I love to find out little known facts about history. This video answers the Question: "Why is Vienna so famous for its Coffee shops?"

Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki (1640-1694) (his name often rendered in German as Kolschitzky) was a member of Polish szlachta of Ukrainian origin and of orthodox faith, merchant, spy, diplomat and soldier. According to a popular legend, he opened the first café in Vienna in 1683, using coffee beans left by the retreating Ottoman Turks.

During the Battle of Vienna in 1683, he volunteered to leave the besieged and starving city and contact Duke Charles of Lorraine. Together with his trusty servant, Jerzy Michajlović, he left the city in Turkish attire and crossed enemy lines singing Ottoman songs. After contacting the duke, the couple managed to return to the city and reach it with a promise of imminent relief. Because of that information, the city council decided not to surrender to the Turkish forces of Kara Mustafa Pasha and continue the fight instead.

After the arrival of Christian forces led by the Polish king Jan III Sobieski, on September 12, the siege was broken. Kulczycki was considered a hero by the grateful townspeople of Vienna. The city council awarded him with a considerable sum of money while the burghers gave him a house in the borough of Leopoldstadt. King Jan III Sobieski himself presented Kulczycki with large amounts of coffee found in the captured camp of Kara Mustafa's army

An extra bit of history is this, had the moslem Turks not been defeated before Vienna, Europe may well have fallen to islam. It may be viewed as the 17th century version of Tours...

Dieu Le Roy,
de Brantigny

Chocolat à l'ancienne

"Old-fashion Hot Chocolate"

When my daughter Genevieve studied in Angers, she would write back to us and publish a news letter in Meredith colleges Campus Paper. One of the things she had to adjust too(probably didn't taken much adjusting) was not eating an American style breakfast. She wrote that for "petit déjeuner" she had a cup of chocolat, and crepes chocolat. Louis la Vache provides us with a recepe for a traditional style of chocolate, a'la francaise.

Chocolat à l'ancienne with a slice of brioche

The weather forecast calls for today to be very warm, yet this morning, Louis got up craving the chocolat à l'ancienne he has enjoyed at several places in Paris. So, call Louis crazy (Ed: OK, Louis, you're crazy!) but on this warm morning, Louis is posting une recette pour chocolat à l'ancienne, old-fashion hot chocolate. Warning: Nesquick this isn't! Without further ado,

À table!

Chocolat à l'ancienne


6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (Louis likes the Valrhonn\a chocolate)
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons hot water, divided
3 cups hot whole milk
Sugar, to taste
Whipped cream
Chocolate curls


1) Using a double boiler or a heat-safe glass bowl over simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate into ¼ cup of the water. 2) Stir in the 3 tablespoons hot water and milk until the chocolate mixture is smooth.
3) Pour the hot chocolate into cups and add sugar as desired.
4) Garnish each cup with a spoonful of whipped cream and a few chocolate curls.

Voici! Bon appétit!

Thanks and a tip of the beret to Louis!

Dieu Le Roy
de Brantigny

Polish, A Saint, and A Jesuit.

FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2008

Andrew Bobola is a Polish-born martyr. He was born in Sandormir, Poland, in 1591 to a noble family. He was ordained a Jesuit in 1622 and three years later became a parish priest in Vilna, Lithuania, where he had studed. He had also served as superior of the Jesuit community. He worked with the sick and during a plague outbreak, but he is best known as a successful missionary to the Orthodox. He did this for almost 20 years, preaching along the roads and bringing whole villages to Catholicism. However, he was captured after Mass on May 10, 1657 by the Cossacks and brutally tortured. Six days later, he was beheaded and died a martyr, refusing to denounce his Catholic faith. His tomb was opened in 1808 and his body was found incorrupt. He is now entombed in a Jesuit church in Krakow, Poland. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1938.

Thanks and a tip of the beret to Joseph Fromm, "Good Jesuit bad Jesuit."

Ad Majorem Die Gloriam.
de Brantigny

Vatican Approves Decree of 'Heroic Virtue'

Father Michael J. McGivney would be first American born priest to be declared a saint.

Pope Benedict XVI has approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The pope’s declaration significantly advances the priest’s process toward sainthood and gives the parish priest the distinction of “Venerable Servant of God.” If canonized, Father McGivney would be the first American born priest to be so honored.

“All of us who are members of the Knights of Columbus are profoundly grateful for this recognition of the holiness of our founder,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “The strength of the Knights of Columbus today is a testament to his timeless vision, his holiness and his ideals.”

