Austria, 1243–1315

Although called a saint by many, the Vatican never recognized her. She was a poor peasant who became a nun and practiced extreme fasting in solidarity with the suffering of the world and of Jesus on the cross. She was considered strange and was disliked in the convent. As she was illiterate, her visions were dictated to an anonymous Franciscan confessor. She saw monks and nuns and Jesus himself naked. The Lamb of God kissed her. She pressed her lips against the spear-wound on Jesus’ side and drank the blood. She could taste Jesus’ body in the Eucharist. She told her confessor that she “was filled with an excitement in her chest every time that God visited her that was so intense that it went through her body and that it burned as a result, not in a painful but in a most pleasurable manner.”

Of her most famous vision, her confessor wrote:

Crying and with compassion, she began to think about the foreskin of Christ. . . . And behold, soon she felt with the greatest sweetness on her tongue a little piece of skin alike the skin in an egg, which she swallowed. After she had swallowed it, she again felt the little skin on her tongue with sweetness as before, and again she swallowed it. And this happened to her about a hundred times. And when she felt it so frequently, she was tempted to touch it with her finger. And when she wanted to do so, that little skin went down her throat on its own. . . . And so great was the sweetness of tasting that little skin that she felt in all her limbs and parts of the limbs a sweet transformation.

Eliot Weinberger is a writer, editor, and translator. Angels & Saints is forthcoming from Christine Burgin and New Directions.

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