Sadomasochism

 

Click below for more information

Home Page - Index
 
Authorities Assessed
Old Testament
New Testament
Apostolic Traditions
Church Fathers
Emperors
General Church Councils
Popes
Conclusions
 
Early Christian History
What Jesus Believed
Who Founded Christianity?
Creation of Doctrine
Origin of Ideas & Practices
The Concept of Orthodoxy
Origin of the Priesthood
 
Maintaining Deceptions
Suppress Facts
Selecting Sources
Fabricating Records
Retrospective Prophesy
Ambiguous Authorities
Ignore Injunctions
Invent, Amend and Discard
Manipulate Language
 
Case Studies
Re-branding a Sky-God
Making One God out of Many
How Mary keeps her Virginity
Fabricating the Nativity Story
Managing Inconvenient Texts
 
Christianity & Science
Traditional Battlegrounds
Modern Battlegrounds
 
Rational Explanations
Religion in General
Christianity in Particular
Divine Human Beings
Ease of Creating Religions
 
Arguments for and Against
Popular Arguments
Philosophical Arguments
Moral Arguments
Supernatural Arguments
  • Miracles
  • Revelation
  • Faith
  • Practical Arguments
     
    Record of Christianity
    Social Issues
  • Slavery
  • Racism
  • Capital Punishment
  • Penal Reform
  • Physical Abuse
  • Treatment of Women
  • Contraception
  • Abortion
  • Divorce
  • Family Values
  • Children
  • Romanies
  • The Physically Ill
  • The Mentally Ill
  • The Poor
  • Animals
  • Ecology
  • Persecution
  • Persecutions of Christians
  • Persecutions by Christians
  • Church & State
  • Symbiosis
  • Meddling in Governance
  • Interference in Politics
  • Abuse of Power
  • Church Law and Justice
  • Exemption from the Law
  • Unofficial Exemption
  • Financial Privileges
  • Control Over Education
  • Human Rights
  • Freedom of Belief
  • Religious Toleration
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Freedom of Enjoyment
  • Attitudes to Sex
  • Celibacy
  • Sex Within Marriage
  • Sex Outside Marriage
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Homosexuality
  • Transvestism
  • Prostitution
  • Pederasty
  • Bestiality
  • Sadomasochism
  • Necrophilia
  • Consequences
  • Science & Medicine

  • Ancient Times
  • Dark and Middle Ages
  • Sixteenth Century
  • Seventeenth Century
  • Eighteenth Century
  • Nineteenth Century
  • 20th and 21st Centuries
  • Medical Records Compared
  • Violence & Warfare
  • Crusades
  • God's Wars
  • Churches' Wars
  • Christian Atrocities
  • Cultural Vandalism
  • The Classical World
  • Europe
  • The Wider Modern World
  • Possible Explanations
    Summing up
     
    Marketing Religion
    Marketing Christianity
     
    Continuing Damage
    Religious Discrimination
    Christian Discrimination
    Moral Dangers
    Abuse of Power
     
    A Final Summing Up
     
     
     
    Bibliography
     
     
    Search site
     
     
     
    Bad News Blog
     
    Religious Quotations
     
    Christianity & Human Rights
     
    Christian Prooftexts
     
    Social Media
     
     
     
     
     
    The Scourging of penitents might well have fulfilled a twofold purpose, enabling the priest to indulge a taste for sadism and the penitent a penchant for masochism
    George Riley Scott, A History of Torture

     

    The Church never seems to have specifically identified sadism or masochism as sins. The concepts seem to have gone wholly unrecognised, although the Church has arguably been home to many of the most notable sadists and most bizarre masochists in history.

    Below are just a few examples of the range of sadomasochistic Christian ideas and practices.

     

    Jesus and Mary

    One of the most notable things about Christianity for many non-Christians is the intense preoccupation with death and suffering. The torture of Jesus and the sorrow of Mary are favourite themes, often depicted in graphic detail. As has been noted many times, in any other context these images would be considered disturbing, sadomasochistic, deviant and unsuitable for children. They concentrate heavily on brutality, beating, flogging, piercing, torture, bleeding, nailing and death. Collecting and drinking blood is an especially popular theme in Christian art. Some Christians submit themselves to some of these sufferings - wearing crowns of thorns, flogging themselves, and even having themselves nailed to crosses.

    Graphic Images of suffering from a Catholic Website

     

    Andrei Rublyev

     

     

     

     

    Saint Francis Of Assisi Catches the Blood Of Christ From The Wounds (1486) by Carlo Crivelli
    Christ is reopening his wounds to squirt blood towards Francis.
    Francis is catching the blood in a communion cup, presumably to drink.
    Collecting (and licking or drinking) blood from Jesus' wounds
    has been a popular theme in Christian literature and art for centuries

     

    “Manus Christi” (detail) by Mark Ryden, 2003

     

     

    Kissing Jesus's spear wound on Good Friday, 2011, in Havana, Cuba.

     

    Saint Paul of the Cross:
    "When you are alone in your room, take your crucifix, kiss its five wounds reverently, tell it to preach to you a little sermon, and then listen to the words of eternal life that it speaks to your heart; listen to the pleading of the thorns, the nails, the precious Blood. Oh, what an eloquent sermon! "

     

     

    Saint Francis, complete with his own stigmata, fondles and kisses the bleeding wounds of Jesus

     

    The Innocent by Ezio Marzi

     

     

     

     

    Blood of Christ by Connie Wong

     

    For those who enjoy contemplating suffering

     

     

     

    St. Martin de Porres

     

     

    Francisco Ribalta Christ Embracing Saint Bernard (c. 1626)

     

    Doubting Thomas

     

    Francis Embrace Christ Francisco Ribalta

     

     

     

    Much Christian art created before the lifetime of Sigmund Freud has strong and obvious homoerotic elements
    William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), Dante and Virgil in Hell
    Canto VII, lines 112-114 ("They smote each other not alone with hands ,/ But with the head and with the breast and feet, / Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth"

     

    Holy Wound. Psalter and Hours of Bonne of Luxembourg, Duchess of Normandy Attributed to Jean Le Noir
    Religious Imagery pre-Freud is often blatant by modern standards

     

    Licking or drinking Jesus' blood is a common theme in Christianity and Christian art.
    2011 English translation of the Roman Missal: "Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my body
    "Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of my blood"

     

    Iglesia en la Nueva España, Madrid, 1634
    The bloods dribbles into a container and then via two tubes into a bason for wider distribution.

     

     

     

    An advert with a clear target audience

     

    Imitating the suffering of Christ - flagellation - an early stage

     

    Jean Bellegambe, Mystic Bath of Souls (detail), 1505-10 or 1526, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France.
    It is not easy to see at this resolution, but Jesus is bleeding into a bath.
    Semi-naked Christian men and women are bathing together in His accumulated blood.
    (The Christian prohibition on mixed bathing did not apparently extend to souls bathing in Jesus' blood)

     
     
     
     

    Voluntary Crucifixion in the Philippines - A popular Easter Passtime
    Note that the victim wants to suffer, but not too much. The nails are not as big or rough as first century nails, and are carefully and unrealistically placed not to do too much permanent damage (Crucifixion victims are known to have been nailed through the wrist)

     

    Agnus dei - The Lamb of God - bleeding from the heart

     
     
     

    Here Jesus is not only bleeding into the chalice, he is actually standing in it.

     
     
     
     
     
     

    Voluntary Crucifixion in the Philippines - complete with Roman soldiers

     

    Voluntary Crucifixion in the Philippines
    Again, the nails are not as big or rough or dirty as first century nails, and are carefully and unrealistically placed not to do permanent damage (Crucifixion victims were nailed through the heel)

     

    Jesus' flagellation and wounds have been a source of fascination to a certain kind of Christian for many centuries. This is Caravaggio's version of St-Thomas broggling Jesus' spear wound.

     

    Details from the Isenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald between 1512 and 1516 for the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim. It is now on display at the Unterlinden Museum at Colmar, Alsace, in France - A sadomasochist's delight


     

    Public display in Washington CD

     

    Statues of Mary often depict her intense sorrow and suffering.
    Here she is holding the nails used to torture and kill her son.
    Note the sword through her heart, representing one of her seven sorrows.

     

    St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque (1647 - 1690), a Burgundian nun, was frequently visited by Jesus, who exposed to her his heart. Sometimes the heart was burning; sometimes torn and bleeding. To torment herself, she sought out rotten fruit and dusty bread to eat. She allowed herself no drink from Thursday to Sunday, and when she did drink, drank water in which laundry had been washed. Like almost all of her fellow "mystics", she frequently fell to the ground in convulsions. She imagined the devil was buffeting her. In her diaries she describes how she wished to clean up the vomit of a sick patient, and could not resist doing so with her tongue. This caused her so much pleasure that she wished she could do the same every day. Like so many other female saints, she loved to suffer and to humiliate herself, her excessive masochism betraying sever mental problems. Her autobiography mentions her activities with faeces of a victim of dysentery. She cut the name of Jesus on her chest with a knife. When the wounds started to heal, she burnt them in permanently with a candle flame.8 . Her hallucinations were the basis of the modern cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which in turn suggested the cult of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

    A pierced, bleeding and burning heart - An extremely common image in Roman Catholicism.
    On the right a child Jesus clutches his burning heart in one hand and his crucifixion nails in the other.