Worried about the religious faith and financial stability of immigrant families, Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus with the help of several men of St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven in 1882 to help strengthen the faith of the men of his parish and to provide financial assistance in the event of their death to the widows and orphans they left behind. He was also known for his tireless work among his parishioners.

Born in Waterbury, Conn., Aug. 12, 1852, Michael Joseph McGivney, was the first of Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney’s 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood. His parents, natives of Ireland, had immigrated to the United States during the 19th century. Patrick was a molder in a Waterbury brass mill, where Michael himself worked for a brief time as a child to help support the family.

From an early age, however, he realized a calling to the Catholic priesthood. After studying in several seminaries, he was ordained in that Baltimore’s historic Cathedral by Cardinal James Gibbons Dec. 22, 1877.

He took up his first assignment, as curate at St. Mary’s Church, New Haven, Conn., Jan. 2, 1878. Father McGivney was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Conn. in 1884. He became seriously ill with pneumonia in January 1890, and died Aug. 14, 1890 at age 38.

The cause, or process, for Father McGivney’s sainthood, was opened by Hartford Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, in December 1997. The cause was presented to the Vatican in 2000, where it has been under review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. With the pope’s recent decree, and the authentication of a miracle at Father McGivney’s intercession, the priest could be beatified. A second miracle would be required for canonization.

Still maintaining its headquarters in New Haven, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic Fraternal Organization with more than 1.7 million members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean islands, the Philippines, Guam and, most recently, Poland

NY Times article, 3/16/2008.

For the Cause of the Canonization of Father Michael McGivney

That all obstacles in the process of canonizating the founder of our Order be overcome, and this Holy Priest be raised in Sanctity to the honors of the Altar...

We pray to the Lord


The Original Mary: Our Lady's Life Before the Annunciation

I was sent this from the "Catholic Bulletin" blog. I present it in it's entirety

What was Mary's life like before the angel Gabriel appeared to her?

Mary's early years are shrouded in mystery. The Bible doesn't tell us much about her existence before the Annunciation. However, the few details that the Gospel of Luke provides allow us at least to catch a glimpse of Mary's life before the fateful day when she would become the mother of the Messiah.

In this new series, we will explore what Scripture tells us about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Who was Mary? What was her life like? What was her role in her Son's mission? And how does she continue to play a part in our lives today? While we may touch upon some apologetics questions and doctrinal issues along the way, my goal is simply to unearth the Scriptural data about Mary so that we can come to know and love her better through the Bible.

Nowhere Nazareth: A Surprising Choice

Consider what we can learn about Mary's pre-Annunciation life in the following verses:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. (Lk. 1:26-27)

Admittedly, there is not a lot here to give us a portrait of Our Lady's early years, but there are at least three important facts we can unpack for all they're worth.

The first fact we discover about Mary is that she dwelt in "a city of Galilee named Nazareth." This small geographical detail is important because Nazareth would have been a very unlikely place for the messianic era to begin. Nazareth was a small, secluded agricultural village in Galilee. Far from the social-religious center of the Jerusalem Temple, Nazareth had only a few hundred inhabitants and was not directly on any major trade route. Moreover, there are no prophecies explicitly about Nazareth in the Jewish tradition, and the Old Testament never even mentions the town.

The fact that Jesus comes from Nazareth will cause him trouble later in his public ministry. Nathaniel's famous line, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (Jn. 1:46), illustrates how at least some Jews held Nazareth in rather low esteem. In the first-century Jewish world, Nazareth probably would not have made it into the "Top 10" of likely candidates for the Messiah's hometown. That God chose a woman from this lowly city to become the mother of the Messiah would have been quite surprising.

From Zechariah to Mary

The surprising nature of God's choice becomes even clearer when we consider how Luke's Gospel juxtaposes Gabriel's announcement to Mary with the same angel's announcement to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, in the previous scene. First, Luke tells us that Gabriel's announcement to Zechariah took place in the large city of Jerusalem and right in the heart of Israel's religious center, the Temple. In contrast, Gabriel's announcement to Mary occurs in the small, obscure village of Nazareth, and Luke doesn't even mention the setting in which this annunciation takes place. Next, Gabriel's first announcement is given to an honorable priest, representing a whole multitude of Jewish people in the midst of the Temple liturgy, while the second announcement was given to an unknown woman, apparently in the midst of her ordinary daily life. Finally, the annunciation to Zechariah had immediate public impact, as the multitude of people perceived that their priest had had a vision (1:10, 21–22), while the announcement to Mary seems to escape the notice of everyone around her — even though she had just received the most important angelic announcement in salvation history!

