Flagellants and the Construction of Sanctity in Latin and Orthodox Christendom 1
Flagellants were not saints in the conventional sense, though sanctity was their goal. They scourged themselves to achieve sanctity as they understood it. Flagellant activity in Latin and Orthodox Christendom has generally been studied in isolation, outside the broader context of this divided religion. This paper explores similarities and differences between flagellantism in the East and the West as a contribution to the debate over what is common to both Christian traditions and what is specific to each one. Specialized studies have focussed on one of two seemingly polar opposites: either mass movements, namely the two great western outbursts of flagellantism in 1260-1262 and in 1348-49 2; or secret sects, as in the case of the Russian khlysty , who flourished from the later sixteenth or early seventeenth century until the Revolution. This seeming dichotomy, which might be thought to mirror a typical western/eastern divide between, say, public and private, or between democratic versus authoritarian institutions, collapses on closer scrutiny. Furthermore, flagellants, esp. in the west, have often been studied in isolation from their religious context, as a mass psychological, not a religious phenomenon.
Christian self-flagellation, whether practised in public or in private, in the east or the west, in the Middle Ages or in our own century, displays a number of common traits that licence us to attempt a comparison of phenomena so widely separated by time, place and context as those discussed in this paper. Self-flagellation as penitence tends to reflect extreme pressures, at the individual level, on the system of salvation--both its means and its execution. Flagellation seems to have been introduced to Europe in the eleventh century through the monastic communities of Camaldoli and Fonte Avellana. It spread quickly and became "the commonest of all [monastic] penitential techniques"3. Increasingly strict interpretations of monastic rules in the context of reform movements helped harden the concept of disciplina, which came to mean the scourge itself. Pious clerics scourged themselves and each other in imitation of the whipping Christ received before his crucifixion. In both western and eastern cases, layfolk eventually imitated this penitential practice of monks and nuns, hoping thereby to share in the benefits of so vigorous a penance. They reached for the whip or the rod in order to atone for sin, to work towards meriting salvation. Self-flagellation meant self-sanctification; medieval documents use the word sanctitas to describe the results of self-flagellation. Many flagellants believed that their sufferings made the sacraments of the official church unnecessary for their salvation. The late Frantisek Graus argued, against Norman Cohn, that the mass flagellant movements of the west were not anticlerical; they were, rather, anti-institutional. The church and its sacraments had become irrelevant to hard-core flagellants--and much the same applies to the Russian sectarians who called themselves the People of God (lioudi bozhi), but who were named--after the most striking characteristic of their religious practice--khlystovshchina, or khlysty: whippers.
II. The Flagellant Movements of Medieval Western Europe
There is strong evidence that between the first outbreak of mass flagellantism in the 1260s, first in Italy and then north of the Alps, and that of the Black Death, sectarians kept alive not merely the practice of flagellation, but also the central text that had been claimed as divine justification in 1260, the so-called "Heavenly" or "Angelic Letter". This resurfaced in 1348/49, along with rituals and songs from the previous episode 4. Even after the energetic suppression of the flagellant brotherhoods (by 1350), a number of flagellant groups persisted in secret. Under Konrad Schmid, Thuringia became the home of a thoroughly hereticized flagellant community, which was persecuted by the church; flagellants were burned as heretics in Thuringia even as late as the 1480s, and in German cities elsewhere as well 5. From at least 1260 to the 1480s, lay flagellantism was kept alive by clandestine movements as an esoteric tradition--DESPITE 1260 and 1348/9, not because of these mass outbreaks. The long-term continuities in the western context justify comparison with the secret Russian sect of the khlysty.
The expression of lay piety outside the institutional framework of the Latin church was no crime and did not always result in persecution. The Brethren of the Common Life, beguines and beghards, to name a few examples, though they were sometimes suspected of heresy, all managed to establish a modus vivendi with the clerical elites without whom they lived much of their religious life. But when, as in the case of certain mystics, layfolk claimed to have found a means of achieving a measure of sanctity outside of the framework of the Church and without its supervision, there was trouble. Self-sanctification meant the straighest path to salvation: the bass-line of medieval piety right up to and into the Reformation was played on a soteriological instrument. Joachim of Fiore had foretold the beginning of the third age for 1260, and the Joachite Salimbene recounts that people were eager to see in flagellant processions the beginning of the great consummation 6.
