Today we have a guest post from Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, author of The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims: A Medieval Woman between Demons and Saints, which follows the story of a poor and illiterate peasant woman named Ermine who moved to the city of Reims with her eldery husband in 1384. After the loss of her husband, however, things took a remarkable but frightening turn. For the last ten months of her life, Ermine was tormented by nightly visions of angels and demons. In her nocturnal terrors, she was attacked by animals, beaten and kidnapped by devils in disguise, and exposed to carnal spectacles; on other nights, she was blessed by saints, even visited by the Virgin Mary. She confessed these strange occurrences to an Augustinian friar known as Jean le Graveur, who recorded them all in vivid detail.
The story of Ermine de Reims is fascinating for many different reasons: the varied, even excessive nature of the demonic assaults to which she was subjected; the interesting relationship that developed between this simple woman and her confessor, an Augustinian friar named Jean le Graveur; the text’s unusual genre, a kind of logbook of daily and nightly visions and vexations, noted down by Ermine’s confessor; the opinions solicited from such an important personage as Jean Gerson, chancellor of the University of Paris, after Ermine’s death in 1396—all these aspects make Ermine’s story unique, but also allowed me to circle around Ermine and Jean le Graveur from many different perspectives and integrate their experiences into various contemporary frameworks such as the discernment of spirits or late medieval devotional piety.