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145. The Stigmata

274

In 1222, a council was held at Oxford by the archbishop of Canterbury for reformation of the state ecclesiastical, and the religion of the monks. “In which council” says Holinshed, “two naughtie fellows wer presented before him that of 275late had been apprehended, either of them naming himself Christ, and preaching many things against such abuses as the clergy in those days used. Moreover to prove their error to have a show of truth, they showed certain tokens and signs of wounds in the body, hands, and feet, like unto our Saviour Jesus, that was nailed on the cross. In the end being well apposed, they were found to be but false dissemblers; wherefore by doom of that council they were judged to be nailed to a cross of wood, and so those to whom the execution was assigned had them forth to a place called Arborberie, where they nailed them to a cross, and there left them till they were dead.” This is the only instance of crucifixion I have met with in any christian persecution, perhaps the only one of this mode of punishment in any christian country, since it was abolished by a feeling which might have been supposed to be inseparable from Christianity. The stigmata are proofs sufficient of imposture, and 276it is this circumstance which has made me notice a fact that might otherwise have well been past over with a silent shuddering. For two years afterwards Francesco of Assissi succeeded in the blasphemous trick for which these men were put to death. Is there any earlier example of it? It was often repeated in the golden age of catholic frauds till the detection of the Dominicans at Berne in their cruel and over-acted delusions upon Jetzer, and the discovery shortly afterwards of Maria da Visitiçam at Lisbon, brought it into disrepute.