Salimbene's Chronicle further specifies for 1260 that
Flagellants appeared all over the world; and all men, the small as well as the great, the nobles and men of the people, scourged themselves naked in processions through the cities, headed by the bishops and clerks. They made peace in many places and men returned what they had stolen, and they confessed their sins with such vigour that the priests scarcely had time to eat. From their mouth was heard the words of God, not of men, and their voice was as the voice of a multitude, and men walked around feeling [they had merited salvation], and composed divine praises to God and the Virgin, which they sang as they beat themselves. [...] nor was there anyone so hardened or so old that he did not gladly scourge himself. If anyone did not scourge himself, he was held to be worse than the devil, and all pointed him out as a notable man of the devil; and in addition, before much time passed, he would be struck by misfortune, either dying or becoming seriously infirm.7
The warfare and constant acrimony between Guelphs and Ghibellines had reached a particularly high point in the years leading up to 1260, and this outbreak, couched in Joachite language, followed both a religious and a secular logic. Sparks from outside may have occasioned mass outbreaks of flagellantism, but the religious tinder was already present.
Another contemporary perspective is that of the monk St. Justin of Padua. In the Chronicon Ursitius Basiliensis, compiled at Basel by Christian Ursitius and printed there by Wechel in 1585, we read that in 1260,
When all of Italy was sullied by many vices and wickedness, a sudden and in this world unheard-of superstitious belief invaded first the Perugians, next the Romans and finally almost all the peoples of Italy. So great a fear of Christ swept over them, that both nobles and commoners, old men and youths, even five-year-olds went naked through the city squares, only their genitals covered, having lost all shame, they processed in pairs; some held a scourge of leather thongs in their hand, and with groaning and weeping sharply beat themselves over the shoulders until the blood ran, and wept fountains of tears, as if they saw the passion of the Saviour with their own eyes, begging humbly for the mercy of God and of his Mother and their help... 8 [...] Then almost all disputes were brought into harmony: Usurers and thieves hurried to give back ill-gotten gains; others who were hiding crimes confessed humbly their sins, straightened out their senseless ways; jails were opened, captives were freed and exiles allowed to return to their own places: and such great deeds of sanctity and mercifulness were done by both men and women, as though they feared the divine power was about to consume them by celestial fire or bury them in a landslide or crush them by a violent earthquake [...] Both simple and learned men wondered, not unreasonably, whence such great fervour came: especially since this unheard-of method of penance was not instituted by the Pope, who then resided at Anagni, nor by the work or eloquence of any other preachers or persons in authority, but originated among the common people, in whose footsteps both the learned and the unlearned have followed.9.
Works of sanctity, leading to salvation, beginning among the unlearned laity and encompassing both the learned and the simple, commoners and nobles, young and old: these are the characteristics of the mass flagellantism of 1260-62. The good effects were so great, Salimbene claims, that those who did not participate were considered to be the devil's own, and to merit punishment. While some Italian flagellants seem to have remained under clerical supervision, not all did, and as the movement spread across the Alps to Germany under Italian leaders, lay priorities dominated10. The independent frame of mind of German lay apocalypticism had recently been manifested by the Swabian millenarian Brother Arnold, who claimed that he and his followers were the holy community that would take over all authority from the Church in 126011. The German flagellants of 1260, mainly small artisans and craftsmen, claimed that they were able to achieve salvation by their own merits and without the intervention of the Church; even taking part in a flagellant procession absolved a man from sin. It is no surprise that the German clergy worked vigorously to suppress this anti-institutional movement. However, it seems that they succeeded only in driving it underground.
The Chronique of Jehan Froissart (c. 1333-after 1400) mentions the appearance of the flagellants in the Low Countries in 1349-1350. 12 As printed in Fredericq's Corpus Documentorum Inquisitionis Haereticae Pravitatis Neerlandicae,13 the fourth redaction of Froissart's Chronique reads:
"In the year of grace of our Lord 1349 the penitents went, and issued first from Germany, and were men, who did public penitence, and beat themselves with scourges with hard knots, made of leather and provided with little tips of iron, and certain ones among them made the part between their two shoulders bleed very grievously, and [credulous] women had arranged little cloths [on their shoulders, i.e. of the flagellants] and collected this blood and put it in their eyes and said that it was miraculous blood..." 14.