     

    Exposed hearts - often cut or burning or pierced by thorns are still extremely popular

     

    Our Lady of Sorrows

    Our Lady of Sorrows

    Our Lady of Sorrows

     

    Our Lady of Sorrows

    Our Lady of Sorrows

    Our Lady of Sorrows

     

    Virgin of Seven Sorrows, Italy, 18thC

     

    Mater Dolorosa, stained glass (circa 1513),
    on show in Hamburg. Germany, Corpus Vitrearum Deutschland, 2009

     

    Visionaries sometimes reported strange goings-on with their hearts, often based on erroneous contemporary theories about the nature and function of the heart. (Before William Harvey, the heart was thought of as a sort of miniature furnace). St. Catherine of Siena asked God to take her own heart her. Jesus supposedly heard the prayer and appeared to her. He opened her left side, took out her heart and went away with it. Catherine afterward told her confessor that she no longer had a heart. Later, in Siena, Catherine fell into an ecstasy. Afterwards, a light from Heaven encircled her and Jesus appeared. He held in his hands a bright red human heart. Approaching Catherine, He opened her left side once again and placed the heart within her chest, saying: "Dearest daughter, as I took your heart away, now, you see, I am giving you mine so that you can go on living with it forever". He closed the opening he had made, but as a sign of the miracle, a scar remained. Dominica a Paradiso also got a new heart from Jesus. She received a vision in which he extracted her heart from her chest and substituted one of burning fire. She rose immediately from her sick bed, renewed in body and mind. Afterwards, a fragrance emanated from her body. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was yet another lucky recipient. In her autobiography she wrote that Jesus "asked me for my heart, which I begged Him to take. He did so and placed it in His own adorable heart, where He showed it to me as a little atom which was being consumed in this great furnace, and withdrawing it thence as a burning flame in the form of a heart."

    Traditional and contemporary Christian attraction to images of Jesus' death and suffering
    is increasingly out of step with modern secular society

     

     

    Tales From the Bible

    The Old Testament contains many stories, all equally inspired by God. One might therefore expect them to carry equal weight for believers, and to be discussed, preached about and represented in art in equal measure. In practice, their seems to be a very distinct bias. For example, it is difficult to find much material on topics like God's failures and ignorance, nor examples of polygamy, genocide, racism, or divinely sanctioned concubines or sex-slaves. (It is for example not easy to find material on King Solomon's 700 wives or 300 concubines). Even ordinary slaves have disappeared over the last century or so. Almost all Christian art has been designed to support the Christian teachings of the day. A notable exception has been divinely sanctioned killing, especially holy massacres, child killing and murder. Murders are preferred if they are the murder of or murder by naked or semi-naked women. Here are just a few examples of paintings of Judith, who murdered Holofernes by beheading him as he slept (Judith 13:6)

    Judith en Holofernes c1550
    by Jan Metsys (1509-1573)

    Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1500s
    Vincent Sellaer (c 1500 - 1589)

       

    Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1543
    Jan Metsys (1509-1573)

    Judith met het hoofd van Holofernes
    Jan Metsys (1509-1573)

       

    Judith, Illuminated Manuscript
    c 1505 Anonymous

    Judith with the Head of Holofernes( 1525)
    Hans Baldung Grien (c 1484-1545)

       

     

    Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598) by Michelangelo Caravaggio 1571-1610

    Judith Victorious, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

    These are just a few of the hundreds of renderings of this particular murder. There are as many again of Jael murdering Sisera by hammering a tent peg into his head (Judges 4:21), and of countless other bloody scenes.

    The frisson of a blood sacrifice required of Abraham has always been particularly popular
    - until modern secular times in the West .
    ( Orthodox Jews and Moslems continue to find it a heartwarming tale).

     

    Another representation of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son

     

    Charles Le Brun Jephthah's Daughter
    The devout Jephtha is just about to sacrifice his daughter to God

    The New Testament also held potential. Another especial favourite was the massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18). The story is related only by the Matthew author, and is not supported by any historical evidence. Because of its macabre subject matter it was once a favourite Christian story. This subject has become less popular since nonbelievers pointed out that the massacre came about because of God's failure to anticipate the consequences of the inadequate information He provided to the magi - that they would tell Herod about the forthcoming birth, and that Herod would commission a massacre (as supposedly fortold in the Old Testament) as a result. Modern representations of the story tend to lay much less emphasis on the killing, and more on the Holy Innocents' reception into heaven (despite them not being baptised Christians). God has actually done them a great favour in facilitating their massacre, allowing them into heaven, as some Catholics believe. Somehow these infants have become martyrs for Christianity rather than victims of God's inadequate planning and imprecise instructions. As well as the maternal terror, note the amount of unnecessary nudity in these Christian images below - not just among the children, but also their frantic mothers, and even the men charged with murdering them.

    Massacre of the Innocents fom the Egbert Codex, created AD 980-993 for Archbishop Egbert of Trier,

     
     
       

    Massacre of the Innocents (1590)
    Cornelis Van Haarlem, 1562-1638

    Massacre des Innocents (1824)
    François Joseph Navez, 1787-1869

     
       


    Massacre of the Innocents, Picture Bible from the Monastery of St Bertin, France. Created c 1200.

    Giacomo Paracca, 'The Slaughter of the Innocents', Polychrome clay sculptures, c. 1587, Italy, Sacro Monte di Varallo.

     
       

    Massacre of the Innocents, Luca Giordano, 1634-1705 (detail)

     
     
       

    The Massacre of the Innocents c1500-25
    Gerolamo Mocetto, 1458-1532, detail

    Massacre of the Innocents (1590)
    Cornelis Van Haarlem, 1562-1638, detail

     
       

    Massacre of the Innocents, c 1611–12
    Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, detail

    Slaughter of the Innocents c1308-11
    Duccio di Buoninsegna, c1255-1319, detail

     
       

    Massacre of the Innocents, 1611, by Guido Reni, 1572-1642, detail

     
     
       

    Massacre of the Innocents (1590)
    Cornelis Van Haarlem, 1562-1638, detail


    Holy Innocents Icon

     
       

    Murder of the Innocents in Bethlehem c. 1180 Fresco,
    Panteón de los Reyes, Colegiata de San Isidoro, Léon_01

    Holy Innocents - in Heaven

     

    Herod killing innocent babies echoed another incident where God himself was responsible for killing innocent babies, in Exodus 12 29-30.
    This illustration comes from a Bible illustrated by Gustave Dore and is entitled The Firstborn Slain

     

    Holy Innocents, Church of Saint Cecilia, Aguilar de Campo

     

    Holy Innocents, Getty Museum

     

     

     

     

    Legends of Martyrdom

    The vast majority of Christian martydoms have no independent historical confirmation. From a number of different clues it is clear that stories of martyrdom were fabricated - some in the first millennium, the vast majority in the High Middle Ages. These fabricated stories were custom made for their audience, and what went down best were stories of steadfast martyrs, entirely innocent and virginal, dreadfully abused by monstrous and vindictive pagans. These martyrs suffered a vast range of tortures. They survived long after any normal person would have died, suffering unspeakable agonies. Often God miraculously turned the tortures against the evil perpetrator, who usually died in front of his victim. A massively disproportionate number of these victims were nubile young women whose suffering included being stripped and humiliated. With the benefit of modern knowledge it is easy to identify sadomasochistic tendencies in these stories and associated art. As Marina Warner has pointed out:

    In Christian hagiography, the sadomasochistic content of the paeans to male and female martyrs is startling, from the early documents like the Passion of saints Perpetua and Felicity into the high Middle Ages. But the particular focus on women's torn and broken flesh reveals the psychological obsession of the religion with sexual sin, and the tortures that pile up one upon the other with pornographic repetitiousness underline the identification of the female with the perils of sexual contact1

    Many stories of tortured women martyrs were pure sadistic invention - many of them have no better authority than prurience and the Golden Legend. A good example is Saint Agatha. She was like so many others supposedly tortured for being a Christian in the third century. Among the imaginary tortures she underwent on the orders of Quintianus was the cutting off of her breasts. Fortunately an apparition of Saint Peter "cured" her. Quintianus, undeterred by this spectacular miracle, now sentenced her to death by being rolled naked on a bed of live coals - but she somehow survived. In Christian art her imaginary mutilation is far more popular than her imaginary roasting, for reasons that we can only guess at.

    Saint Agatha by Felice Ficherelli,
    17th Century

     

    Portrait of a Young Woman as Saint Agatha by Cariani (Giovanni Busi) 1516 - 1517

       

     

    Saint Agatha is often depicted carrying her excised breasts, sweetly contemplating them on a salver held in her own hand.

    The shape of her amputated breasts, as depicted in artistic renderings, gave rise to her attribution as the patron saint of bell-founders and as the patron saint of bakers, whose loaves were blessed at her feast day. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients. She is also the patron saint of wet nurses.

     

    The Martyrdom of Saint Agatha (1519)
    by Sebastiano del Piombo

    A more recent but equally disturbing
    Saint Agatha

     

    “The Holy Breasts of Saint Agatha” by Orazio Riminaldi, 1625
    Agatha's pudding-like holy breasts look particularly edible in this rendering.

    St Agatha by Caitlin Karolczak, 2011. Oil, gold pigment on panel in antique frame

    According to a legend with no corroboration, and set in various locations in different accounts, Saint Apollonia had all of her teeth violently pulled out for no very good reason. She tried to kill herself by jumping into a fire and again by jumping into a river, but failed and was then decapitated (the method of Christian martyrdom almost always given in invented stories). Because of the incident of her teeth being pulled out, she is popularly regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from dental problems.

    Saint Apollonia - two statues and a holy relic, one of her teeth

     

    Saint Irene of Mytilene is an invented twelve-year old saint who supposedly lived on the Isle of Lesbos. As in many other cases her story was unknown until some bones were discovered (in 1959), at which point the bones started communicating telepathically with especially devout locals, who related contradictory stories about their previous owner's life, torture and martyrdom.

