Paul Mercuri, Medieval nun, ca. 1850-70

In Anglia vir quidam religiosus monasterio praefuit sanctimonialium. erat autem staturae procerae, decorus aspectu, genas habens rubicundas, oculos laetos, ita ut vix aliquis aliquid in eo religiositatis esse crederet, qui virtutes animi illius ignoraret. in cuius contemplatione iuvencula quaedam illius congregationis adeo coepit tentari, et tam gravissime stimulis carnis agitari, ut verecundia postposita passionem suam illi aperiret. expavit vir sanctus, et quia timor Dei ante oculos eius fuit, coepit virginem, in quantum potuit, avertere, dicens: “Christi sponsa es, et si Domini mei sponsam corrupero, non patietur impune transire, neque homines diu poterit latere.” dicente illa, “si non consenseris mihi, moriar” respondit ille: “ex quo aliter esse non potest, fiat ut vis. in quo ergo loco conveniemus?” respondit illa: “ubicumque tibi placuerit, ego in hac nocte veniam ad te.” ad quod ille: “oportet ut in die fiat” ostenditque virgini domum in pomerio, monens et praecipiens, ut nemine sciente, nemine vidente, tali hora illuc veniret. quae cum venisset, dixit vir Dei ad eam: “domina, dignum est et vobis expedit, ut corpus meum, quod tam ardenter concupiscitis, prius inspiciatis, et si tunc placuerit, desiderio vestro per illud satisfaciatis.” hoc dicto, illa tacente, vestimenta sua exuit, cilicium asperrimum quo indutus erat, ad carnem deposuit, corpusque nudum vermibus corrosum, cilicio attritum, scabiosum atque nigerrimum illi ostendens, ait: “en quod amas, exple nunc si placet voluptatem tuam. videns haec illa, expavit, et nunc in pallorem, nunc in ruborem versa, ad pedes eius ruens, veniam postulavit. cui ille: “revertere secrete in monasterium tuum, et vide ne me vivente prodas secretum meum.” ab illa hora tentatio, quam visus incautus in virgine excitaverat, conquievit.
(Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum 4.103)

In England there was a certain spiritually-minded man who was set to preside over a convent of nuns. Now he was of tall stature, and comely to look upon, with ruddy cheeks and bright eyes, so that scarcely any, who were ignorant of his spiritual qualities, would have guessed at the depth of his religion. One of the younger nuns of that community, by often gazing upon him, began to be so tempted and so grievously troubled by the stings of the flesh, that at last she put away all modesty and opened to him her passion. The holy man, having the fear of God before his eyes, was horrified, and tried by all means in his power to divert the maiden’s thoughts, saying: “You are the spouse of Christ; if I were to corrupt the spouse of my Lord, He would not suffer it to pass with impunity; neither could such a crime long lied hidden from the eyes of men.” Then she said that if he would not consent, she would die; and he replied: “Since it cannot be otherwise, let it be as you wish. Where then shall we meet?” She answered: “This night I will come to you wherever you may appoint.” Then he said: “No, it must take place in daylight”; and he showed the maiden a shed in the orchard, solemnly charging her to come thither at a certain hour without anyone seeing or knowing. She came, and the man of God said to her: “Lady, it is right and expedient for you that you should first see this body of mine, which you so eagerly desire, and then if it still pleases you, you can satisfy yourself with it.” When he had thus spoken and she remained silent, he put off his garments, took off the rough hair shirt which he wore next his person, and showed her his naked body, eaten with vermin, scarred with the hair shirt, covered with sores, and black with grime, and said: “See what it is that you love, and take your pleasure if you still desire it.” When she saw this proof of his austerity, her heart sank within her, and turning now red and now pale, she cast herself at his feet and besought pardon. Then he: “Go back secretly into your convent, and see that you do not betray my secret till after my death.” From that hour the temptation, which had been aroused in the virgin by the wantonness of unbridled eyes, departed from her for ever. (tr. G.G. Coulton & Eileen Power)

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