Jules, a 4th century Egyptian, let himself be carried away by his irrepressible need to write about the martyrdom of persecuted Christians. When Christianity became an official religion in the Roman Empire with the Edict of Constantine, as people were no longer executed he lost his subject and his reason for living. How to go on living under these circumstances, with a family who bore him to death?
On her death bed, Mother Giacinta confessed to the priest who’d been sent for that she had mortified herself strictly out of vanity: closed away in a convent against her will, she decided to become the ugliest girl there so that the other nuns, apparently less advanced than her, would admire her on her way to sainthood.
Shortly before the French Revolution, Élisabeth Verchière joined the order of the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament to avoid having to think. As Soeur Madeleine, she refused to accept the fact that the Terror threatened the very existence of the convent and walked to the guillotine completely unaware of it. She won’t allow the effigy of her favourite saint to be destroyed and chooses to die rather than permit such a sacrilege.
These seven biographies, associated with some precise moments in the history of the Church – the recognition of Christianity at the end of Ancient Rome, the Counter-Reformation, the French Revolution, the 19th century, and the Second Vatican Council – offer portraits of some astonishing individuals, marginal and self-involved.
AUTHOR : Maximilien Durand
COUNTRY : France
Jules had understood that it was not enough simply to witness the violence. Nor was it enough for him to alleviate the suffering of his coreligionists by bringing a little water and thick wine, hidden under his tunic, to numb the pain. Jules had to write. He knew of course both Greek and the language of the country, their alphabet, their spelling, their grammar. He had never felt compelled to set down anything at all, leaving it to scribes to do the accounting, to shape his contracts, even to transcribe his correspondence. The scribes had always been able to express appropriately wanted to retain. Jules was not even certain that he knew how to line up words into something coherent that deserved to be read. He had to admit though: he had to write about the martyred Christians. He started by drawing up lists of names. No doubt to become familiar with his subject and to get to know the papyrus, the ink, and the qalam or reed pen. At night on the terrace of his house in Chbehs, looking out at the Nile, he drew the sequence of Greek letters that proclaimed the frenzy of Rome. Sarapammôn, Thecla, Pirôou, Athôm… To those first names were added dozens more - those of the victims he had visited and sustained. During the pitch-black night when his sister Eucharistia came to warn him that the reserve of oil for his lamp was exhausted, Jules allowed himself to be taken by surprise, murmuring with his eyes closed the names of the dead who obsessed him. By silently declaiming them, lips nearly mute, he washed away the insults that the crowd had directed at the exhausted old man, for the frightened young girl, for the penniless families. And then he left Chbehs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maximilien Durand was born in 1976. He holds a DEA (Advanced Studies Degree) from the Department of History and Philology Sciences of the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris where he wrote his thesis on The Coptic Language in Haliographical Literature. He also holds degrees in first and second cycles of study from the École de Louvre where he presently teaches The History of Paleochristian Art, Byzantine Art and Christian Iconography. As a researcher, Mr. Durand regularly publishes essays and articles on Asian Christian Art, Christian Iconography and has also served as editor of a periodical on Egyptian Textiles and Balkan Heritage. Mr. Durand is presently working on the Musée du Louvre’s catalogue of Coptic manuscripts.