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I expect you’re familiar with the story of Brother Juniper and the Pig (Latin is here, paragraphs 2-9, Italian here, and modern English translation here). Briefly: Juniper is the fool of fools among Saint Francis’s band, no doubt narratively necessary because the original fool, Francis, had become an the administrator of his flock. The first act of Juniper’s holy foolishness: to satisfy a sick brother’s craving for a pig’s foot. Juniper heads out to the forest, finds a herd of pigs, captures one and cuts off its foot, and voila! He heals his brother. But then an enraged and nearly implacable swineherd shows up. Finally calmed by Juniper’s innocence, the swineherd bestows on the friars the remainder the now 3-footed pig. Francis declares, “Fratres mei, fratres mei; utinam ego haberem de talibus iuniperis unam silvam” [My Brothers, my brothers: would that I had a forest of such Junipers!”] The end.

Roberto Rossellini’s Francesco, giullare di Dio [Francis, God’s Jester, distributed in English as “The Flowers of St. Francis”] treats the episode a bit differently. Click on the image above for a sense of how the hunt begins. Juniper isn’t just hunting down a pig. He piously understands the pig as participating in the community of charity: just as the film’s Juniper keeps giving his habit away to the poor, so too will the pig give away its foot. Soon enough Juniper finds a herd of 5 or so pigs, and addresses them: “Brother pigs, the Lord has placed you on my path to help me. Listen to me. Brother pig, listen to me, please. Most handsome pig, with your succulent foot, would you grant my sick brother’s wish? I promise I won’t hurt you. The Lord will help us in need. Think, brother, of the few opportunities we have to do good.” With this, Juniper and his knife disappear behind a bush, which shivers while an unseen pig screams. And keeps screaming. Horribly.

4898025309_b5bb7cde88_bJuniper prays, “Thank you, Lord, for the good that that pig and I will do with this foot.” He returns, the pig’s scream following him through the valley, and he declares, “Listen, he’s thanking the Lord too.” The pig screams for a while more, then stops.

The swineherd, as in the original, appears, but remains implacable: “You call this doing good? One of your friars cut off my pig’s foot!” He leaves, and then here, too, returns with the carcass, but Rossellini (or Fellini (!), or perhaps his other screenwriters) simply has the swineherd throw down a gutted carcass, shouting, “Here, you vagrants, eat!,” and then stomp away. What he offers them may be less a charitable donation than an all-too vividly rendered carcass, made inedible by its own coagulated blood. So much for Brother Pig.

4898025693_cd813e76d2_bThough Rossellini’s film ends with Francis sending his friars out into the world to preach peace, though through the film the friars, particularly Juniper, bring peace wherever they go, or at least suffer meekly for Christ’s sake, through Rossellini gives us the illusion of immediate access to peace by casting actual monks to play his friars, he nonetheless assaults us with the cinematic equivalent of the Turkish March in the Ode to Joy, as glossed by Žižek. Forgive the long quote:

In the middle of the movement, after we hear the main melody (the Joy theme) in three orchestral and three vocal variations, something unexpected happens at this first climax, which has bothered critics since its first performance 180 years ago. At bar 331, the tone changes totally and, instead of the solemn hymnic progression, the same “Joy” theme is repeated in the marcia Turca (“Turkish march”) style. Borrowed from the military music for wind and percussion instruments that 18th century European armies adopted from the Turkish Janissaries, the mode becomes that of a carnivalesque popular parade, a mocking spectacle. Some critics have even compared the “absurd grunts” of the bassoons and bass drum that accompany the beginning of the marcia Turca to farts. And after this point, everything goes wrong, the simple solemn dignity of the first part of the movement is never recovered.

However, what if things do not go wrong only at bar 331, with the entrance of the marcia Turca? What if, instead, something was wrong from the very beginning? We should accept that there is something insipidly fake about the Ode to Joy, so that the chaos that enters after the bar 331 is a kind of the “return of the repressed,” a symptom of what was wrong from the very beginning. We should thus shift the entire perspective and perceive the marcia as a return to everyday normality that cuts short the display of preposterous portentousness and brings us back to earth, as if saying “you want the celebrate the brotherhood of men? Here they are, the real humanity.”

And does the same not hold for Europe today? After inviting all mankind to embrace the celebration of ecstasy, the second strophe of Schiller’s poem that is set to the music of “Ode to Joy” ominously ends: “But he who cannot rejoice, let him steal weeping away from our circle.”

4898025517_a4ff2076b7_bHe who cannot accept our peace, our charity, let him steal weeping, footless and pigless, away from our circle. Let his screams be heard as joining our prayer. To his credit, Rossellini has not made what the “The Decent Film Guide” calls a “beautifully simple little film,” nor has he made a film that offers “a compelling vision of life that rejects materialism and violence.” He has done that, that is true, but that’s not all. Only a third of the way through Francesco giullare di Dio, Rossellini shows us the true, shattering violence of revolution, that the inclusiveness of community and of dreams of peace cannot help but leave behind the equivalent of a bereft swineherd and mutilated pig, each dragooned into someone else’s simple and naive dreams of a pure charity.

So much from Brother Pig. So much for Brother Pig.

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“And the fervor of his devotion increased so much within him that he utterly transformed himself into Jesus through love and compassion.”