Mary thus stands in the biblical tradition of God choosing the people we'd least expect to play a crucial role in His plan of salvation.

In his book Theotokos, John Paul II pointed out how the contrast between these two announcements underscores the extraordinary nature of God's intervention in Mary's life. "In the Virgin's case, God's action certainly seems surprising. Mary has no human claim to receiving the announcement of the Messiah's coming. She is not the high priest, an official representative of the Hebrew religion, nor even a man, but a young woman without any influence in the society of her time. In addition, she is a native of Nazareth, a village which is never mentioned in the Old Testament." By highlighting Mary's lowliness in contrast to Zechariah's high social status as a priest, "Luke stresses that everything in Mary derives from a sovereign grace. All that is granted to her is not due to any claim of merit, but only to God's free and gratuitous choice" (pp. 88–89).

Mary thus stands in the biblical tradition of God choosing the people we'd least expect to play a crucial role in His plan of salvation. God surprisingly chose a man named Moses who was slow of speech and unsure of his leadership abilities to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt, and unexpectedly chose from all of Jesse's children the youngest boy, David, to become Israel's next king. Likewise, God chose from among all the people in first-century society not a woman from the Jewish aristocracy, nor the daughter of a chief priest in Jerusalem, nor the wife of a famous lawyer, scribe, or Pharisee, but an unknown virgin named Mary from the little village of Nazareth to become the mother of Israel's long-awaited Messiah-King.

Betrothed, Not Engaged

The second fact we learn about Mary is that she was "a virgin" who was "betrothed." This tells us three important things about Mary.

First, since Jewish women were typically betrothed around the age of 13, Mary probably was very young when she received this most weighty message from the angel Gabriel about her call to serve as the mother of the Messiah.

Second, as a betrothed woman, Mary would have been legally married to Joseph, but still living with her own family. Here we see how Jewish betrothal was not the same as our modern notion of engagement. Betrothal was the first step in a two-stage marriage process. At their betrothal, Mary and Joseph would have exchanged their consent to marry each other before witnesses, and this would have made them legally married. However, as a betrothed wife, Mary would have remained living with her own family apart from her husband for up to one year until the second step of marriage took place. In this second step, the husband would take his wife to his own home for normal married life to begin. Therefore, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, Mary would have been living between these two stages of marriage: She would have been Joseph's wife, but not yet dwelling with him.

Third, according to Jewish marriage customs, sexual relations would not take place until the second stage of marriage. Thus, since Mary is a betrothed woman and not yet living with her husband, it would come as no surprise that she was a "virgin" (1:27).

The House of David

The third and perhaps most striking fact about Mary from this opening chapter of Luke's Gospel is that she is betrothed "to a man named Joseph, of the house of David" (1:27). Although the Scriptures are not clear as to Mary's own ancestry (theologians debate whether she, too, was of the house of David), her betrothal to Joseph connects her to the Davidic family. This has important implications for Mary. It tells us that Mary is not part of any ordinary family, but a royal family. Indeed, "the house of David" was the most famous family in Israel's history. David's descendants ruled over the Jews for several centuries in the glory days of the Kingdom of Judah. And God promised David that his family would have an everlasting dynasty and that his kingdom would never end (2 Sam. 7:13, 16).

However, in the first-century world of Mary and Joseph, the Davidic dynasty seemed to have been lying dormant for centuries as one foreign nation after another ruled over the Jews. In fact, no Davidic king had sat on the throne since 586 BC, and the Romans were the latest foreign powers to control the land. Thus, for Mary, being a part of "the house of David" did not bring the privilege, honor, and authority it did in the days of the great kings of old. Mary may be married to a man who possesses the royal bloodline of the Davidic kings, but her husband is not reigning as a prince in a Jerusalem palace. Instead, he works as a humble carpenter, appearing to live a quiet, run-of-the-mill life in the secluded village of Nazareth.

On the surface, there does not appear to be anything extraordinary about Mary. She is a young woman betrothed to a man from the house of David, but she lives a seemingly ordinary life in the small, insignificant town of Nazareth.

"Full of Grace"

"Full of Grace." For many of us Catholics who routinely recite these words of Gabriel in the Hail Mary, the expression "full of grace" may be so familiar that we might fail to catch its profound significance.