Froissart states that this penitence was undertaken in an attempt to move God to stop the plague, as the "third part" of the people "par univers monde" had already died. The common people, according to the contemporary account of Gilles le Muisis, "men and women, ignorant of the Scriptures, nobles and commoners, approved of the flagellants' deeds beyond measure"15. The private services held by the flagellants were thought by many to be more effective than the divine office, and, le Muisis continues, "the common people affirmed that [the flagellants] had in many places performed miracles by their penitence"16. On the other hand, one former flagellant ascribed the miracles to the simplicity of the participants: "credunt veraciter sanctificari presumentes se dignos esse miracula faciendi"--they truly believe that they are sanctifying themselves and are [thus] able to perform miracles17. Self-sanctification, then, was their goal, even according to this skeptical observer. Miracles were the fruit of sanctity, after all, the proof for which advocates look in canonization processes. How could miracles be absent where so much sanctity was being produced with such fervour and self-sacrifice? A flagellant song of 1349, recorded by Hugh of Reutlingen in 1349, included the lines " The cross was stained red by his blood. We grieve God's sufferings and death./For God's sake we shed our blood. That helps atone for our sins18."
It seems that, as Froissart himself claims, the flagellant movement this time began in the German-speaking lands. Cohn argues that in France, flagellant activity continued after 1262 under church auspices--as it would right into the seventeenth century--, but in Germany it was 'hereticized' and went underground. In 1296, flagellant processions appeared in a number of towns along the Rhine at the time of a great famine19. As in most other cases, the mass outbreak of 1348/49 was also triggered by external factors, but an underground tradition of flagellantism, possibly a sort of esoteric knowledge and devotional practice, provided the ready-made ingredients for this and subsequent flare-ups.
The sect was soon forbidden by Pope Clement VI at Avignon20. This was followed by princely and urban prohibitions in the Empire and by Philip VI of France. As in 1262, the main actors in the suppression of the flagellants were the bishops21. Although in one manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles (Rome), the author notes that although much in the flagellants' ordinances was quite reasonable, none were allowed into France as the pope and his curia said that this sort of public penitence was not proper and devoid of sense (pas licite ni raisonnable). Innocent VI (r. 1352-62) excommunicated the flagellants, esp. the clergy among them, depriving the latter of their benefices22. Yet another variant suggests that the flagellants were prohibited from entering France because they had undertaken their exercises without the knowledge of their prelates and pastors23. Long-term patterns of flagellant sectarianism, then, climaxed in explosions of public mass flagellantism. The monastic background, namely the meritorious reputation of strict moral and physical disciplina in the monastic context, seems to have provided the justification for self-flagellation as an exercise in piety. In the Latin West between 1260 and 1350, millenarian expectations, political crises and material emergencies seem to have brought out into the open on at least two occasions mass demonstrations of an extreme soteriology, grounded in an anti-institutional understanding of sanctity and the road to salvation.
