A VERITABLE ACCOUNT OF THE MARTYRDOM
AND BLESSED DEATH OF FATHER JEAN DE
BREBEUF AND OF FATHER GABRIEL
LALEMANT, IN NEW FRANCE,
IN THE COUNTRY OF THE
HURONS, BY THE IRO-
QUOIS, ENEMIES OF
Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel LAlemant had set out from our cabin, to go to a small Village, called St. Ignace, distant from our cabin about a short quarter of a league, to instruct the Savages and the new Christians of that Village. It was on the 16th Day of March, in
the morning, that we perceived a great fire at the place to which these two good fathers had gone. This fire made us very uneasy; we did not know whether it were enemies, or if the fire had caught in some of the huts of the village. The Reverend Father Paul Ragueneau, our Superior, immediately resolved to send someone to learn what might be the cause. But no sooner had we formed the design of going there to see, than we perceived several savages on the road, coming straight toward us. We all thought it was the Iroquois who were coming to attack us; but having considered them more closely, we perceived that they were Hurons who were fleeing from the fight, and who had escaped from the combat. These poor savages caused
great pity in us. They were all covered with wounds. One had his head fractured; another his arm broken; another had an arrow in his eye; another had his hand cut off by a blow from a hatchet. In fine, the day
was passed in receiving into our cabins all these poor wounded people, and in looking with compassion toward the fire, and the place where were those two good Fathers. We saw the fire and the barbarians, but we could not see anything of the two Fathers.
This is what these savages told us of the taking of the Village of St. Ignace, and about Fathers Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel LAlemant:
The Iroquois came, to the number of twelve hundred men; took our village, and seized Father Brebeuf and his companion; and set fire to all the huts. They proceeded to vent their rage on those two Fathers, for they took them both and stripped them entirely naked, and fastened each to a post. They tied both of their hands together . They tore the nails from the fingers. They beat them with a shower of blows from cudgels, on the shoulders, the loins, the belly, the legs and the face ?there being no part of their body which did not endure this torment.
The savages told us further, that, although Father de Brebeuf was overwhelmed under the weight of these blows, he did not cease continually to speak of God, and to encourage all the new Christians who
were captives like himself to suffer well, that they might die well, in
order to go in company with him to Paradise. While the good Father was
thus encouraging these good people, a wretched Huron renegade, - who had
remained a captive with the Iroquois, and whom Father de Brebeuf had
formerly instructed and baptized, - hearing him speak of
Paradise and Holy Baptism, was irritated, and said to him, Echon,?
that is Father de Brebeufs name in Huron,?thou sayest that Baptism
and the sufferings of this life lead straight to Paradise; thou wilt go
soon, for I am going to baptize thee, and to make thee suffer well, in
order to go the sooner to thy Paradise.?The barbarian, having said
that, took a kettle full of boiling water, which he poured over his body
three different times, in derision of Holy baptism. And, each time that he
baptized him in this manner, the barbarian said to him, with bitter
sarcasm, Go to Heaven, for thou art well baptized.?After that, they
made him suffer several other torments. The 1st was to make
hatchets red-hot, and to apply them to the loins and under the armpits.
They made a collar of these red-hot hatchets, and put it on the neck of
this good Father. This is the fashion in which I have seen the collar made
for other prisoners:
They make six hatchets red-hot, take a large withe of
green wood, pass the 6 hatchets over the large end of the withe, take the
two ends together, and then put it over the neck of the sufferer. I have
seen no torment which more moved me to compassion than that. For you see a
man, bound naked to a post, who, having this collar on his neck, cannot
tell what posture to take. For, if he lean forward, those above his
shoulders weigh the more on him; if he lean back, those on his stomach
make him suffer the same torment; if he keep erect, without leaning to one
side or the other, the burning hatchets, applied equally on both sides,
give him a double torture.
After that they put on him a belt of bark, full of pitch and resin,
and set fire to it, which roasted his whole body. During all these
torments, Father de Brebeuf endured like a rock, insensible to fire and
flames, which astonished all the bloodthirsty wretches who tormented him.
