Story 41

December 11, 2020

We have reached day five in the Heptameron! Be sure to read Emily Butterworth’s introduction to the fifth day of stories!

The lascivious Franciscan in today’s tale seeks to impose a strange penance on a girl whose confession he hears on Christmas Eve, telling her she must wear his cord on her bare flesh and that he must place it on her with his own hands. The girl refuses to comply and tells her mother, who reports the priest to the Countess of Egmont who has hired him. Both amused and appalled, the countess laughs heartily at the Franciscan’s creativity but also has him beaten—in the kitchens—until he confesses. She then sends him back to his convent bound and tied.

As our storytellers return in their discussion to the topic of punishment, Oisille observes that she finds the Franciscan’s punishment fitting and that it “should serve as a warning to his companions,” while Nomerfide suggests that it might have been better if the countess “had gently reproached him” and Geburon reminds the others that “it is required that we correct our fellow-men privately before telling anyone else or referring it to the Church.” Parlamente agrees with him but says that an exception must be made for “people who themselves preach the word of the Gospel yet practise the opposite,” explaining that “We shouldn’t hesitate to make a public scandal of people whose scandalous behavior affects everybody.”

This story, set explicitly in the year (1529) that Louise de Savoie and Marguerite d’Autriche negotiated the Treaty of Cambrai, also called the Peace of the Ladies, features a woman (the Countess of Egmont) dispensing justice and three female storytellers (Oisille, Nomerfide, and Parlamente) weighing in on the question of his punishment.

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