St-Francis-Receiving-The-Stigmata-1240-50A young man, disrespectful of institutional religion, is hailed by two women as Jesus. He allows himself to be crucified, wounded in five places. Elsewhere, another pious soul, caught up in the new fervor of imitatio Christi, crucifies himself on a hilltop on a Good Friday, is taken down half dead by passing shepherds, and recovers fully in a few days.

The first is a familiar story, somewhat muddled, but it takes place in the 1222, in Oxford, rather than the first century. Instead of Mary Magdelene and another Mary (Matthew 28:1; but cf. Mark 16:1, Luke 24, and John 20:1), it’s simply “duabus mulieribus,” one an old practitioner of the dark arts, and the other the young man’s sister. The second story, from Jacques de Vitry’s Sermones Feriales et communes, likewise recalls Gospel narratives both deliberately–the hilltop and Good Friday–and accidentally–the shepherds, the return to (full) life after a few days.

The latter exemplum may in turn recall another thirteenth-century pious self-mortification, that recorded by Margaret of Oingt in her life of Beatrice of Ornacieux (d. 1303) in acts meant for our admiration rather than disgust:

She evoked the Passion of Our Lord so strongly that she pierced her hands with blunt nails until it came out at the back of her hand. And every time she did this, clear water without any blood gushed out. Soon after, the wound closed and healed so well that nobody could see it any more. (49)

I bring these stories together as a companion to Jeffrey’s post below, on the mocking Jew of Lincoln, whose heckling, as Jeffrey suggests, “seems to be speaking a thought likely on more minds than his own.” The Jew is made by Gerald to bear the burden, and to materialize the problems, of dissension and uncertainty within the Christian community. Might we do something similar with the crucifying Jews of the thirteenth century, those accused of reenacting the Passion upon stolen Hosts and kidnapped Christian children? Considered within the field of the pious (and excessively pious–and what perfect piety is not excessive?) stories above, within the field of the various imitatio christi of the thirteenth century, what role are Jews and their purported crimes made to play?

I ask in part because of the first story, from Ralph of Coggeshall’s Chronicon Anglicanum, appears sandwitched within two other stories, one about a Christian who mutilates himself to become a Jew, and another about a Jew who mutilates the dead, with the help of an employee (a Christian (?) boy), to learn the future, the very temporal realm from which Jews–witnesses of the past–should be barred.

Presented without any further comment, because I have no further thoughts yet, here’s a fuller picture:

Anno Dominicae incarnationis MCCXXII, dominus Stephanus, Cantuariensis archiepiscopus, tenuit consilium suum apud Oxoniam post Pascha; ubi inter caetera exordinavit quemdam diaconum apostatam, qui pro amore cujusdam mulieris Judaicae se circumciderat: qui exordinatus, a ministris domini Falconis combustus est. Adductus est ibidem quidam juvenis incredulus cum duabus mulieribus in concilio, quos archidiaconus ejusdem provinciae accusavit crimine pessimo incredulitatis; juvenem scilicit, quod nollet ecclesiam intrare, nec divinis interesse sacramentis, nec patris catholici adquiescere monitis, et quod se crucifigere permiserit, quinque vulnera in corpore adhuc apparentia gestans, Jesumque se vocari a mulieribus illis gaudebat. Accusabatur una mulierum veterana, quod maleficis incantationibus ex longo tempore esset dedita, et quod juvenem praedictum suis magicis artibus ad tantam dementiam ac talem convertisset. Unde ambo, de tali crimine convicti, jussi sunt inter duos muros incarcerari quousque deficerent. Alia vero mulier, soror praedicti juvenis, libera dimissa est, quia impietatem illorum revelavit.

Eodem anno, quidam Judaeus nigromanticus puerum quemdam pretio conduxit, quem in cute recenti cuiusdam mortui collocavit, ut sic, per quasdam incantationes nigromantiae, futura posset prospicere; puero ad interrogata respondente de quibusdam futuris quae ei quasi praesentialiter apparebat. (190-91)

In the Year of the Incarnation of Our Lord 1222, Lord Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, held his council at Oxford after Easter; when among others he judged a certain apostate deacon, who circumcised himself for love of a certain Jewish woman: after being defrocked, he was burnt by the servants of the Lord of Falco (?). There was led forward into the hearing a certain unbelieving youth with two women, whom the archdeacon of that province had accused of the crime of the worst unbelief; namely, that the youth refused to enter a church or to take part in the divine sacraments or be content with the warning of the Catholic fathers and had allowed himself to be crucified, bearing the appearance still of five wounds on his body, and that he was called Jesus by these women who praised him. One of the women was accused, because she had been dedicated to wicked incantations for a long time and because she had converted the aforesaid youth by means of her magic arts to such insanity. As for these two, having been convicted of such a crime, they were commanded to be imprisoned between two walls until they died. But the other woman, the sister of the aforesaid youth, was set free, since she had revealed the impiety of the others.

In that same year, a certain Jew, a necromancer, paid a certain boy to collect the skin of those who had recently died, so that he might, by certain necromantic incantations, see into the future; the boy, when interrogated, spoke about future things that appeared to him as if happening presently. [my lousy translation]

(thanks to Gavin Langmuir, “Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder,” Speculum 59 (1984): 820-846, at 836 n55 for directing me to Ralph and Jacques).