Holy Fools

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On solemn fasting days he feasted riotously on beans, with predictable results. The locals saw him as a madman and beat him when his antics proved too much. The tradition of fools for Christ really took off when it arrived in Russia. The Russian fools endured not only destitution and beatings, but also went naked in the cruel Russian winters. For them, being seen with a hot water bottle would have been as scandalous as the Archbishop of Canterbury being found in the bosom of a stripper. Rasputin had a reputation for healing and generosity to the poor, but also for heavy drinking and visiting brothels, and I only mention him because his story highlights the dangerous game genuine holy fools played with hypocrisy, masochism and actual madness.

Fools for Christ are rare in our time. He was beaten by the crowd, tortured, sentenced to death and finally declared to be a psychopath.

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His response was to become a full-blown holy fool, masquerading as a drunkard and preaching loudly in the streets. Icons of St Gabriel, who died in , show him smiling sweetly, which is a rare sight in the severe world of Orthodox icons. If you were a bog standard monk or nun, you waved a fond farewell to home, family, shopping, cakes and sex. If you were an uber-saint like the stylites, you also said goodbye to the ground.

But holy fools went even deeper into the spectrum, and found the ultra-violet of holiness as divine lunatics, outsiders and troublemakers.

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It is more complex, of course: religious fervour, inquisitorial judges, civil unrest and the danger of being burnt as a witch, rather than merely having your chocolate shop boycotted, heighten the drama. The heroine, Juliette, an actress and rope-dancer with a travelling troupe, has fled to a convent on a remote island south of Brittany after the company was attacked in a plague-stricken town. Five years on, her security is shaken when another theatre troupe arrives to entertain the nuns. As she recalls her rope-dancing days, she sees a black crow, omen of misfortune and a reminder of her former lover, Guy LeMerle: actor, conman, malicious troublemaker.

Then the old abbess dies, and Juliette's world is overturned by the arrival of the new abbess, an year-old child from a noble family bent on reform. No great surprise to find that the girl's confessor is LeMerle, using his acting talents and an assumed name stolen from a priest he has murdered.

Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond - Oxford Scholarship

The stage is set for mayhem as LeMerle's agenda for bringing down the convent is revealed. To prevent Juliette from blowing the gaff, her five-year-old daughter, Fleur, is taken and hidden with a fisherman's family. A battle of wits begins between the two adversaries, all the more difficult for Juliette who, after five years of celibacy, is still susceptible to her former lover.

God's Holy Fools

Jan 07, Jeanette rated it liked it. Blog Latest posts Comment Junk for Jehovah. I could accept the "daughter as hostage" plot device, were the main character not so otherwise one-dimensional. Get the best of NCR delivered to your inbox! In the streets, he tripped people up and dragged himself around on his buttocks. He is accompanying the new abbess, appointed by the bishop, a 12 year old child, as her confessor.

Faced with her hostility, LeMerle tries the well-worn seducer's charm: "Exquisite harpy What undermines the novel, though, is the shade of Ken Russell. As the false priest begins to exploit the women's repressed desires, it recalls the more risible scenes from The Devils. You sense a certain fatigue as the author pulls out all the stops for a Grand Guignol finale.

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Although this is a historical novel, it is not really about its era, so much as an archetypal fable. The characters, too, are from the realms of fantasy: Juliette with her foxy red hair and LeMerle with his devilish looks. This may be the intention, for the novel begins and ends with commedia dell'arte players — Arlequin, Scaramouche, Isabelle. LeMerle as Scaramouche and Juliette as Isabelle play their parts as in a theatre. Some of the best writing is about the sequin and cardboard glitter of make-believe, with an underlying theme of the conflict between the nomadic life and the desire to be rooted.

It's a conflict that Juliette has not resolved by the end of the novel, and you doubt that she ever will. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium.

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Ken Russell-style nuttiness is just too fruity for 17th-century 'Chocolat'

Foolishness for Christ refers to behavior such as giving up all one's worldly possessions upon joining a monastic order, or deliberately flouting society's conventions to serve a religious purpose–particularly of Christianity. Such individuals have historically been known as both "holy fools" and. According to Russian Orthodox scholar Svetlana Kobets: “The holy fool's exploit is that of secret sanctity, which above all promotes the.

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  • Holy Fools: A Religious Phenomenon of Extreme Behaviour.
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July 6, Foolish Times June is here!