    Martyrdom and torture was the most popular theme in Christian legends and Christian art for many centuries. Since the legends were made up, they could be purpose-made to appeal to Christian tastes. Made-up torture victims were generally female, generally young, generally attractive, and generally naked. Often, like Agatha, they underwent a long series of tortures, depicted in graphic detail.

    These martyrs suffered every torture imaginable - not because of the proclivities of persecutors (who did not exist), but because of the preferences of the readership and audience of the works in which they appeared. Imaginary victims were tied up, often in BDSM poses. They were exposed to the public gaze. They were abased and humiliated. Their flesh was cut or torn. Their bones were broken. Their skin was stripped off. They were pierced by nails or stakes.

    Stories and pictures were precisely as titillating as contemporary mores would allow - except that for reasons of religious fantasy they had to remain virgins, so it never occurred to the vicious persecutors to rape them. Legends and paintings in which they appeared were the nearest their Christian audience ever came to seeing a snuff movie. Animals were involved more often than seems decent to modern tastes.

    Lucy whose name comes from, Lux, the Latin word for light, was a conventional female Roman Christian martyr. Like almost all of these martyrs, she was supposedly promised in marriage but refused the match because she preferred to remain a virgin and follow God. As a consequence she was tortured and then martyred. As in other cases the tradition is unreliable - though it was invented at a much earlier stage than most.

    In the first stories God made her so heavy that her persecutors could not move her, even with a team of 50 oxen. Her persecutors tried to burn her alive, but that did not work, so they stabbed her through the throat, yet she continued to berate them. She is sometimes depicted holding a sword, or specifically with a sword through her neck.

    In the fourteenth century this story was elaborated and improved. Her name probably suggested stories connected with her sight, and new legends were fabricated in which her eyes had been removed. According to some, her persecutors has used forks to remove her eyes, according to others she had torn out her own eyes to make her unsuitable as a marriage partner. This tale seems to have been a great marketing success. Audiences loved stories of blinding, so she quickly became a favourite in church art, holding her removed eyes on a dish (though she always has a new pair in her head - sometimes of a different colour). Bizarrely, the eyes on a dish suggested dainty morsels so a tradition arose of making eye-like cakes and eating them on her saint's day - much like the breast-cakes of her equally imaginary friend, Agatha.. Particularly devout followers still make special eye-like St Lacy cakes for their children in Catholic countries. In Italy, large grains of soft wheat representing her eyes and are an annual treat. Lucy is the patron saint of sweet-makers as well as the blind.

    Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) by Adolfo Wildt, 1927, Forlì Museo del Risorgimento

     

     

    St Lucy

    St Lucy

    St Lucy

    St Lucy

     

    St Lucy

    St Lucy's Cakes

    A devotee of St Lucy

     

    Detail from The Martyrdom and Last Communion of Saint Lucy, c. 1582, by Paolo Veronese
    Lucy's eyes have been miraculously restored. In the full picture flames in the background allude to an earlier attempt to kill her by burning which she miraculously survived, and oxen refer to the team that miraculously failed to drag her to a brothel.

    Saint Agnes or Saint Lucy?

    Christian women's cruelty towards their own children was another popular theme. Two Saints names Felicity after the Roman goddess of happiness illustrate the range of imaginary horror that Christian minds invented. According to the Catholic Church one Saint Felicity was the Christian slave of a Christian noblewoman. Both were supposedly condemned to death for their beliefs (something that did not happen in the Roman world). But Felicity was pregnant and writers knew that pagan Roman practice did not allow the execution of pregnant women. According to the story she was "fortunate" enough to give birth just in time for her scheduled martyrdom, and was delighted to able to leave her newborn child and go to God, her breasts still wet with milk for her newborn infant. Another Felicity (equally fictitious) was the mother of seven sons who encouraged all of them to be martyred, and asked for her own martyrdom to be delayed so that she could watch. Killing children was was not a normal pagan practice, but it seemed so natural to later Christians that the sons were often depicted as boys.

    The Seven Brothers - Felicity (or Felicitas) from the Nuremberg Chronicles, with the heads of her seven martyred sons held on the same sword: the perfect Christian mother.

    Felicity is depicted in Christian art, but even more striking are amateur efforts, such as the one below by the devout Christian mother of a large modern American Roman Catholic family, who presumably has not read any Sigmund Freud
    .(http://joyfilledfamily.blogspot.com/2011/11/ )

     

    The martyrdom of seven sons seems to have been a popular theme, and other unlikely stories of similar martyrdoms were popular. Symphorosa was the widow of Getulius, who had supposedly been martyred by Emperor Hadrian. When the emperor's attempts to induce his widow, Symphorosa, and their seven sons to sacrifice to the Roman gods were unsuccessful, he ordered Symphorosa to be brought to the Temple of Hercules. There, after various tortures, she was thrown into the river, with a heavy rock fastened to her neck, and drowned. The next day the emperor summoned her seven sons, and ordered them to be tied to seven stakes which had been erected for the purpose round the temple. They too were tortured, then each of them suffered a different kind of martyrdom. Crescens was pierced through the throat, Julian through the breast, Nemesius through the heart, Primitivus through the navel, Justinus through the back, Stracteus through the side, and Eugenius was cleft in two from top to bottom. There is of course not a scintilla of evidence that any of this really happened, and every reason to think that it represents Christian fantasy. (Stories of the martyrdom of seven Christian brothers are invariably modelled on 2 Maccabees chapter 7).

    The (imaginary) torture and martyrdom of Saint Philomena, a thirteen year old girl shown on the right, has a obvious appeal for a certain category of religiously inclined sexual deviant. There is no reason to suppose she ever existed, except a story that her otherwise unidentified bones communed with people, starting with a Catholic priest in 1805. By an astonishing coincidence he had visited Rome in the hope of exactly such a thing happening.

    She told supernatural communicants all about herself. She had declined to marry the Emperor Diocletian and had been stripped, tied to a pillar, and lashed until bathed in blood. "My whole body felt like one open wound, but I did not faint". She was cast into open water with an anchor around her neck, but rescued by angels. She was shot with a shower of arrows. "My blood flowed, but I did not faint.". Further attempts to shoot her resulted in the arrows boomeranging and killing six archers. She was finally beheaded. (A fact not often mentioned to today's faithful, is that numerous saints are known only because their supposed bones in the catacombs communed supernaturally with priests, monks, popes, and visionaries and told them standardised stories of martyrdom - all fuelling a trade in newly discovered martyrs' relics. A miracle accepted as proved in 1835 was the multiplication of Saint Philomena's bone dust, which provided for hundreds of reliquaries without the original amount of bone dust decreasing in quantity). In 1961 her name was removed from the Catholic liturgical calendar - as near as the Church ever comes to admitting that a saint never really existed.

    Acisclus and Victoria are fairly typical saints in that their alleged martyrdom has them surviving all sorts of murderous tortures. One 10th century passio relates that the Roman prefect of Córdoba, Dion, had Acisclus and Victoria cast into a fiery furnace. When he heard Acisclus and Victoria sing songs of joy from within the furnace, Dion had them bound to stones and cast into the Guadalquivir. They were soon seen floating unharmed on the river's surface. He retrieved them and had them roasted over a fire. The fire raged out of control and killed hundreds of pagans. The two saints then submitted to martyrdom, having demonstrated their faith in the standard manner.

    One of the give-aways that these sadistic stories were invented is the fact that they are essentially identical. Only the details of the sadistic tortures vary. In the standard trope for female virgins they always try to put off their suitors by saintly trick - St Lucy plucks out her own eyes. Saint Uncumber grows a beard. Another give-away is that martyr's names often make reference to their life or martyrdom - a very easy linkage to invent when referring to imaginary events in an indistinct past. Thus the main even in the story of Saint Christopher is that he carries Christ on his shoulders (The name Christopher means "Christ bearer"). St Lucy's name, derived from the word for light, makes reference to her sight. Saint Hippolytus is killed by horses being unleashed, as his name suggests - Hippolytus means "unleasher of horses". Even less imagination than usual went into this one as it is a direct lift from Euripides' play of the same name, where the eponymous hero is killed by being dragged along by horses. The picture above is from The Death of Hippolytus, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912), but you can find it reproduced on numerous Catholic websites and blogs described as The Death of Saint Hippolytus - without a single reader betraying any knowledge of Greek plays or Victorian art.

    Detail of Saint Hippolytus from Central Panel of Martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus
    by Dieric Bouts the Elder, Museum of Sint Salvator Kathedral, Bruges

    To save the effort of inventing new legends, a common practice was for Christians to take an existing story involving the appalling death of a young woman, and rewrite it with the young woman as a Christian martyr. For example Dirce was a young woman devoted to the god Dionysus who was killed by being tied to the horns of a bull. With little effort she could be represented as a Christian martyr killed on the orders of a wicked pagan, adding yet another fictitious saint to the thousands of others.

    A Christian Dirce by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1897

    The story of the brazen Bull of Perillos was another favourite. Also known as the brazen bull or Sicilian bull, it was a torture and execution device.

    Bull of Phalaris,, by Pierre Woeiriot, c 1556

    The bull's inventor, metal-worker Perillos of Athens, proposed it to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, as a means of executing criminals. The bull was made entirely of bronze, hollow, with a door in one side. The condemned was locked in the bull, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside roasted to death.

    The head of the bull featured a system of tubes designed so that the prisoner's screams were amplified, emerging from the bull's nostrils, and sounding like the bellowing of an infuriated bull.

    The story was adapted for more fictitious Christian persecutions. For example it was supposedly used by Emperor Hadrian on Saint Eustace, along with with his wife and children. The emperor Domitian supposedly used it on Saint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamon. The Emperor Diocletian supposedly used it on another Christian, Pelagia of Tarsus.