III. Flagellants in the Orthodox World: The Khlysty
In the best tradition of positivistic German source scholarship of the last century, Konrad Grass, a Privatdozent at Dorpat, produced two volumes under the main title Die russischen Sekten24. The first, a tome of over 700 pages, concerns the khlysty. A secret sect, the khlysty came under the intense scrutiny of the Russian imperial authorities only in the early eighteenth century. In a heresy trial directed at khlysty at Uglitch in 1717, the sect became the object of official investigation and prosecution25. Commissions aimed at wiping out this sect, perhaps the largest in the Russian Empire after the Old Believers, were convened in 1733, 1745-52 and 1837-39. Although the sectarians themselves traced their origins far into a mythical medieval past, the probable founder of the sect was a peasant from Kostroma and a run-away soldier, a certain Danilo Filipov, who claimed to be the incarnate God Sebaoth, the Lord of Hosts, and who began to preach in 1645. He threw his liturgical and holy books into the Volga and instituted a new, extra-ecclesiastical religious gathering known as the radenie (which means "striving"). At these gatherings, song, prayer, dance and prophecy combined with ecstatic behaviour such as glossolalia and self-flagellation. Although believers were to conform outwardly to Orthodox religion, attending services and taking communion, they were taught that their salvation was assured not by the church but by their adherence to the rules of the sect. After Danilo's death, his successors were held to be incarnations of Christ--the explanation was that there was more than just one such incarnation. Fourteenth and sixteenth-century figures (Averyan and Yemelyan) were held by the khlysty to have been christs: hence the name khristovshchina, christs. Although self-flagellation never was a central feature of the radenie, according to Grass, and lessened as time went on so that by the nineteenth century it was quite rare26, nonetheless the designation khrystovshchina(the "christs") became, in the mouth of the common people, khlystovshchina, whippers, after this most striking characteristic of their devotions.
This primarily ascetic sect, founded by peasants and composed mainly of peasants, though monks and merchants also joined, attempted to outdo the fasting and devotional practices of Orthodox regular clergy. There is some evidence that monastic devotion was the benchmark the khlysty wanted to surpass. Danilo Filipov laid down twelve rules for his followers in place of the books that had been committed to Mother Volga. These books enjoined strict abstinence from sex, alcohol and swearing; belief that their leaders were divine or, later, divinely inspired and that they were themselves the chosen People of God; and preparation for the fast-approaching end of the world. These rules also prohibited theft, gossip, marriage, attending weddings or drinking parties, and revealing the rules and practices of the People of God to outsiders, esp. under torture. Those who were tortured but remained loyal would receive a heavenly reward just as the ancient martyrs did. The ecstatic practices at their secret nocturnal radenie brought them into disrepute as indulgers in secret orgies, murderers of infants, etc., much as the first Christians were accused of nefarious practices under similarly secretive circumstances. Their dietary asceticism, extending at certain epochs to prohibitions on the eating of meat, fish and other non-fasting foods (those containing milk products), may have played a role in encouraging ecstatic states; certainly, their ideal of a complete dry fast during the frequent periods of fasting in the Orthodox liturgical cycle went far beyond what was expected from the laity or the clergy.
The third leader of the sect, an ex-strelets called Prokofii Lupkin, was a prominent figure at the 1717 trial. He considered himself to be Christ. His followers venerated him as such27, and saw in him the son of Danilo Filipov. He alone of those arrested in 1717 was freed, and died in 1732. One of his followers, a certain Laurenti Ipolitov, was arrested and questioned under torture in 1733. He admitted, partly on his own and partly under torture, that he first met Lupkin as an official to whom he had turned for help with collecting a debt in the fall of 1732. Lupkin promised to help him, and when Ipolitov went to visit Lupkin the next day, the feast day of the Kazan Mother of God, he took with him a salmon as a present. As he entered Lupkin's house, he saw around thirty nuns and novices and two monks eating the mid-day meal at table. As he accepted the fish, Lupkin said he would use it to feed the People of God, monks, nuns and orphans. He offered Ipolitov wine and beer, which Ipolitov declined, saying he had not touched them in ten years. Impressed, Lupkin asked his guest to sit at table and eat, which he did, without touching meat, fish or any other non-fasting food. Lupkin, astonished, turned to the monks and nuns and said "What kind of monks and nuns are you?" He pointed to Ipolitov and said "See, this is a monk! Even though he has not been ordained, he fulfils everything down to the letter." Ipolitov's renunciation dated back to a vow he had made while ill to fast if he was healed. Lupkin asked more questions, then told Ipolitov to abstain from swearing, intercourse with his wife and the like. After the meal, Lupkin told Ipolitov that he would show him the way of faith and doctrine to salvation, a way that cannot be seen or heard by mere human beings. Ipolitov asked to know more about this faith, and Lupkin told him, holding a cross, that "through this our faith the holy apostles and fathers and prophets went up to heaven." In order to obtain salvation and the infusion of the Holy Spirit, his followers met two or three times a year in a holy gathering for which they prepared themselves by fasting and prayer. Those who did not fast and pray would not receive the Holy Spirit. If he wanted these things for himself, he must swear an oath not to reveal anything to his confessor nor to courts or judges or indeed to anyone else28. Two similar confessions were obtained from other followers of Lupkin shortly before his death.
