Madeleine LeDespencer

Visual Artist & Author

Madeleine LeDespencer is a visual artist and independent researcher whose focus is on Fin de Siècle conceptions of diabolism and heretical movements within Catholicism. She has written on decadence and the occult for Three Hands Press, Hadean Press, as well as various online journals. Her research on Berthe de Courrière was featured in the journal Cercle des Amateurs de Remy de Gourmont.

Her book on Magdalena de la Cruz will be released by Hadean press in 2021. She is currently writing a biography of Abbe Boullan for Three Hands Press.

Sister Magdalena de la Cruz:

The Transgressive Devotions of a Diabolical Nun in 16th Century Spain

Magdalena de la Cruz (1487–1560) was a Franciscan nun in 16th century Spain who, from early childhood, produced a variety of miraculous phenomena and rose to prominence as a living folk saint. During her vocation she was regarded as a holy conduit and sought after by both ranking members of the clergy and Spanish royalty. This came to an end when she suddenly confessed before the Inquisition to demonic pacts, incubism, and assorted blasphemies. This revelation of her demonic union had far reaching effects in subsequent centuries on the practice of Catholic mysticism as well as the discernment of charismatic phenomena in the process of Beatification.

In this lecture, Madeleine LeDespencer will examine the life and holiness project of Magdalena de la Cruz through the lens of post Tridentine Catholic demonology. Magdalena constructed a spiritual practice which appeared from the outside to be consistent with established notions of feminine piety in 16th century Spain. Internally, she was engaged in a lifelong pursuit of abject spirituality and transgressive devotion consummated by her physical and spiritual union with two preternatural intelligences who identified themselves as fallen Seraphim. According to Magdalena, these familiars assisted her rise to fame through the production of various counterfeit miracles and partook with her in elaborate blasphemies while manifesting as Saints, Beasts, and sometimes Christ himself.

The borders of orthodoxy and heterodoxy are shifting for the mystic, who often operates at the fringe of established religiosity. In the case of Magdalena, we will explore how Eroto-Demonomanical engagement with sacramental abjection creates a framework of transformative diabolical mysticism. This spirituality stands both in opposition to and dependence upon a culturally constructed imperative of sanctity. Furthermore, we will look at how such sentiments are expressed today in an increasingly secular Occidental world.

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