    None of these roastings are reliably documented, and all betray all the hallmarks of martyrdom fictions - they are evidently Christianised versions of a well known pre-Christian horror story.

    According to unsubstantiated tradition Antipas was martyred in ca. 92 AD by being burned in a brazen bull-shaped altar used for casting out demons worshiped by the local population.

    Another adaptation is the story of Saint George killing a dragon-monster from a lake to save a virgin Princess. This is a thinly disguised version of Perseus killing a dragon-monster from the sea to save the virgin princess Andromeda.

    Perseus on his horse killing a dragon-monster to save the virgin princess Andromeda
    (Andromeda, by Guido Reni (1575 - 1642))

     

    Saint George on his horse killing a dragon-monster to save a virgin Princess Sabra
    (George Fighting the Dragon by Raffael)

       

    Apart from the obvious borrowing from pagan stories, the fact that Christian martyrdom stories are inventions is given away by the multiple attribution of the same stories to different saints, and by attributing multiple different stories to the same saint. For example, lions refusing to eat their human victim is applied to many saints. In many cases such as Saint Jerome it is obviously adapted from the pagan story of Androcles and the lion. The story is that Androcles/Jerome removes a thorn from the paw of an injured lion. Years later in a Roman amphitheatre Androcles/Jerome is publicly fed to a lion, which turns out to be the same one he helped. In both cases the lion recognises its erstwhile benefactor and declines to eat him, impressing the previously bloodthirsty crowd. The same story was told of another saint, Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan.

    Androcles extracting a thorn
    from the paw of an injured lion

    Jerome extracting a thorn
    from the paw of an injured lion
    (by Niccolò Antonio Colantonio)

    A similar story is also applied by some sources to Saint Januarius, (who might well be a confused version of Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan) improved by adding multiple lions, although other sources, equally unreliable, associate him with other standard martyrdom tropes.

    The fictitious Saint Januarius and his equally fictitious lions.

    Such pagan stories often became popular, because of their quasi-sexual content. Generally they were Christianised - the heroes (like Dirce and Perseus) became fictitious Christians. But where the story was already well known, and especially when no obvious Christian moral could be attached to it - the story was allowed to stand. A good example was the story of Roman Charity (Caritas romana) depicted from Roman times (including at Pompeii)

    Cimon is incarcerated and sentenced to death by starvation. His daughter, Pero, secretly breastfeeds her father during her visits to him in gaol, so keeping him alive. She is found out by a jailer, but her act of selflessness impresses officials and wins her father's release. The story is recorded by the ancient Roman historian Valerius Maximus, and was presented as an act of filial piety and Roman honour. Christian patrons clearly found the story titillating and it was illustrated by dozens of artists, including , Rubens and Caravaggio. In some versions one or both of the participants seem to have become Christian saints, and wear halos, as in the recent example above. For no obvious reason, Pero is sometimes depicted naked.

    Cimon and Pero
    Hans Sebald Beham

    Cimon and Pero
    Hans Sebald Beham

    Cimon and Pero
    Jean-Baptiste Deshays 1838

     

    Caritas Romana
    Meyvogel, Budapest

    Cimon and Pero (Caritas Romana).1538
    Georg Pencz

    Men did not make such popular fictitious martyrs as women. When they were depicted as martyrs they were in danger of becoming Homo-erotic icons. St Sebastian is probably the most obvious and best known example. He stared off as a middle-aged Roman soldier, but his story had potential. The story was that Sebastian had been shot full of arrows, but God had arranged that they should all miss his vital organs, so that he survived - only to be clubbed to death once he had recovered, and his body tipped into a sewer.

    A middle aged man in a sewer appealed to a limited audience, but the shooting had potential, and the details were flexible. Sebastian soon lost his uniform. He became youthful and as near naked as contemporary Christian sensitivities would allow (recent examples are not shown here, but can easily be imagined). Many artists and their patrons were attracted to his story and the ecstatic look that they assumed he must have had on his face. Among them were, Botticelli, Titian, Pollaiuolo, Giovanni Bellini, Hans Memling, Gerrit van Honthorst, Luca Signorelli, El Greco, Honoré Daumier, John Singer Sargent and Louise Bourgeois. Mantegna painted him three times, Perugino four times, and Guido Reni seven times.

    As time went on the Church started discouraging the single nude male subject in art, Vasari noted that such images were arousing inappropriate thoughts among female churchgoers, but they were also clearly arousing inappropriate thoughts among male churchgoers. Today Saint Sebastian is a gay icon, and a quick review of a few paintings of him give a clue as to why. One might even speculate that he must have been a gay icon for centuries. He becomes younger, more athletic and more attractive, and his loin cloth is generally as daring as the times allow: ever smaller, more flimsy, lower, and giving the impression of being more likely to fall off imminently.

    St Sebastian c1480
    Andrea Mantegna

    Saint Sebastian (c. 1616)
    by Guido Reni

    Saint Sebastian (c. 1490–1500)
    Pietro Perugino

     

    Saint Sebastian, 1490
    Carlo Crivelli.

     

    Saint Sebastian
    Pietro Perugino ???

     

    St. Sebastian (c. 1490–1500) — Pietro Perugino

     

    St Sebastian
    Liberale da Verona

     

    Saint Sebastian
    Giovanni Battista Carlone

     

    Saint Sebastian
    in Sebastian, Ohio

     

    , St. Sebastian, Cathedral de Amiens

     

    St. Sebastian by Andrea Mantegna

     

    The fate of all of the 12 apostles is unknown, and this ignorance opened endless possibilities for invention. There are numerous gory stories about their painful ends - all as different and as bloodthirsty as possible.

    Bartolomeo di Giovanni, Martyrdom of St John - detail, Predella
    According to a story invented in the Middle Ages St John the Evangelist was boiled in oil under the Emperor Domitian, but being so holy he survived unharmed and went off to write the Book of Revelation
    (The Book of Revelation is now attributed to another John, the fictitious St John the Divine)
    As in so many other supposed martyrdoms we have reliable records of Christians killing people like this, but not Christians being killed like this.

     

    Juan Martínez Montañés, The Martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist, 1638 ·
    Museum of Fine Arts, Seville, Spain

     

    Christian tradition has three equally fictitious stories about the death of the apostle St-Bartholomew. According to one, he was kidnapped, beaten unconscious, and cast into the sea to drown. According to another he was crucified upside down, and according to a third he was skinned alive and beheaded.

    The account of him being skinned alive obviously has the strongest appeal, and is therefore the the most represented in art. Bartholomew is often shown being flayed alive by expert skinners, or alternatively he is shown with a large skinning knife or holding his own skin, or both, as in Michelangelo's Last Judgment, shown here on the right. As in most representations of saints he is shown resored to his pre-martyrdom state (but it is not obvious why he is bald, while his pelt has a full head of hair, and he sports a beard while his pelt is clean shaven)

    St. Bartholomew the Apostle by Marco d'Agrate, 1562, Duomo Cathedral, Milan
    His odd appearance is due to his having been flayed alive.
    He is usually depicted holding his own bloody skin, but here he is wearing it like a robe.

    Bartholomew is now the patron saint of tanners.

    flaying alive - a real victim, not St Bartholemew

     

    St Bartholemew

     

    The only disciple whose fate is descibed in the New Testement is Judas. Two different versions of his death are given. Here is one of them:

    John Canavesio (1450 - 1500) The Suicide of Judas, ca. 1492.

     

    Ten thousand martyrs of Mount Ararat from Les Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne, by Jean Bourdichon, Tours or Paris 1503-1508 (BnF, Latin 9474, fol. 177v) early 1500's

    The ten thousand martyrs of Mount Ararat were, according to a medieval legend, Roman soldiers, led by Saint Acacius, who converted to Christianity. They were crucified on Mount Ararat in Armenia by order of the Roman emperor. The story seems to have been invented by the ninth century scholar Anastasius Bibliothecarius.

     

    Life and Martyrdom of St. Julita and her son Quiricus
    Antependium, Santa Julita de Durro, Spain, c. 1170

     

    According to Christian tradition - ie to an invented legend - Saint Dionysius was a martyred Bishop of Paris. After his head was chopped off, Dionysius picked it up and walked six miles preaching a sermon.
    He is the patron saint of Paris, and is now called Denis.
    This depiction is from a mural of the martyrdom of St. Denis, The Pantheon (St. Genevieve), Paris.

     

    Below is a detail from Pellegrino Tibaldi's Martyrdom of St Lawrence (1592)
    An uncorroborated tradition holds that Lawrence was grilled to death in Rome, and that while being grilled he joked about being cooked well enough to eat, saying "Turn me over. I'm done on this side".
    He is the patron saint of cooks and chefs.

    The story of St Erasmus is another fantasy invented for the delight of sadomasochistic Christians (there being no reality television in the Middle ages). He was supposedly beaten about the head, spat upon and besprinkled with "foulness." He was beaten with leaden mauls until his veins broke and burst. He suffered all of these punishments with "tremendous willingness". He was then thrown into a pit of snakes and worms. Boiling oil and sulfur were poured on him. "He lay therein as he had lain in cold water, thanking and loving God." Lightning electrocuted everyone around save Erasmus. Another wicked emperor had him thrown into another pit, but an angel came and slew all the vipers and worms. A third emperor had him "put into a pan seething with rosin, pitch, brimstone lead, and oil" and this same mixture was poured into his mouth. A searing hot cloak and red-hot metal coat were both placed on him, to no effect, and an angel once again carried him away to safety. Erasmus was now enclosed in a barrel full of protruding spikes, and the barrel was rolled down a hill. But an angel healed him. His teeth were plucked out of his head with iron pincers. He was bound him to a pillar and his skin carded with iron cards. They roasted him upon a gridiron. They hammered sharp nails of iron into his fingers. They put out his eyes. They laid him on the ground naked and stretched him with strong withes bound to horses about his neck, arms, and legs, so that all his veins and sinews burst.. He was brought before the emperor and beaten and whipped, then coated with pitch and set alight. He was thrown into prison with the intention of letting him die of starvation, but he miraculously managed to escape. He was recaptured and tortured all over again in the Roman province of Illyricum. Finally his stomach was slit open and his intestines wound around a windlass. No reason is given why no angel was available on this occasion to rescue him.