As both Grass and Clay point out, khlystoverie was particularly attractive to monks. Of the 416 people arrested by Elizabeth's commission in 1745-52, 68 were monks29. Indeed, much of the sect's theory and practice was adopted from monasticism: in the early eighteenth century, their strong-points were in Orthodox cloisters (e.g. in the Monastery of St. John the Baptist (Kitai-Gorod) in Moscow, and many of their most influential followers were monks and nuns. At that time, monks and nuns were supposed to eat no meat at all. The khlysty went beyond monastic requirements by eating no meat or non-fast items all year long and by avoiding ALL food during the liturgical fasts30.
To Lupkin, ascetic practice inspired by monastic models and ecstatic experience were the path to salvation. Self-flagellation and mutual flagellation fit seamlessly into this program and were part of the preparation for ecstatic experience. Grass reports on the use of willow branches and small bags made of handkerchiefs as scourges used during the radenie31. Monastic discipline was both the model and the base-line for khlysty asceticism. The khlysty sought to outdo monks and nuns in mortification of the flesh and thus to merit salvation and the infusion of the Holy Spirit by their own means, outside of church services and liturgy, and without the sacramental intervention of the clergy.
Although the Russian religious background of khlystoverie ought to be borne in mind (namely the schism between the church of Nikon and the Old Believers), the sect cannot be explained, as Serge Bolshakoff does in Russian Nonconformity32, as "an extreme reaction against the rigid ritualism of the Russian Church before Nikon." 33 To the khlysty, ritual liberty meant not freedom to adhere to or alter church ritual, but freedom to attain salvation by other means altogether, by their own efforts: which were focussed precisely on fulfilling and over-fulfilling the ascetic commandments of monastic life. Intense millenarianism was common to Old Believers and khlysty and helps explain their shared impatience with ecclesiastical authority and structures.
Although most Christian heresy by defintion implies an attempt to "get around" the official instances and institutions of the church in order to pursue salvation by some other means, western and eastern flagellants have more in common than merely their heretical bent. Both groups believed they could attain sanctity by extreme ascetic practices aimed at subordinating the flesh to the will. This sanctity was seen by western flagellants to issue in miracles, even in the salvation of all Chistians then alive, by as literal a physical imitatio Christi as they could perform without actually having themselves crucified. The Passion Plays of the contemporary Philippines, with their volunteers for actual crucifixion, provide an intersting modern comparison. The khlysty, who were as different from western flagellants as their circumstances were, practised flagellation as part of a larger set of ascetic exercises leading to sanctity and salvation. They saw their sanctity as guaranteed and confirmed by the infusion of the Holy Spirit, by ecstatic trances and visions, by the gift of speaking in tongues--minor miracles which could be helped along by flagellation. Both groups were composed primarily of layfolk. Both looked to monastic ideals and practices to construct a lay version of what was popularly believed to be more easily available to those in monasterio than to those in mundo.
The main differences deserve some mention. The mass outbreaks of flagellantism in the west were concentrated in and around cities. Western flagellants relied on audiences both, it seems, as the intended recipients of their teachings and as witnesses to their exercises. They staged their bloody shows in crowded urban squares, before churches, and trekked from city to city. This predominantly urban setting, which entailed large numbers of people in close contact, the rapid spread of rumour and news, the stresses of civic strife, famine and pestilence, and the density both of population and of cities in the west helps explain how this religious phenomenon turned into mass movements. The naturalistic and public nature of their imitatio Christi has close parallels in religious art of the time. The peasant context in which khlystoverie was founded and which determined much of its development did not provide the same resources for mass outbreaks, nor did Orthodox religious art, which preferred images of Christos Pantocrator--Christ the Ruler of the Universe, enthroned in glory--offer the faithful many examples of the crucified Christ suffering on the cross. Rather, the Orthodox tradition of theosis, in which Christ or the Holy Virgin is actually incarnated within individuals via the Holy Spirit, provides the necessary context for understanding khlysty (and other groups') claims that their leaders were incarnations of Christ or the Virgin--and for understanding that flagellation was a less likely method of approaching Christ. The secretive nature of the khlysty might have played a role. So effective was the secrecy with which they surrounded their heresy that some of their descendants were still living near Orenburg, near the Urals, in 1980, in great secrecy. They had attached photographs of their most recent "Holy Virgin" (female leader) to the walls in their houses34. That officials often called the khlysty "Quakers" in the later 17th and 18th centuries reflects more on their misunderstanding of western sects than on the khlysty themselves. Finally, I wonder if, despite official persecution, the Orthodox Church was more able to live with the khlysty precisely because they did not seem to pose a large-scale threat to ecclesiastical interests. Their puritanical asceticism seems to have found some sympathy within the church itself. By contrast, the Church of Rome could no more tolerate flagellants than it could the Spiritual Franciscans or the humiliati .