However, there is a lot more going on in Mary than meets the eye. Luke's Gospel provides one more detail that shows how underneath what appears to be a normal life, God has been doing something absolutely amazing in Mary's soul — something that has never been done before in the history of the human family. Consider the first words Gabriel says to Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Lk. 1:28).

"Full of Grace." For many of us Catholics who routinely recite these words of Gabriel in the Hail Mary, the expression "full of grace" may be so familiar that we might fail to catch its profound significance. This is no ordinary greeting. In fact, no one in salvation history had ever been addressed like this before. And note that the angel does not say "Hail, Mary, full of grace." Gabriel says, "Hail, full of grace." The angel addresses Mary not by her personal name, but with the title "full of grace." As some Scripture scholars, such as Joel Green in his commentary on The Gospel of Luke, have pointed out, it is as if Mary is being given a new name. John Paul II, in reflecting on this passage in his book Theotokos, said "full of grace" is "the name Mary possesses in the eyes of God" (p. 88):

In Semitic usage, a name expresses the reality of the persons and things to which it refers. As a result, the title ‘full of grace' shows the deepest dimension of the young woman of Nazareth's personality: fashioned by grace and the object of divine favor to the point that she can be defined by this special predilection. (p. 90)

But what does this unusual title mean? The Greek word in this passage commonly translated "full of grace" is kecharitomene. This word is in a past perfect participle form, indicating an action that began in the past and continues in the present. It literally can be translated "you who have been and continue to be graced." In fact, the same verb is used in Ephesians 1:6-7 to describe not simply grace in the general sense of God's showing his favor on someone, but the particular kind of divine favor that is associated with forgiveness of sins and redemption. Therefore, it is as if the angel is saying to Mary, "Hail, you who have been and continue to be graced . . . Hail, you who already have received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of redemption."

One can appreciate why many have turned to this verse for biblical support for the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception — the belief that Mary was conceived full of grace and without the stain of original sin. Indeed, this verse indicates that Mary already had the working of grace in her life before the Annunciation scene. In other words, while certainly not serving as a definitive "proof-text" for the Immaculate Conception, Luke's Gospel clearly reveals that Mary already had forgiveness of sins and redemption before the angel Gabriel ever appeared to her.

Gabriel's words, therefore, reveal the most significant aspect of Mary's early life. On the surface, she may appear to be simply a young, betrothed woman dwelling in nowhere Nazareth. But in the midst of this seemingly uneventful life, God has made her "full of grace" as He quietly prepares her for the most important mission any woman ever embraced in the history of the world: to become the Mother of God.


de Brantigny


La batalla de Almansa tuvo lugar el 25 de abril de 1707 en las proximidades del puerto del mismo nombre en Albacete. La batalla se llevó a cabo entre los partidarios de Felipe V de Borbón y los seguidores del Archiduque Carlos de Austria. Los primeros o tropas borbónicas estaban comandadas por el duque de Berwick y los segundos o austracistas eran dirigidos por los generales Galway y Das Minas. Esta batalla se inserta en el marco de la Guerra de Sucesión al trono de España que se produjo tras la vacante producida por la muerte de Carlos II el Hechizado.

Era hijo de Felipe IV y su segunda mujer Mariana de Austria. Según cuentan sus biógrafos nació raquítico y se crió enfermizo. Algunos hasta señalan que su periodo de lactancia duró casi cuatro años. Lo cierto es que su educación corrió paralela a esa debilidad física y mental que lo atenazaba. A los nueve años no sabía ni leer ni escribir. Era de carácter débil y poco emprendedor. Murió antes de cumplir los cuarenta años sin haber dejado descendencia directa al trono de España. Este hecho desató las ambiciones de las naciones europeas por hacerse con la herencia hispánica.

La falta de un heredero directo al trono de España levantó las ambiciones de los monarcas europeos. El testamento regio otorgaba el trono a Felipe de Anjou, nieto del poderoso monarca francés Luis XIV. En el exterior, países como Holanda, Inglaterra y Portugal vieron con malos ojos este aumento de poder indirecto del monarca francés y desataron los truenos de la guerra contra Luis XIV y su nieto Felipe de Anjou. En el interior, muy pronto la correlación de fuerzas cambió bruscamente y se crearon dos bandos claramente definidos y enfrentados. Unos apoyaron al Archiduque Carlos, alegando derechos dinásticos y, otros al monarca borbón Felipe V.