    Le Martyre de saint Érasme, xylographie coloriée, vers 1460 - Bibliothèque nationale de France
    depicting a wide range of imaginary attempts to kill Erasmus

     

    Detail from The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus by Cranach, Lucas, 1472-1553
    Erasmus is having his entrails pulled out by a windlass. He is venerated as the patron saint of abdominal pain.

     
     

    Santa Febronia by Francisco Javier de Salazar
    Note the dismemered limbs and pody parts on the floor
    Saint Febronia was invented in the seventh century - much earlier than most made-up martyrs.

     

    Genuine Christian martyrs are so rare that pretty much any Christian murder victim qualifies. Eleven year old Saint Maria Teresa Goretti's only notable acheivement during her life was to be stabbed to death by a rapist in 1902.

    Peter of Verona, St Peter Martyr as he is also known, was an exceptionally unpopular Dominican Inquisitor. Like many other unpopular Dominican Inquisitors he was assassinated by persons unknown, in his case in 1252. Such assassination victims are always acclaimed as martyrs and saints. They provide a source of more gory images for bloodthirsty Christian art lovers - but not nearly as many as all those imaginary, young, attractive, shapely, naked, martyrs.

    .Saint Peter of Verona , 15th Century
    by Taddeo Crivelli

    Saint Peter of Verona

    .

    .

     

    Peter of Verona,
    St Peter Martyr.

    Peter of Verona, St Peter Martyr.
    Etla, San Pedro, Cloister

     

    Saint Peter of Verona by Luis de Morales

     

    Saint Peter Martyr and Kneeling Donor, c. 1490 by Ambrogio Bergognone Detail from

     

    Invented stories of torture and martyrdom are not confined to the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodox Churches also promote invented stories of sadistic practices. One example is the "Holy Martyr" James the Persian. For no better reason than that he was a Christian (at a time when Christianity was widely tolerated) James was tortured to death by being slowly dismembered, starting with his finger joints, hands and arms, then his toes, feet and legs, and ending with his head. As one keen commentator (not an eye-witness, obviously) puts it "The blood ran as rivers, the flesh fell, the veins were severed, the nerves plucked out, the arteries destroyed, the members were scattered. The audience fainted and the executioners grew weary"10:. As in Catholic legends, God always prolonged the martyrs' agony far beyond what any ordinary human being could have tolerated, keeping them alive and suffering long after an ordinary person would have died.

    According to Christian legend a Christian called Cucuphas was handed over to twelve strong soldiers in Barcelona. They whipped him, tore his skin with iron nails and stung him with scorpions. He was then roasted alive, having been covered in vinegar and pepper, but survived. A great bonfire failed to burn him, but instead incinerated his persecutors. The next day he was flogged with iron whips, after which he had his throat cut, which seems to have finished him off. Once again, there is no real evidence that Cucuphas ever existed - so the whole story is Christian fantasy.

    Martyrdom of Saint Cucuphas (or Sant Cugat) by Ayne Bru (1500-1507).
    Barcelona National Art, Museum of Catalonia

    If Saint George really existed, it is possible he was executed as an army deserter, but Christian hagiographers preferred a more inventive account of his death. According to the Golden Legend, a pagan official raised him on a gibbet and beat him with staves and rods of iron, until his body was broken in pieces. Then he applied iron brands to his sides. When George's bowels appeared through his flank the torturers rubbed them with salt. Later George drank deadly poison, twice. The next day the Emperor had him set between two wheels, furnished with sharp swords, but the wheels broke and George escaped unharmed. Next he was put in a cauldron of molten lead, which he treated as a comfortable bath. Soon afterwards, George prayed that God would destroy a temple, at which fire descended from heaven and burnt the temple, along with idols and the temple priests. The earth then opened and swallowed all the cinders and ashes. The following day George was drawn through the city, and had his head cut off. As the Emperor (Dacian) made his way home from the execution, more fire fell from heaven and burnt him and all his servants.

    An imaginitive representation of the torture of Saint George
    Cod. Bodmer 127 Passionary of Weissenau; Vitae Sanctorum - St George

     

    The Martyrdom of St George, Mechelen Cathedral, Belgium
    The two wheels in the Golden Legend account have been replaced by fiendish device
    with just one wheel, possibly based on a contemporary Christian torture device.

     

    The cult of relics gave a reason for digging up, boiling and dismembering dead bodies, a practice that must have appealed to Necrophiliacs, and perhaps other sexual deviants. Sometimes crowds would gather when a saint was known to be dying, ready to dismember him or her while still warm. Dismembered limbs of saints are still popular, and may be seen slowly decomposing in tens of thousands of churches around the world. Bodies are still occasionally dug up to remove fingers or limbs as relics, as happened for example to Eva Peron. For non-Christians, and to less traditionally minded Christians, the practice of collecting, keeping and displaying such items seems at best macabre, and at worst evidence of abnormal mental states.

     

     

    Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist. by Andrea Solario.c.1506–7.
    Now in New York

    One of many holy skulls of St John the Baptist.
    (Numerous churches boast his miracle-working skull).
    This one is kept well-protected at Amiens Cathedral.

     

    Many churches possess heads of John the Baptist, but they are merely skulls.
    Carvings are not as prestigious but can be even more macabre.

     

    Saint. Vitus being tortured in boiling oil, c. 1500, unknown artist.
    Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

     

    In Christian martyrdom legends, Christians often survived burning,
    just like Meshach, Shadrach Abednego in Daniel Chapters 1–3

     

     

     

     

    Masochism & "Mortification of the flesh"

    Early Christians deprived themselves of the necessities of life: eating such poor diets that they suffered physical illnesses, living in squalid and unhygienic conditions in remote places. They flagellated themselves and allowed their wounds to become infected. They chained themselves to fixed objects. They lived for years on top of tall pillars. They walled themselves up in tiny, dark, infested holes. Sometimes they wore nothing at all except perhaps a girdle of thorns. Such practices passed into traditional monastic life, which established standardised privations known as "the discipline". Monks, nuns and others were frequently scourged, either routinely or for minor offences. Saint. Kevin spent his days either standing naked in one of the frigid lakes of Ireland, or hurling himself naked into a patch of nettles. Either way, like many other saints, he seemed to have preferred life without his clothes on.

    Saint Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite (c. 390 – 459) was a Christian ascetic saint. Simon won his sainthood by finding ingenious ways to torment himself. He would starve himself until unconscious. He wore a girdle which bit into his flesh so that it drew blood and his waist became a suppurating mass writhing with maggots. He then spent a summer living in a hole, with only his head sticking up above the ground. At other times he would stand upright for as long as his body would allow. Later, he lived exposed to the elements on top of a column. The column was later extended to 15 or 18 metres where he lived for 39 years, sometimes standing on one leg when the other was too ulcerous to bear any weight. Monks using ladders supplied food and drink to him. He prostrated himself, sometimes over 1000 times a day. He would not see a physician or converse with any woman, including his own mother. For such acts he was elevated to sainthood. He was emulated by Simeon Stylites the Younger (They are both shown on the right). The two Simeons were then emulated by Simeon Stylites III. This last Simeon seems not to have been as discerning in his choice of pillar for he was killed by a lightning strike. Perhaps God felt that he had seen enough bad-taste self-inflicted suffering for the time being.

    Self inflicted torture - often historically genuine - was a popular subject for Christian artists. Saint Anthony (c. 251–356) chose to live in the the alkaline Nitrian Desert region, west of Alexandria. There he remained for some 13 years. He was one of the first ascetics to attempt living in the desert, completely cut off from civilization. His lifestyle was as harsh as he could make it. Supposedly, the devil fought St. Anthony by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and phantom women, providing a popular theme for Christian art. Along with imaginary martyrdoms this was an ideal excuse for painting naked woman.

    Anthony moved to a tomb, where he closed the door on himself - allowing Christian artists to introduce the other popular theme of death. When the devil observed his ascetic life, he became envious for some reason and decided to beat him - allowing Christian artists to include scenes of beating and flagellation. He went back into the desert to a mountain by the Nile called Pispir, where he now lived strictly enclosed in an abandoned Roman fort for some twenty years. The devil - or perhaps his own disturbed unconscious - resumed the war against the unfortunate Saint. It not seem to have occurred to him, or any Christian writer, that living alone in the desert for years, fasting and with no activity other than self-denial might induce sexual fantasies and hallucinations.

    Jan Brueghel the Elder, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1594

    The Temptation of Saint Anthony
    by John Charles Dollman, 1897

     

    Saint Anthony being beaten by demons

     

    The Temptation of Saint Anthony, ca. 1550, by Jan Mandyn

     

    Saint Anthony by Félicien Rops, 1878

     

    Saint Ammonius, a fifth century monk, was reputedly keen on burning himself as a punishment for experiencing bodily pleasure. As a sympathetic writer tells us "Extraordinary to relate, he is also said to have burnt his own flesh with hot iron whenever any little bit of his body reacted to some illicit pleasure, with the result that he had scars all over him". [Historia Lausiaca, Ch XII]

    In the eleventh century Churchmen started extolling self flagellation as a penance. Soon afterwards confessors were imposing sentences of whipping. Priests initially did the whipping themselves, the penitents often being entirely naked. A good flogging provided opportunities for sadists and masochists alike - the masochists having the bonus of imitating their god. Like modern Sadomasochists, participants would sometimes swap roles, taking it in turns to enjoy the suffering and bloodshed most.

