Martha Brossier

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Martha Brossier
Born1556
Other namesMartha Broissier,
Madam Brossier,
Marthe Brossier

Martha Brossier (1556- d. after 1578) was a French woman, infamous for feigning demonic possession at the age of 22.[B 1] The fraud was discovered by Charles Miron, bishop of either the Diocese of Angers or the Diocese of Orléans. According to Augustin Calmet, Martha, the daughter of a weaver in Romorantin, claimed to have been demonically possessed, drawing considerable notoriety. Her case of demonic possession is often cited by theological historians along with the Loudun possessions because both cases consist of notorious accounts of apparent demonic possession which are now presumed to have been fraudulent.[A 1]

Daemonic torment[edit]

The maladies from which she was recorded to suffer included an extreme shortness of breath, the ability to stick out her tongue unreasonably far, and the gnashing of her teeth. She would writhe and move her mouth as if she had convulsions while contorting her face, rolling her eyes and appearing to show deep vexation and torment. She would also contort her body parts. A rumbling noise was heard from the area of her spleen under her short ribs on her left side, causing her left thigh to spasm. She often spoke in a violent and roaring voice. She was recorded to have laid flat on her back and skip with her body, being able to span the distance from the altar to the door of a great chapel in four or five lifts, which onlookers described as giving an impression of her being dragged or lifted, presumably by demons. During her demonic fits, she was able to endure pin pricks to her hands and neck with limited bleeding. She was also able to speak with her mouth shut, often speaking English and Greek in fluency.

Discovery[edit]

Charles Miron discovered the fraud by making her drink holy water under the guise of normal water. He also had the exorcists present her with a key wrapped up in red silk (stating that the silk contained a relic of the 'true cross) and recite various verses from Virgil, which Martha Broisser's demon took for exorcism rites. As both the presence of the wrapped key and the recital of lines from Virgil agitated her immensely, the fraud became clear. Henri de Gondi, Cardinal Bishop of Paris, had her examined by five members of his faculty. Three were of the opinion that she was an impostor with little indication of malady. The Parliament nominated eleven physicians who all unanimously reported that there was nothing demonic in the matter, [A 2] suggesting that she used the physical strength of her stomach and breast to speak with her mouth shut.[B 2]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • Calmet, Augustin (1751). Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. The Complete Volumes I & II. 2015. ISBN 1-5331-4568-7.
  1. ^ p. 132.
  2. ^ p. 132.
  1. ^ p. 22.
  2. ^ p. 24.

Further reading[edit]