Era el segundo hijo del emperador Leopoldo I. Estaba destinado a suceder a su tío Carlos II en la corona de España. A la muerte de éste en 1700 y a pesar del testamento en favor de Felipe de Anjou partió hacia España con la intención de defender sus legítimos derechos sucesorios y ocupar el cargo para el que había sido educado.

En 1707 contrajo matrimónio con Isabel Cristina de Brunswick que pasó a vivir con él en su corte establecida en Barcelona. Fue proclamado emperador en 1711 y a pesar de no conseguir la corona española conservó este título hasta después del tratado de Rastadt en 1714. Se rodeó siempre de españoles entre sus consejeros más cercanos y manifestó en todo momento una pasión desmedida y una gran nostalgia por España. Austria gozó de un gran prestigio internacional durante su mandato y supo aglutinar a sectores y zonas dispares bajo el signo de la religión católica y de la dinastía austriaca. Fundó dos compañías comerciales privilegiadas como la Compañía de Oriente en Fiume y Trieste y la Compañía de Ostende en los Países Bajos. Destacó como hombre culto que sentía una gran debilidad por la música.

Era el duque de Anjou, hijo de Luis, delfín de Francia y nieto del rey francés Luis XIV y de su esposa María Teresa, hija de Felipe IV de España. Carlos II le entregó la corona de España tras su muerte cuando tan sólo contaba con diecisiete años de edad. Esta decisión desató un grave conflicto tanto a nivel nacional como internacional puesto que dejaba de lado al también candidato a la sucesión Carlos de Austria, descendiente del monarca español Felipe III.

Fue proclamado rey de España en el año 1700 y su abuelo Luis XIV declaró sus derechos dinásticos supervisando la política de Felipe V, en España. Este hecho se convirtió en un motivo de preocupación para las potencias marítimas que temían una alianza entre Francia y España. Razón por la cual terminaron agrupándose en torno a la Alianza de la Haya.

Fallecida su primera esposa María Luisa de Saboya en 1714 se casó con una princesa italiana llamada Isabel de Farnesio, hija del duque de Parma, la cual resultó ser enérgica y ambiciosa puesto que estaba más preocupada en colocar a sus hijos en una posición política preeminente que en colaborar con su propio marido. En 1724 Felipe V abdicó en favor de su hijo Luis I; muerto éste poco después, Isabel hizo que regresara Felipe V del palacio de la Granja para restablecer el poder en su persona. Falleció en el año 1746, sucediéndole el heredero Fernando VI.

A pesar de que en un principio Barcelona acató al nuevo monarca Felipe V, lo cierto es que poco después se decantaría por el Archiduque Carlos al que nombró emperador en 1711. En Aragón y Valencia la situación era bien diferente y comenzaba a plantearse una cuestión de centralismo castellano frente al federalismo aragonés decantándose por el apoyo al Archiduque. Este apoyo fue decisivo para la pérdida de sus derechos forales tras la aplicación de los decretos de Nueva Planta.

Dada la proximidad de las tropas borbónicas que habían conseguido controlar varios territorios como Caudete, Villena, Elda, Novelda, Elche, etc y ante el cariz que estaban tomando los acontecimientos a principios de 1707, el Archiduque Carlos decidió abandonar la ciudad de Valencia donde se encontraba para marchar hacia Barcelona con la intención de instalar su corte en estos territorios.

Los generales austracistas Galway y Das Minas se anticiparon al ejército borbónico y elaboraron un plan para asestar un duro golpe a las tropas de Berwick. Éste se encontraba en las proximidades de Almansa esperando los refuerzos que tenían que llegar por el norte a cargo del duque de Orleans. El factor sorpresa fue insuficiente para contrarrestar la superioridad de la caballería borbónica que acabó con el inexperto, variopinto y desorganizado ejército austracista. Su derrota despejó y allanó el camino de las tropas borbónicas hacia Valencia que cayó un mes más tarde, junto a numerosas ciudades y villas de toda la región.

Berwick contó con la caballería española y la francesa, además de una unidad irlandesa.

Berwick formó su ejército en dos líneas justo enfrente de Almansa, con la caballería española en el ala derecha y la caballería francesa en el ala izquierda. La infantería en el centro.

El orden de la disposición de Galway fue ligeramente diferente. Dispuso sus fuerzas en dos líneas pero mezcló la caballería y la infantería en ambas alas. Componía este ejército un total aproximado de 15 a 16000 hombres de muy diversa procedencia, holandeses, hugonotes, británicos y portugueses. Das Minas había solicitado que la caballería portuguesa se colocase en el ala derecha.