    16th Century Spanish Flagellants

    Many writings of saints and mystics are full of such scarcely disguised sexual symbolism4. Many pursued severe asceticism, which produced vivid sexual hallucinations. Notable among them were Saints Jerome, and Francis of Assisi as well as Anthony the Great

    Jerome used to dream about being whipped by angels, but he felt the need to supplement these phantom floggings with real floggings. He is shown on the right in the process of flogging himself, but in reality he might have had helpers In Rome he had been surrounded by a circle of well-born women, including rich widows and daughters. The closeness of these relationships invited suspicion and brought hostility against him from the Roman clergy (possibly through jealousy). Jerome was forced to leave his position at Rome after an inquiry by the clergy into allegations that he had an improper relationship with a widow called Paula. But this was not all. He had led another woman to adopt extreme ascetic practices. She had died of her privations four months after starting to follow his instructions. Much of the Roman populace was outraged at Jerome for causing the premature death of a lively young woman. He left Rome for good in August 385, followed a little later by the widow Paula and a virgin Eustochium, to whom he continued his role of "spiritual adviser".

    The Roman Catholic Church hold that "mortification of the flesh", literally, "putting the flesh to death", as a worthy spiritual discipline. The justification comes partly from Saint Paul, who speaks of joy in suffering in Colossians: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake".

    He also wrote: "I chastise my body and bring it into subjection..." (I Cor. 9:27); and seems to have imagined himself a sort of supplementary messiah destined to suffer like Jesus "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, that is the Church." (Col 1:24).

    From the start of the second millennium mortification of the flesh became increasingly popular. St. Dominic Loricatus (995–1060) is said to have voluntarily suffered 300,000 lashes over six days.

    Christian Flagellants
    Pierre Grivolas, Flagelants au XIVe siècle (1909) La Fondation Calvet, Avignon, France.

     

    Saint Francis of Assisi kept his urges in check by rolling in the snow or throwing himself into thorn bushes. He asked pardon from what he called his "Brother Ass" (ie his body), for his severe bodily penances (an idea which could easily have got him condemned as a Dualist heretic). He also became keen on kissing lepers, one of the elements of his life that is now rather downplayed by his devotees.

    Saint Ignatius of Loyola while in Manresa in 1522 is known to have practiced severe mortifications of the flesh. In the Litany prayers to Saint Ignatius he is praised as being “constant in the practice of corporal penance.” He wore a hair shirt and heavy iron chain, and was in the habit of wearing a tight garter tied below the knee - presumably as a sort of tourniquet designed to induce varicose veins. St. Jean Vianney supposedly abstained almost completely from food and from sleep, carried out the harshest kinds of penances, and to deny himself in other ways - duly experienced visions of thirteen year old virgins being tortured and martyred.

    Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (or Thérèse of the Child Jesus), continued an old tradition into the late nineteenth century. As a child she was a known neurotic with a desire to become a Bride of Christ, an ambition she achieve at the age of 15. Her father could not attend her marriage to Christ because of his mental illness. She had been described by her mother at three years of age as "anxious to practice mortification”, an idea seen as particularly holy by contemporary Catholics and as evidence of child abuse by others. Later she fasted and used the 'discipline' vigorously, "scourging herself with all the strength and speed of which she was capable, smiling at the crucifix through the tears which bedewed her eyelashes," according to one of her biographers. She clearly enjoyed suffering. After she contracted tuberculosis she still observed a rigorous Lenten fast in 1896. She went to bed on the eve of Good Friday and felt a joyous sensation - apparently blood bubbling from her mouth. She lived long enough to recall this night as a sweet memory. She died in 1897 at the age of 24. On her death-bed, she is reported to have said, "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me." Apart from her self-imposed suffering she seems to have been otherwise unremarkable. Though known to be neurotic, uneducated and not particularly bright, she is now a saint and a Doctor of the Catholic Church, a model for millions of similar personalities.

    Lucia Santos, one of the child visionaries of Fatima, later reported that several times the Virgin Mary requested the making of sacrifices. She had shown the visionaries hell and this vision prompted them to ever more stringent self-mortifications. Among many other practices, Lucia wrote that she and her cousins wore tight cords around their waists and flogged themselves with stinging nettles. Lucia wrote that Mary said God was pleased with their sacrifices and bodily penances.

    Matthew Talbot was an Irish worker whose life would have gone unnoticed were it not for the cords and chains discovered on his body after he died in 1925 - which ingenuous Catholics interpreted as evidence of his great holiness.

    At the latter half of the twentieth century, Saint Josemaría Escrivá practiced self-flagellation and used the cilice. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, wrote in one of his letters: "Let us now consider what we must do to ensure that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our souls. It can all be summed up in mortification of the flesh with its vices and concupiscences, and in guarding against a selfish spirit... The mortification must be constant and steady, not intermittent, and it must last for one's whole life. Moreover, the perfect Christian must not be satisfied with a kind of mortification which merely appears to be severe. He must make sure that it hurts." Mother Teresa of Calcutta used the cilice and discipline regularly as means of doing penance. Christian communities in some parts of the world still practice processions of public flagellation during Lent and Holy Week.

    Detail from A Procession of Flagellants (Procesión de flagelantes) by Francisco de Goya, painted between 1812 and 1819. In the foreground is a procession of Roman Catholic men wearing white pointed hats and whipping their bleeding backs in penitence. Other devotees, wearing black hoods, blow trumpets to publicise the spectacle.

     

    Recent theology affirms the practice of mortification. The catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes” (n. 2015). Interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance." (CCC 1430)

    Pope John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council, taught in Paenitentiam agere, an encyclical he wrote on July 1, 1962: that Christ has suffered in the flesh and it is only fitting that we be "armed with the same intent.". It is right, too, to seek example and inspiration from the great saints of the Church. Pure as they were, they inflicted such mortifications upon themselves as to leave us almost aghast with admiration. And as we contemplate their saintly heroism, shall not we be moved by God's grace to impose on ourselves some voluntary sufferings and deprivations. Pope Paul VI also stated: “The necessity of mortification of the flesh stands clearly revealed"

    It is now obvious that many saints were anorexics, self-harmers and sufferers from a range of personality disorders. According to the Church, severe mortifications should now be carried out under the guidance of an experienced spiritual director, so the traditional practices are becoming ever less common and ever less public.

    According to tradition, the Church Father Origen had castrated himself, and we know that other Christians did the same because we have copies of written orders prohibitting the practice. The Skoptsy were a Russian sect that practiced castration of men and the mastectomy of women in accordance with their religious teachings against sexual lust. (they thought that male genitals and female breasts were "forbidden fruit" grafted onto sinful human bodies by God after the Fall). The movement was first recorded in the late 18th century. Skoptsy may have still have numbered around 100,000 in the early 20th century. They faded into obscurity in the mid-twentieth century, though some might still be alive in the early twenty-first.

    Christian art overflows with sadomasochistic sex. Lust was traditionally depicted as a naked woman whose breasts and genitals were being eaten by serpents and toads. Artists delighted in depicting what lay in store in hell for those, especially women, afflicted by the cardinal sin of lust.

    The Fall Of The Damned (detail), Dieric Bouts, 1450

     

    Martyrdoms were particularly popular. Almost all of them, like St Catherine of Alexandria broken on a wheel, the product of Christian imaginations. Women and especially virgins were usually victims of martyrdoms in male sexual fantasies, but not always. Women too could enjoy their share of fantasy fun if they knew how to present it. St Theresa of Ávila, a sixteenth century ecstatic visionary, reported this visit from an angel3:

    In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out, I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease ...

    ... almost like an orgasm, a number of sceptics have noted.

    details of two versions of Saint Teresa of Avila's transverberation or "spiritual wounding"

     

    The language of female visionary saints reveals three recurrent themes, sexual frustration, symptoms of schizophrenia and masochistic tendencies. The three are combined in numerous reports of visions, or more likely of hallucinations. They experience all the symptoms of love. Their hearts beat so loudly that their sisters can hear them. They speak of overpowering emotions such as ardour, passion, excitement, euphoria, exhilaration. They burn with desire. Their hearts are aflame. They are consumed by fire. The seduce or are seduced by Jesus. Visionaries openly admit to being in love, and refer to Jesus as their beloved. They experience intense feelings of elation in his presence. He is tender to some of them, but beats or tortures others. They wish for marriage with their beloved, or union with their beloved, or both. They experience heightened emotional states of excitement. They imagine undergoing wedding ceremonies, and sometimes of being penetrated or pierced by phallic objects, like Teresa's spear with a flaming tip. They experience delight when the Beloved places his hand inside them and touches their inner organs. They are devoted to him. They worship him. They achieve ecstatic states, finding themselves in paradise. They feel their bowels move, like the Queen of Sheba with her lover. Their souls are transported to heaven. They enjoy raptures. After their ecstasy, they feel drained and satisfied. They suffer for their love. They experience distress when abandoned by their lover. They crave his attention. They yearn for him bodily. They undergo agony. They long for his touch. They ache for his affections. They hunger and thirst for him. They suffer pain thinking of his torture and humiliation. Often they lick his bleeding wounds. They see themselves as specially chosen by him, often because of their humility. According to Catholic websites Jesus confided to Teresa of Avila "I would create the universe again, just to hear you say that you love Me".