His zeal was so great that he preached continually to these infidels, to
try to convert them. His executioners were enraged against him for
constantly speaking to them of God and of their conversions. To prevent
him from speaking more, they cut off his tongue, and both his upper and
lower lips. After that, they set themselves to strip the flesh from his
legs, thighs and arms to the very bone; and then put it to roast before
his eyes, in order to eat it.
While they tormented him in this manner, those wretches derided
him, saying, Thou seest plainly that thee as a friend, since we shall
be the cause of thy Eternal happiness; thank us, then, for these good
offices which we render thee, - for, the more thou shalt suffer, the more
will thy God reward thee.
Those butchers, seeing that the good Father began to grow weak,
made him sit down on the ground; and one of them, taking a knife, cut off
the skin covering his skull. Another one of those barbarians, seeing that
the good Father would soon die, made an opening in the upper part of his
chest, and tore out his heart, which he roasted and ate. Others came to
drink his blood, still warm, which they drank with both hands, - saying
that Father de Brebeuf had been very courageous to endure so much pain as
they had given him, and that, by drinking his blood, they would become
courageous like him.
This is what we learned of the Martyrdom and blessed death of
Father Jean de Brebeuf, by several Christian savages worthy of belief,
who had been constantly present from the time the good Father was taken
until his death. These good Christians were prisoners to the Iroquois, who
were taking them into their country to be put to death. But our good God
granted them the favor of enabling them to escape by the way; and they
came to us to recount all that I have set down in writing.
Father de Brebeuf was captured on the 16th day of
March, in the morning, with Father L'Alemant, in the year 1649. Father de
Brebeuf died the same day as his capture, about 4 oclock in the
afternoon. Those barbarians threw the remains of his body into the fire;
but the fat which still remained on his body extinguished the fire, and he
was not consumed.
I do not doubt that all I have just related is true, and I would
seal it with my blood; for I have seen the same treatment given to
Iroquois prisoners whom the Huron savages had taken in war, with the
exception of the boiling water, which I have not seen poured on any one.
I am about to describe to you truly what I saw of the Martyrdom
and of the blessed Deaths of Father Jean de Brebeuf and of Father Gabriel
LAlemant. On the next morning, when we had assurance of the departure
of the enemy, we went to the spot to seek for the remains of their bodies,
to the place where their lives had been taken. We found them both, but a
little apart from each other. They were brought to our cabin, and laid
uncovered upon the bark of trees, - where I examined them at leisure, for
more than two hours, to see if what the savages had told us of their
martyrdom and death were true. I examined first the Body of Father de
Brebeuf, which was pitiful to see, as well as that of Father LAlemant.
Father de Brebeuf had his legs, thighs and arms stripped of flesh to the
very bone; I saw and touched a large number of great blisters, which he
had on several place on his body, from the boiling water which these
barbarians had poured over him in mockery of Holy Baptism. I saw and
touched the wound from a belt of bark, full of pitch and resin, which
roasted his whole body. I saw and touched the marks of burns from the
Collar of hatchets placed on his shoulders and stomach. I saw and touched
his two lips, which they had cut off because he spoke constantly of God
while they made him suffer.
I saw and touched all parts of his body, which had received more
than two hundred blows from a stick: I saw and touched
the top of his scalped head: I saw and touched the opening which
these barbarians had made to tear out his heart.
In fine, I saw and touched all the wounds of his body, as the
savages had told and declared to us: we buried these precious Relics on
Sunday, the 21st day of March, 1649, with much Consolation.
I had the happiness of carrying them to the grave, and of burying
them with those of Father Gabriel LAlemant. When we left the country of
the Hurons, we raised both bodies out of the ground, and set them to boil
in strong lye. All the bones were well-scraped and the care of drying them
was given to me. I put them every day into a little oven which we had,
made of clay, after having heated it slightly, and when in a state to be
packed, they were separately enveloped in silk stuff. Then they were put
into two small chests, and we brought them to Quebec, where they are held
in great veneration.
It is not a Doctor of the Sorbonne who has composed this, as you
may easily see; it is a relic from the Iroquois, and a person who has
lived more than thought, - who is, and shall ever be,
Your Very Humble and very obedient servant,