“Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue.”

Happy Feast of Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine and Companions, the Martyrs of Compiègne.  Carmelites.

In 1794, the Place de la Nation on the east side of Paris was called the Place du Trône-Renversé… Toppled Throne Square.

In 1792 a guillotine was set up here and the killing began.

Robespierre and Barère made terror an instrument of governance:

“Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue”, quoth Robespierre.

Plus ça change.  Could have been uttered in Chicago… or the CDW… ooops… DDW.

On 17 July of this same year, 1794, 11 Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Carmel of Compiègne, together with three lay sisters and two tertiaries were guillotined and buried in a mass grave in the nearby Picpus Cemetery. They had for a while been living with English Benedictine nuns, who were forbidden their native England. The Carmelites dedicated themselves to prayer for the restoration of peace in France and for the Church. Hence, they were arrested, shifted to Paris, and publicly murdered for the encouragement of the mob.

As the Carmelite nuns, aged 30 to 78, went to the razor, they renewed their vows and sang the either the Salve Regina or the Veni Creator Spiritus, accounts vary.

One by one they knelt before the prioress and asked permission to die.

“Permission to die, Mother?”
“Go, my daughter!”

Here is the dramatized scene.

Again, in close proximity, Carmelites and oppression.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mlmc says:

    Robespierre joined them on the guillotine 10 days later although I doubt what followed for him was the same as for the sisters……

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    The beautiful painting accompaning the article does not depict the Carmelites of Compiègne. It could be the Ursulines who met the same fate at sixteen Carmelites — and there were some other religious communities who endured execution together. Then of course all those who went individually — including a great number of diocesan priests.
    The Martyrs of Compiègne gave their witness the day after the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and then after the space of a novena offered in Heaven the tide turned somewhat.
    The enemy has learned that the blood of martyrs is truly the seed of the Church. What better manner to avoid this adverse consequence than to eradicate the faith, religious life, the charism of the communities, and then no blood be spilt and the witness avoided. A “soft” extermination and walking corpses inhabit a landscape devoid of the Faith.

  3. GGLA says:

    mlmc comment about Robespierre reminded me of Warren Carroll’s lecture on Danton Conversion


  4. GGLA says:

    Mlmc reminded me of Warren Carroll’s lecture on Danton’s Conversion. Danton was the Minister of Justice instrumental in the use of the guillotine.

    I tried posting the link but it was rejected as spam.

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    When the tyrant seeks to martyr the innocent, it is not axiomatic that one should permit oneself to be martyred. It is especially not axiomatic to permit one’s charges to be martyred. It very may well be that God calls one to be martyred, but one should not presume and immediately offer one’s neck without careful discernment. One should especially not offer the necks of their charges.

    What one must never do, though, is to capitulate to the tyrant and offer a pinch of incense. That may well save one’s life but it will doom one’s soul.

    The Carmelites are heroic examples of martyrdom, but it is their specific calling and crown. As we face the tyrants who seek our lives, what God wants each individual to do is not necessarily what He called them to do.

    In this time of persecution by tyrannical abusive clerics, it is good to keep in mind that some will be called to martyrdom, some will be called to flee to the hills, and some will be called to actively resist and seek justice through charity. Let us not be angry at those who will be called to different paths but instead pray for each other that God might be glorified.

  6. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    The quote from Robespierre proves that the man was unfamiliar with Plato, Aristotle, Cicero or St. Thomas, since justice is neither severe (on account of the virtue of clemency) nor is it inflexible.(on account of the virtue of epikaiea).

    I suppose there’s comfort to be had in knowing that we’ve been ruled by virtue-signaling illiterates for centuries. Or it’s evidence of a general lack of comprehension that we continue to think of them as rightfully in charge, as opposed to the bad old days when we were “tyrannized” by Christian princes.

  7. Andreas says:

    A revolution defined by terror is no revolution at all. Terror, both physical and psychological, has long been the weapon of the weak who wish to traumatize a people into submission. Those who terrorize both loathe and dread those who do not fear death, as so many martyrs such as the Carmelite Nuns shown herein. As past and present events demonstrate, it is the push-back against succumbing to terror that eventually defeats the weak. As Christians and especially Catholics, this is something that perhaps we should keep closer in mind these darkening days.

  8. Imrahil says:

    Dear CavalierHatherly,

    well, Robespierre was literate, though (whatever be said about his later successors). That he disagreed with the perennial philosophy doesn’t mean he didn’t know about it.

    That being said, this does sound very much like the righteous philistine who wants those he doesn’t understand to be punished. I’m not saying I’m free of the temptation, especially not if those holding moralist lectures on me or sympathetic people without clear justification is concerned (but that is another story)… but still.

    At that time, the revolutionaries wrote a song which, in one of its less bloodthirsty versions has the lines:

    Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira !
    Suivant les maximes de l’Évangile
    Du législateur tout saccomplira.
    Celui qui s’élève on l’abaissera
    Celui qui s’abaisse on l’élèvera.
    Le vrai catéchisme nous instruira
    Et l’affreux fanatisme s’éteindra.
    Pour être à la loi docile
    Tout Français s’exercera:
    ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira.

    So, “everything is going to happen according to the maxims of the Gospel of the Legislator; and the true Catechism is going to instruct us; and every Frenchman is going to be really docile to the Law”.

    The point being not that their “true Catechism” is a wrong one, but that, seriously: make a revolution, and for that? Seriously? Give me You gotta fight for your right to party any time, I can understand that, but make a revolution in order to be, finally, decent and virtuous citizens? Seriously?

    It makes sense, though, that this crazy amalgam of the worst of both worlds, revolutionaries against the true order and spoilsport busybodies, would think that their “virtue” must be aided by making all alternatives impossible through by state terrorism.

    (So, in the case of Danton, besides Grace and some buried common-sense, the fact might have actually helped that he, other than Maximilien “The Incorruptible” Robespierre he was not a philistine and still knew how to party.)

  9. FranzJosf says:

    Many probably know “The Dialogue of the Carmelites,” an opera by Poulenc. Here is the final scene, “Salve Regina”:


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