    Other visions were less easy to explain, and might interest modern psychiatrists, though they seem to have fitted well enough into the Christian world view. Many visionaries saw Jesus, young or old, naked or clothed, alone or with others, circumcised or uncircumcised, but when Jesus visited Franciscan Colette de Corbie, in the fifteenth century, he appeared to her as chopped meat, or as she put it, a dish completely filled with "carved up flesh like that of a child".

    St Bridget of Sweden, the fourteenth century Visionary, seems to have originated the popular sadomasochistic practice of dropping molten wax onto bare skin. Whipping was always popular. It is conceivable that the ecstasy induced by prolonged flagellation and other Christian mortification of the flesh were not always entirely attributable to divine grace. The mystery as to why so many penitents found it so much more satisfying to whip each other, rather than for each to whip themselves, might well have been solved on a psychiatrist's couch. So too the reason why devout laymen should want to join organisations such as "The Slaves of the Blessed Virgin Mary".

    An unnatural attraction to other forms of suffering is a notable feature of Christian devotion, most notably disease and sickness. As one scholar notes: "Holy people spat or blew into the mouths of others to effect cures or convey grace. The ill clamoured for the bath water of would-be saints to drink or bathe in, and preferred it if these would-be saints themselves washed seldom and therefore left skin or lice in the water.. Following Francis of Assisi, who kissed lepers, several Italian saints ate puss or lice from poor of sick bodies, thus incorporating into themselves the illness and misfortune of others. Holy virgins in the Low Countries lactated miraculously and cured adherents with the breast milk they exuded."

    Christina the Astonishing (1150–1224), also known as Christina Mirabilis, was a Christian peasant given to violent seizures, with a penchant for physical suffering. According to Thomas of Cantimpré and Cardinal Jacques de Vitry, she subjected herself to all manner of suffering. She threw herself into fiery furnaces. In winter she would plunge into the frozen Meuse River for weeks at a time. She allowed herself to be carried down river to the mill where the wheel "whirled her round in a manner frightful to behold". She was chased by dogs that tore her flesh. She ran into thickets of thorns, and emerged covered in blood. According to other sources she had herself racked, and hung on the gallows beside a corpse, and partly buried in a grave5 . Her problems were, as one commentator put it, "transparent sexual hallucinations". Today she is regarded as a patron saint of the insane.

    As one scholar puts it:

    "Both male and female saints regularly engaged in what modern people call self-torture - jumping into ovens or icy ponds, driving knives, nails or nettles into their flesh, whipping or hanging themselves in elaborate pantomimes of Christ's Crucifixion."

    Here are a few extracts from The Book Of Divine Consolation Of The Blessed Angela Of Foligno translated From The Italian by Mary G. Steegmann : Introduction By Algar Thorold (Chatto And Windus: London, 1909). Angela (1248 – 1309) was a Franciscan tertiary and mystic, whose visions are typical of what the Church regards as evidence of holiness, and secularists regard as sadomasochistic hallucinations:

    He did say unto me, "Put thy mouth into the wound in My side." Then methought that I did put it there and did drink the blood which was running freshly from out of His side … Then I did pray the Lord that He would cause my blood to be shed and poured out for His love's sake… [p 8]

    And I did suffer so greatly that I was constrained to put actual fire upon my body in order that it might quench the burning of desire; …. [p 16]

    He empowered the lofty Cross that it should bear Him on high, His body scourged and bleeding and pierced as He hung there, and that it should show Him naked unto all. And in order that He might suffer the most cruel and ignominious death, He caused the vinegar and hyssop to make bitter His mouth; He caused (oh, marvellous to hear!) the lance to enter and pierce through His divine side and heart, so that blood and water issued from out His heart and body and fell upon the earth. [p 57]

    …. I was hung naked upon the Cross, and vile men stripped off My tunic and My vest and cast dice for them before Mine eyes. And, naked as when I was born of the Virgin, in the cold, the wind, and the air, I was exposed and stretched out on high in the sight of all men and women, in order that I might be the more easily seen and mocked at and might suffer the greater shame. [SIXTH CONSOLATION]

    At this sight my bowels were pierced with anguish and I grieved more than I had ever grieved before. And as I stood thus plunged in grief, there suddenly appeared around the Crucified a multitude of my children who were devout and given unto preaching and to following the example of poverty, contempt, and suffering of Christ Crucified. The Blessed Jesus called them unto Himself, and drawing each one unto Him, He embraced him and made him to kiss the wound in His side, and clasping him close with His own hands, He laid his head there in that place. And because of the joy born in my soul at this sight, I did forget the aforesaid sorrow. [p 235]

    Angela of Foligno spoke of her encounter with Jesus as "love and inestimable satiety, which, although it satiated, generated at the same time insatiable hunger, so that all her members were unstrung". It is notable that the Blessed Angela is not recorded as ever having anything useful in her life - her great holiness is attributable entirely to her thinly disguised fantasies and distinctly odd activities. Some of them are difficult to credit and there must be uncertainty as to whether they were carried out for perverse sexual pleasure, or some other inexplicable perversity. Here is the Blessed Angela again, her idea of a good time being to go out drinking and eating from the suppurating sores of a leper.

    After this we washed the feet of the poor women and the hands of the men, but especially those of a leper which were all putrefied and spoiled and full of corruption. Afterwards we did drink the water wherewith we had washed him, and that drink was so sweet unto us that we tasted of its sweetness all the way as we returned until we arrived at this place. And because a scale from those sores had got into my throat I endeavoured to swallow it as though I had received it in communion ; and at last I did swallow it, and I found it to be so sweet that I can in no wise describe it.6:

    The Blessed Angela of Foligno was not alone. St. John of the Cross (1542 – 1591), a Carmelite friar, licked out the sores of lepers, which he described as "pleasurable". He is now a Doctor of the Church.

    Sister Christina Ebner, (1277 – 1356) was a German Dominican nun born in Nuremberg, Germany. At the age of twelve, she entered the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Engelthal, a community of nuns. She cut a cross of skin over her heart and tore it off, suffered "terrible self-torture" for years and then convinced herself that she had conceived a child by Jesus after being embraced by Him7 . - an hallucination too many for her more orthodox sisters, one imagines, which might explain why, unlike other psycho-sexual visionaries, she has not been made a saint.

    A desire to lick up vomit seems to have been popular among particularly holy women. Jeanne Guyon a seventeenth century Quietist, describes a strikingly similar experience. St. Rose's interest in illness was even more extreme. She drank a bowl of human blood drawn from a diseased patient.

    Clare of Montefalco (c. 1268 – 1308) joined the Third Order of St. Francis in 1274 at tthe age of six. She was prone to fits, and remained in disturbed mental states for weeks on end, experiencing visions or perhaps hallucinations. On one occasion, she reported seeing Jesus carrying his cross. Clare reached for the cross. As she did so, Jesus pierced her chest and implanted his cross in her heart. The intense pain that she felt remained with her for the rest of life, which she spent in continuous suffering. Following her death her heart was removed from her body. It was reported that symbols of Christ's passion, a tiny crucifix and a scourge, were found within it, (apparently planted by a nun from Foligno). She was cannonised in 1881.

    St Mary Magdalena dei Pazzi was born Catherine de Pazzi in Florence in 1566. She experienced stranged ecstasies from the age of 12 and became a Carmalite nun, but her sadomasochistic tendencies had started at the age of nine, before her fits and bouts of hysteria started. Here are a few extracts from a detailed account of her life9:

    She regarded as just the sufferings of the senses; and, as children invent plays and amusements by the instinct of their age, so she would find new ways of afflicting her delicate limbs. Her ardent desire for suffering was not appeased by the discipline a common instrument of penance but, in addition, she would make crowns and girdles out of the thorny stems of orange trees, and, imitating the passion of Jesus, she would encircle with them her head and sides. Thus encircled and crowned, she would lie in bed at night, not sleeping, but bitterly suffering.

    Of this the mother Sister Evangelista del Giocondo left a special testimony, declaring that she found her many a time in the act of most cruelly scourging herself, her flesh livid and bleeding, and even the floor and the walls of the room besmeared with blood. To these cruel torments she added others which her indefatigable and insatiable zeal suggested and prompted her to invent. It was principally remarked that on lighting a candle, she used to let some of the melted wax drop on her hands and feet, which would be skinned thereby, and she would sometimes be made lame for some days. She would also press her flesh with iron pincers until the blood would flow. In the fervor of prayer, like another St. Jerome, she was wont to strike her breast with a stone. She would gather up a quantity of nettle in the orchard, and, bringing it into her cell, she would rub it over her body. During the time that she went around with shoes or slippers, that the feet might not be without their martyrdom, she used to break some dry cypress berries, and, placing them in her shoes, she would walk about as usual, with great pain. In a word, she regarded her body as a vile beast of burden, as the ground which we tramp upon. She loaded it with all sorts of toils, and reduced it almost to the exhaustion of its last degree of strength.

    One day whilst Mary Magdalen was at work with her novices, she saw in the heart of one of them a fault or imperfection which was greatly displeasing to God, and of which the novice having no knowledge had not spoken to the mother or the others. She saw that such a fault was rooted in the heart of that girl like a juniper tree (so it presented itself to the imagination of Mary Magdalen), and she said that the Guardian Angel of this novice was trying to uproot it from her heart, but could not succeed, as some devils prevented him. Hence the holy mother, enkindled with zeal, arose suddenly from her seat, and, taking the novice by the arm, led her to the oratory of the novitiate, and there, being rapt in ecstasy, began to strike her with the discipline, so as to humble her spirit rather than inflict pain on her body, saying at the same time to the devils: "Depart from her, ye evil ones, and leave this soul." The novice, between the surprise and the humiliation, burst into tears, and the mother, having known her to be well disposed towards docility, manifested to her the fault which had taken root in her interior, and thus enlightening her wrought also her amendment.

