Convulsionaries of St. Médard
An extraordinary outbreak of convulsions and religious ecstasy
occurred during the first half of the eighteenth century in
the cemetery of St. Médard, Paris. It was initiated by the Jansenists,
a religious group suffering much persecution at the
hands of the government and the Church.
The outbreak began with a few isolated cases of miraculous
healing. One was the case of a Mlle. Morsaron, a paralytic, who
had for her confessor an enthusiastic Jansenist. He recommended
that she seek the tomb of St. Francis de Paris in the
cemetery of St. Médard. After she had gone there a few times,
she recovered her health. The news spread abroad, and other
cures followed.
Violent convulsions became a feature of the crisis that preceded
these cures. At length, the healing of an unusually obstinate
case at the tomb of St. Francis preceded by a crisis of more
than ordinary severity, was the signal for a violent outburst of
epidemic frenzy. People of both sexes and all ages began to
People from the provinces helped to swell the ranks, until
there was not a vacant foot of ground in the neighborhood of
St. Médard. On January 27, 1732, the cemetery was closed by
order of the king. On its closed gate a wit inscribed the lines.
De par le roi défense à Dieu
De faire miracle en ce lieu.
However, the king’s ordinance did not put an end to the epidemic,
which spread from Paris to many other towns. In
1741—ten years after its commencement—convulsionary healing
seemed to have died away. In 1759, however, it reappeared
in Paris with vigor. It disappeared once more the following
year, although isolated examples persisted as late as 1787.
Dingwall, E. J. Some Human Oddities. London Home & Van
Thal, 1947.