Les Convulsionnaires

November 12, 2007 at 11:23 am | Posted in books, spectacle | 2 Comments
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St Medard

Just a few blocks from me, at the bottom of the rue Mouffetard, is the church of St. Médard. Dating from the 12th century, it’s a completely ordinary, unremarkable neighborhood church — that is, until you know its story.

In the early 18th century, a jansenist deacon known as François Pâris was buried in the (no longer extant) cemetery of St. Médard. Celebrated in life for his piety and asceticism, his grave became a site of prayer and pilgrimage, and before long, there were reports of miraculous events on the site: visitors — mostly teenage girls — were afflicted by ecstatic fits, trances, and “collective psychosis”. Known as the Convulsionaries of St. Médard, these passionate young women barked and meowed, committed “indecent acts” — some even demanded to be whipped, beaten , or strangled by on-lookers to demonstrate the purity of their devotion.

Predictably, crowds began to gather around the cemetery to watch the divinely-inspired theatrics, and eventually a royal ordinance was put in place to close the cemetery. The following day, some local wit had posted this sign on the door:

“De par le Roy, défense à Dieu de faire miracle en ce lieu”
By order of the king, God is forbidden from making miracles in this spot.

From the Guide de Paris Mystérieux.



  1. I love it. France has such a lovely rich tradition of flagrantly performatively hysterical women.

    didn’t the church burn down at some point and this is a rebuilt version?

    can’t wait to get back to my wacky little quartier 🙂

  2. I don’t think it ever burned, although it has been added to and renovated numerous times. You can see the full history here:


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