1 Ìàòåðèàë îïèðàåòñÿ íà ñòàòüþ À. Ãàó, îïóáëèêîâàííóþ â: Fonctions sociales et politiques du culte des saints dans les societes de rite grec et latin au Moyen-Age et a l’epoque moderne. Approche comparative. Sous la direction de M. DERWICH et M. DMITRIEV, Wroclaw: LARHCOR, 1999.
2 The most recent study is contained in Graus F. Pest-Gei?ler-Judenmorde. Das 14. Jahrhundert als Krisenzeit. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1987. See also the popularizing work of James Glass Bertram Flagellation & the flagellants. A history of the rod in all countries, from the earliest period to the present time. London, W. Reeves [1904?] and the classic book of the abbe Boileau Historia Flagellantium de recto et perverso flagellum uso apud christianos. Paris: Johannes Anisson, 1700.
3 Cohn N. The Pursuit of the Millenium. Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. London: Temple Smith, 1970/1957. P. 127.
4 Ibidem. P. 131.
5 Konrad Schmid, the leader of the most important underground movement after 1348-49, seems to have been burned at Nordhausen in 1368 along with six other flagellant heretics; Heidelberg and Erfurt, 1391-92; Sangerhusen, 1414-16: some hundreds; Nordhausen, 1446, a dozen; Sonderhausen, 1454: a couple of dozen (Graus F. Pest-Gei?ler-Judenmorde. S. 48; Cohn N. Pursuit. P. 142-147, esp. 144ff).
6 Cohn N. Pursuit. P. 129.
7Chronica Fr. Salimbene Parmensis ordinis minorum, ex codice Bibliothecae Vaticanae (Parma, Fiaccadori, 1857; = Monumenta Historica ad provincias Parmensem et Placentinam pertinentia. Vol. I). S. 238-239: ...venerunt verberatores per universum orbem; et omnes homines tam parvi quam magni, tam nobiles quam populares, nudati per civitates processionaliter se verberabant, et praecedentibus episcopis et religiosis. Et paces fiebant, et restituebant homines male ablata, et de peccatis suis confitebantur in tantum ut sacerdotes vix spatium edendi haberent: et in ore eorum sonabant Dei voces et non hominis, et vox eorum tamquam vox multitudinis: et ambulabant homines in salvatione; et componebant laudes divinas ad honorem Dei et beatae Virginis, quas cantabant dum se verberando incederent. [...] nec erat aliquis tam severus vel vetulus, qui non libenter se verberaret. Si quis autem non se verberasset, pejor diaboli reputabatur, et omnes ostendebant eum cum digito, tamquam notabilem et hominum diabolicum; sed et, quod pluris est, usque ad breve tempus post, infortunium incurrebat, aut moriendo, aut graviter infirmando".
