy of the daughter might too much reflect upon the innocencie of the noble parents."—Heywood's Hierarchie, lib. viii. p. 542.

"Another thing, much more admirable, hapned in the diocese of Cullein. Diuers princes and noblemen being assembled in a beautifull and faire pallace, which was scituate upon the riuer Rhine, they beheld a boat or small barge make toward the shore, drawne by a swan in a siluer chaine, the one end fastened about her necke, the other to the vessel, and in it an unknowne souldier, a man of a comely personage, and graceful presence, who stept upon the shore: which done, the boat, guided by the swan, left him, and floted downe the river. This man fell afterward in league with a faire gentlewoman, married her, and by her had many children. After some yeares, the same swanne came with the same barge unto the same place; the souldier entring into it, was caried thence the way he came, after disappeared, left wife, children, and family, and was never seen amongst them after! Now who can judge this to be other than one of those spirits that are named Incubi."—Ibid, p. 541.

This beautiful incident of the swan drawing the boat, occurs, I think, in Morte Arthur.