ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
incredible time, to stop the bleeding and form the cicatrix. Men who have seen it have written of this and have sworn to the truth of it to me. But any day there may be found those among them who, for ten aspers, will give themselves a very deep slash on the arm or the thigh.
(a) I am very glad that there are witnesses nearer to us, where we are more concerned; for Christendom supplies us with them more than sufficiently. After the example of our blessed exemplar, there have been many who, from devotion, have chosen to suffer greatly. We learn from a witness most worthy of belief, that the King Saint Louis wore a hair-shirt until, in his old age, his confessor dispensed him from it; and that every Friday he had his priest scourge his back with five small iron chains, which, for that purpose, were always carried in a box with the other things that he used at night. Guillaume, our last Duke of Guyenne, father of that Alienor who transmitted this duchy to the royal houses of France and of England, constantly wore, by way of penance, a corselet under the frock of a monk. Fulke, Count of Anjou, went all the way to Jerusalem, to be scourged there by two of his servants, with a rope round his neck, in front of our Lord’s sepulchre. But do we not still see, on every Good Friday, in various places, a great number of men and women scourge themselves even to the tearing of their flesh and wounding to the bone? This I have often seen, and without delusion; and it is said (for
- See Guillaume Postel, Des Histoires Orientales (1540).
- A small Turkish silver coin.
- Porter la croix.
- The “witness” whom Montaigne refers to, he believed to be Joinville; but unfortunately the edition of his Chronicles which Montaigne read was extremely inaccurate, and this statement about King Louis is not found in modern editions.
- Eleanor. She married, first, Louis XI; then, Henry II of England.
- See Jean Bouchet, Annales d’Aquitaine.
- This was Fulke III, who died in 1040. Montaigne found this account in a French translation of the De Rebus Gestis Francorum, of Paulus Æmilius of Verona, published in 1539.
- Montaigne describes in the Journal of his travels a similar scene that he witnessed (some time after this passage was written) in Rome, on Good Friday, 1581.