    Saint Veronica Giuliani (1660 – 1727) another Italian mystic nun took at least one lamb to bed with her, kissing it and suckling it at her breasts She was beatified by Pius II, in memory of the lamb of God, and canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI who seems to have been a little less keen to recognise the ovine connection.

    Other mystical experiences experienced by devout believers include accounts of anorexia, trances, catatonic seizures, sweet mucus in the throat (globus hystericus). ecstatic nosebleeds, migraines and various hallucinations: levitations, swellings, elongation or enlargement of body parts, and so on. A Viennese Beguine, Agnes Blannbekin, claimed that Jesus visited her, and she was fortunate enough to received his foreskin in her mouth, reporting that it tasted as sweet as honey.

    Men were less inclined to see visions of Jesus, with or without his foreskin, but only a few were fortunate enough to receive visions of female crucifixion victims. One 14th century Dominican in the Rhineland, experienced a vision in which a religious female friend, Lukardis of Oerwiemar, appeared to him crucified on a cross.

    The Christian tradition of inducing psycho-sexual hallucinations has continued into modern times, though it is increasingly difficult to conceal the underlying deviant tendencies. As in earlier times the recipients of psychosexual visions generally suffer long-term medical problems and are known by their contemporaries to be frauds with strange fantasies. An excellent example is Padre Pio who stated that he believed the love of God is inseparable from suffering. The Devil played unlikely tricks on him, including altering letters to his spiritual directors, and appeared to him in various guises including young girls that danced naked before him, an angel, Christ Crucified, a young friend, Pope Pius X, a Guardian Angel, St. Francis and Our Lady. His body was bruised, allegedly from beatings received at the hands of devils who tore off his clothes so that they could strike his exposed flesh. He also reported stigmata and transverberations - questionable ecstasies, like the orgasmic experiences of Theresa of Avila Despite being a transparent fraud11:, the Pope took a shine to him, and he is now Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.

     

    Images of Hell

    Another source of imaginary horror was hell and the suffering of souls there. Every manner of torture was applied in hell, often copying the sufferings of fictitious Christian martyrs, and the genuine sufferings of so-called heretics at the hands of the so-called orthodox. People, or their souls, were eternally tied-up, starved, flayed, flogged, torn, stabbed, roasted, hacked, boiled, hanged, burned, eaten, mutilated and drowned.

    Images of hell matched imaginary martydoms and real punishments inflicted by the Church so closely that it is often impossible to tell from an image whether it is intended to represent an imaginary Christian martyrdom, an imaginary scene in hell, or the real suffering of people at the hands of the Church. For example, the image on the right is supposed to represent a Christian martyr, but it could just as easily be an image of hell, or a supposed witch, heretic, blasphemer, adulteress, Unitarian, Pantheist, or atheist.

    Torment of Proud in Hell, 1493 Angers BM SA 3390 folio .035v
    This is a depiction of hell, but could just as easily be the punishment on Earth

     

    Detail from the Damned in Hell, 15th century, Bodlian. Douce134
    This is an image of Hell, but could just as easily represent the treatment of "heretics" on Earth

     

    Being boiled in a cauldron was a punishment for sinners on earth and in hell

     

    Only the demons tell us that these unfortunates are souls in hell. This could just as easily represent fictitious martyrdoms, or the fate of real people out of favour with the Church.

     

     

    Hell depicted in MS. Douce 134

     

    Hell depicted in MS. Douce 134 f 086v

     

    Hell depicted in MS Douce134 f84

     

    Hell depicted in MS.Douce 134 f 084v

     

     

    Last Judgment (detail Hell) - by Fra Angelico- from Museo di San Marco, Florence

     

    Hell_#1_Maitre_de_l'echevinage_Rouen_15cent_BNF

     

     

    fiery purgatory in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

    This image could represent a real woman being burned for witchcraft, but the halo suggests otherwise, unless it is supposed to be someone like Joan of Arc, whom the Church burned alive and later declared her a saint.

     

    Christians still enjoy creating images of hell to scare themselves and their children.
    This picture, along with suitable bloodcurdling text, comes from a Christian website.

     

    The Tooth Worm as Hell’s Demon, southern France, 18th Century

    Angers - BM - SA 3390, detail of f. 34v. Calendrier des bergers. Paris, 1493.
    The punishment of those prone to anger.

    Bodleian, MS. Douce 134, fol. 85r
    Apparently popes, cardinals, bishops and monks have their own clerical torture cauldren in Hell

    Hans Memling (b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges) Last Judgment 1467-71
    Muzeum Narodowe, Gdansk

    This scene could be set outside almost fifteenth century Christian city
    except that the dragons suggest that it is supposede to be Hell
    c. 1430 Dutch, Ars Moriendi

    Hell depicted in The Garden of Delighs (Hortus Deliciarum), German c. 1180,
    Illumination on parchment, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

     

     

     

     

    Sadism - the Persecution of non-Christians

    Traditional hatred of female sexuality featured strongly in Malleus Maleficarum. It asserted for example that "All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable"2. Despite their own sexual purity, inquisitors felt themselves obliged to strip women naked, shave off all their body hair, and conduct a minute search for hidden supernumerary nipples. Subsequent torture techniques included the application of red-hot pincers to breasts. Inquisitors were particularly interested in hearing about the details of demonic copulation, the quality and frequency of intercourse, the quality and frequency of orgasms, the details of the Devil's penis, and so on.

     

    Victims of the Inquisition were generally tortured in the nude. Inquisitors and Puritan witch finders both preferred their victims naked, so their bodies could be shaved all over and inspected closely.

     

    Torture instruments could be inserted into orifices. This "pear" could be inserted and then forced open using an internal screw mechanism operated by the ring-key at the thin end that would remain exposed externally

     

    Dominicans at work

     

    Christians often attributed the tortures they themselves employed to pagans persecuting Christian martyrs. The only way to identify this as a fictional account of the persecution of a Christian (rather than a real account of Christians doing the persecuting) is the characteristic look of the victim, eyes fixed on heaven.

     

     

     

    Christian Sadomasochism Today

    Since Freud's theories were published, many sadomasochistic practices have been abandoned, or at least confined to the privacy of Church institutions. Young girls no longer have their clitorises cauterised and boys no longer forced wear spiked rings on their penises. A churchman giving a whip as a present to a prominent statesman, as Dr Pusey did to Gladstone, might now raise an eyebrow or two. Bishops no longer deliver lengthy public sermons lauding the merits of punishing the body for the good of the soul, as they did in the nineteenth century. Priests and monks no longer flagellate naked schoolgirls with impunity, as they did until recent times, and trainee Jesuits are no longer given spiked bands to wear on their thighs, as they were not so long ago. Or perhaps they just keep quiet about it now, and leave silices to members of Opus Dei.

    Flagellation and the Flagellants, by the Rev William Cooper, London, 1869

     

    silice

     

    silice - detail

     

    Christian iconography still abounds in sadomasochistic images. It is not difficult to find images of broken and bleeding saints; Christ in agony nailed to the cross, complete with lacerations, bleeding scalp, and gaping wound in his side; or Mary with her chest torn open to expose a heart pierced with swords, or a heart with flames issuing from it, or bound with a circlet of thorns. Why such images are found so compelling is a mystery known only to God, although those with a grounding in psychiatry could probably work it out, and most normal people might well be prepared to hazard a guess.

     

     

    Delicious
     
     
    Buy the Book from Amazon.com

     

     

    Buy the Book from Amazon.co.uk
    Beyond Belief: Two Thousand (2000) Years of Bad Faith in the Christian Church
     
     
    More Books

     

     

     

     

    Notes

    1. Warner, Alone of All Her Sex, p 71.

    2. Kramer and Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum, Pt I, q6.

    3. Cohen, J. M., translator, The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila ( London, 1957), p 210.

    4. Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion, p 199

    5. Oskar Pfister, The Psychoanalytic Method, (Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1917), pp 572-3 citing Mechtild von Magdenburg, Das fliessende Licht der Gottheit (Berlin, 1909)

    6. The Book Of Divine Consolation Of The Blessed Angela Of Foligno : Translated From The Italian By Mary G. Steegmann : Introduction By Algar Thorold (Chatto And Windus : London, 1909 ) p 244

    7. Oskar Pfister, The Psychoanalytic Method, (Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1917), PP 572-3 citing Mechtild von Magdenburg, DAs fliessende Licht der Gottheit (Berlin, 1909)

    8. Oskar Pfister, The Psychoanalytic Method, (Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1917), PP 572-3 citing Mechtild von Magdenburg, DAs fliessende Licht der Gottheit (Berlin, 1909)

    9. St. Mary Magdalen De-Pazzi, Florentine, Noble - Sacred Carmelite Virgin Compiled By The Rev. Placido Fabrini To Which Are Added Her Works, A Narration Of The Miracles Wrought Through Her Intercession Down To Our Days And Prayers For The Novena In Her Honor, Translated From The Florentine Edition Of J852 And Published By The Rev. Antonio Isoleri, Miss. Ap. Rector Of The New St. Mary Magdalen De-Pazzi S Italian Church, Philadelphia, Pa

    10. Translated from the Greek original text by Leonidas Papadopulos and Georgia Lizardos from the Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, Volume 11, November, 5th Edition. Athens, Greece. Publisher: Archimandrite Matthew Lagges, 1979, pp.677-685, Papadopulos & Lizardos 1982. Reprinted from Orthodox Life No. 6 - December 1982.

    11. The Catholic physician and psychologist Agostino Gemelli described Pio as "an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people's credulity."

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
     
    •     ©    •     Further Resources     •    Link to Us    •         •    Contact     •