8 In abbe Boileau Historia Flagellantium . P. 275-276: "Cum tota Italia multis esset flagitiis et sceleribus inquinata, quaedam subitanea superstitio et a saeculo inaudita invasit primitus Perusinos, Romanos postmodum, deinde fere Italiae populos universos. In tantum itaque timor Christi irruit super eos, quod nobiles pariter et ignobiles, senes et juvenes, infantes etiam quinque annorum nudi per plateas civitatum, opertis tantummodo pudendis, deposita verecundia bini et bini processionaliter incedunt: singuli flagellum manibus de corigiis continentes, et cum gemitu et ploratu se acriter super scapulis usque ad effusionem sanguinis verberantes, et effusis fontibus lacrymarum, ac si corporalibus oculis ipsam Salvatoris cernerent passionem, misericordiam Dei et Genetricis hujus auxilium suppliciter deprecantes..."
9 Ibidem. P. 278-279: "Tunc fere omnes discordes ad concordiam redierunt: usurarii et raptores male oblata restituere festinabant; caeteri diversis criminibus involuti peccata sua humiliter confitentes, se a suis vanitatibus corrigebant; aperiebantur carceres, dimittebantur captivi et exules redire ad propria sunt permisi: tanta enim opera sanctitatis et misericordiae tam viri quam foeminae ostendebant, ac si timerent quod divina potentia ipsos vellet igne coelesti consumere vel jactura terrae absorbere aut concutere vehementi terrae motu [...] non solum mediocres, sed et sapientes non irrationabiliter mirabantur: cogitantes unde tantus fervoris impetus proveniret: maxime cum iste modus poenitentiae inauditus, non fuisset a summo Pontifice institutus, qui tunc Anagniae residabat, nec ab alicujus praedicatoribus vel autorisabilis personis industria vel facundia persuasus, sed a simplicibus sumpsit initium: quorum vestigia docti et indocti sunt secuti."
10 Cohn N. Pursuit. P. 128-129.
11 Ibidem. P. 130.
12 Graus F. Pest--Gei?ler—Judenmorde. S. 57.
13 Ghent/s'Gravenhage, 1896.
14 « En l'an de grace Nostre-Signeur mille C C C. XLIX alerent li penant, et issirent premierement d'Alemagne, et furent hommes, liquel faisoient penitances publiques, et se batoient d'escorgies a neus durs de quir farsis de petites pointelettes de fier, et se faisoient li auqun entre deus espaules sainier moult vilainement, et auqunes soies [sotes] femmes avoient drapeles apparilles et requelloient ce sanc et le mettoient a lors ieuls et disoient que c'estoit sanc de miracle... » (Ð. 130. Vol. II). The Dictionnaire historique de l'ancien francois depuis son origine jusqu'au siecle de Louis XIV, by La Curne de Sainte-Palaye (Paris/Niort, 1882), vol. IX, 449, cites this very passage to illustrate the use of "soie" as a varient of "sienne": the emphatic third person feminine possessive pronoun. One interpretation of this reading would have "certain or some women" arranging little cloths (drapelles or drapelles, more commonly drap(p)elets/tz – Godefroy F. Dictionnaire de l'ancienne langue francaise et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siecle [Paris, 1883/Kraus reprint, New York, 1961]. Vol. 2. P. 768), on (les) 'siennes' (espaules) -- 'their' shoulders, the only plural feminine noun to which this pronoun can refer. The question is, are the shoulders in question those of the women, or those of the flagellants? However, despite all this grammatical speculation, the lectio intelligibilior is "sotes femmes" (credulous, silly women), as in the Rome manuscript, published (in the apparatus of variants) by Simeon Luce in his Chroniques de Froissart (Paris: Jules Renouard, 1873), vol. 4, 330 ff. This passage as printed by Luce is the same as that above except for the reading "sotes": a "t" and an "i" are easily confused. In any case, the sense of the passage demands that the women place little cloths on the shoulders of the flagellants to collect their blood, since they are performing the spiritual exercise that earned them the reputation among the common folk of miracle-workers.
15"Populus autem, viri et mulieres, Scripturas ignorantes, nobiles et ignobiles, factum ultra modum approbabant..." (Corpus Documentorum. Vol. II. P. 105).
16"Fuitque tanta opinio vulgi, quod in pluribus locis fecisse miracula per eorum penitentiam affirmabant" (Ibidem. P. 105).
17Pest--Gei?ler—Judenmorde . S. 45, cited from Berliere U. Trois traites inedits sur les flagellants de 1349 // Revue Benedictine. Vol. 25 (1908). P. 334-357, 355; and F. Graus (Op. cit. P. 57, note 134). This particular miracle (or belief in a miraculous power) was hardly the result of ignorance: its elements are too reminiscent of ancient beliefs concerning the healing power of blood when applied to eyes. In the middle of the narrative, as though it were the most natural thing in the world, Froissart reports that the [credulous] women who collected the blood of the flagellants applied it to their eyes, saying it was miraculous blood. The virtue of this "martyrs' blood" was so self-evident to them that they applied it to their eyes even though there is nothing to suggest that there was anything wrong with their eyes. The sanctity of the flagellants produced the miraculous nature of the blood.
18"Das crucz daz wart des bluotes rot. Wir clagen gots marter und sinen tot./Durch got vergie? wir unser bluot. Daz ist uns fur die sunde guot." From the Chronicon Hugonis sacerdotis de Rutelinga ad annum MCCCXLIX (Cod. lat. membr. O.XIV. No. 6 of the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg, cited from Die Lieder und Melodien der Gei?ler des Jahres 1349 nach der Aufzeichnung Hugo's von Reutlingen / Ed. by Paul Runge. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hartel, 1900/reprint Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1969. S. 36.
19 Cohn N. Pursuit. P. 130.
20Corpus documentorum . Vol. 1. P. 200.
21 Graus F. Pest-Gei?ler-Judenmorde. S. 47-48.
22 Luce S. Chroniques. Vol 4. P. 331 (Rome ms).
23 Ms. B 6 reads "[the flagellants] resgnerent ens es marches de Flandres, de Hainau et de Brabant et n'entrerent oncques ou royalme de Franche, car li eglise leur fu contraire pout tant que il avoient empris ceste cose a faire sans le seut de leur prelas et de leurs cures" (Fo 429); Ibidem. Vol. 4. P. 332.
24Die russischen Sekten. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1907/reprint Leipzig: Zentral-Antiquariat der DDR, 1966. Vol. I: "Die Gottesleute oder Chlusten, nebst Skakunen, Maljowanzu, Panijaschkowzu u.a." Grass made extensive use of records complied by both Russian officials who were persecuting khlysty for heresy and independent observers and scholars who had other agendas. Since 1907, other scholars have relied heavily on Grass' unsurpassed compilation of sources, anecdotes, trial records, songs and mountains of detail: e.g., Frederick Conybeare in Russian Dissenters (New York: Russel and Russel, 1962; =Harvard Theological Studies. Vol. X), admits to have followed Grass closely (339) in his discussion of the khlysty (339-361). However, little has been made in western languages of this material in a systematic or analytical approach to Russian sectarianism.
25 This evidence, unavailable to Grass, is a key incident in the history of the sect. See Clay J.E. God's People in the early eighteenth century. The Uglich Affair of 1717 // Cahiers du monde russe et sovietique XXVI . ¹. I (1985). S. 69-124. Clay provides a very useful overview of scholarship on the khlysty on pages 74-78, distinguishing between "official writers", "radicals" and "foreign scholars", as well as the most up-to-date bibliography available in English.
26Sekten. Bd. I. S. 307.
27 Ibidem. S. 57.
28 Ibidem. S. 59-60.
29 Clay J.E. God's People. S. 93, citing Reutskii N.V. Liudi Bozh'i i skoptsy: istoricheskoe issledovanie iz dostovernykh istochnikov i podlynnikh bumag . Moscow: Gracheva D. Shilovoi, 1872. S. 183-90.
30Sekten. Bd. I. S. 310.
31 Ibidem. S. 430-31. This account concerns ecstatic khlysty rites (esp. dancing) intended to conjure forth images of Danilo, of Christ or other holy figures; when no images appeared despite vigorous efforts, scourges were used on those present to "drive out the devil" who was supposed to be present and preventing the visions from occuring.
32 Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950.
33 Bolshakoff S. Nonconformity. S. 91.
34 I am grateful to the ethnographer-historian Elyena Borisovna Smilyanskaya, Curator of Slavonic Manuscripts and Books, Lenin Library, Moscow State University for this first-hand information and for her help with other aspects of this paper.