Las unidades británicas presentes eran los Bays, dragones 3,4 y 8, así como los dragones de Peterborough y Pearce, también un batallón mixto de granaderos y de la guardia Coldstream, los batallones de línea 2,6,9,11,17,28,33,35 y 36, así como la Infantería de Mountjoy, Breton, Bowle y Mark Kerr.

…"Los cañones de nuestra derecha comenzaron a disparar a las tres, pero apenas habían lanzado 20 andanadas cuando el enemigo, habiendo pasado un gran camino en hondo, que estaba enfrente de su izquierda, se apoderó de la altura donde estaba emplazada esta batería, ante lo cual ordené a nuestro ejército que avanzase para atacar. La batalla comenzó por la derecha; nuestra caballería cargó sobre la izquierda del enemigo con tanta bravura que consiguió abrir brecha en ella, pero la infantería enemiga hizo fuego tan intenso sobre los nuestros, que se vieron obligados a ceder; nuestra caballería, sin embargo, se rehizo de nuevo y volvió a cargar sobre el enemigo, que se había rehecho al amparo de su infantería ; con este ataque el enemigo fue nuevamente quebrantado, pero el fuego de los batallones obligó una vez más a nuestra caballería a retirarse. Viendo que sería difícil para nuestra ala derecha tener éxito sin infantería, hice que la brigada de Maine, mandada por M. de Bulkeley, avanzase desde la segunda línea; esta brigada atacó a la infantería enemiga y la derrotó por completo; nuestra caballería cargó al propio tiempo y entonces el ala izquierda fue completamente derrotada.

Nuestra izquierda, mandada por M. d’Avary, había efectuado varias cargas, pero aunque ganó algún terreno y hasta fue ayudada por la brigada de La Sarre, no había sido capaz de penetrar en la línea enemiga. Nuestra derecha, después de haber empujado todo lo que había ante ella, avanzó en orden de batalla sobre el flanco izquierdo de la derecha del enemigo, intentando éste retirarse, pero fue empujado tan de cerca, que pronto se dispersó, y huyendo a plena velocidad, su infantería fue destrozada.

La batalla no se desarrolló con tanta fortuna en el centro, pues el enemigo había derrotado el cuerpo principal de nuestra infantería, y dos de sus batallones, que habían llegado a abrirse camino a través de nuestras dos líneas, avanzaron hasta las murallas de Almansa. Don José Amézaga, Intendente de Caballería, avanzó con dos escuadrones de Órdenes Viejo, cargó y los derrotó.

El resto de la infantería enemiga, viendo que la nuestra atacaba, que había aún algunas brigadas que no habían cargado todavía, que su ala izquierda estaba batida y que su derecha huía en desorden, intentó retirarse, pero en su retirada varios batallones fueron atacados y destrozados. El general Conde de Dehna, con 13 batallones, se refugió en un monte cubierto de bosques, y a la mañana siguiente, viéndose rodeado, sin esperanzas de poder escapar, se rindió prisionero de guerra”… Memoirs, vol I, págs 357-59

Ingleses, holandeses y hugonotes se mantuvieron firmes en el centro. La caballería portuguesa “huyó a toda velocidad”: Una de las causas, no única, pero si fundamental de la derrota de los partidarios del Archiduque, al dejar completamente expuesto su flanco a merced de Berwick. Galway y Das Minas consiguieron con su astucia salvar de la derrota algunos escuadrones de Caballería.

El general octogenario Das Minas tuvo la desgracia de presenciar la muerte de su mujer que le acompañaba vestida de hombre. Galway sufrió un golpe de sable que le produjo una grave herida encima de los ojos en el momento más crítico de la batalla y por ello tuvo que abandonar la lucha.

“El enemigo tuvo 5000 muertos y cerca de 10000 prisioneros ; perdió 120 pares de banderas y estandartes, toda su artillería y la mayoría de su bagaje... Nuestras pérdidas en total ascendieron a unos 2000 hombres”.

La artillería fue arrasada según reconoció Galway en una carta a Sir George Byng. El profesor Trevelyan sostiene que Berwick está equivocado en el cálculo de las bajas puesto que el total de soldados no excedía de 16000 personas cuando comenzó la batalla y la caballería portuguesa abandonó casi al principio las hostilidades.
En Almansa se levantó un monumento en memoria de la batalla y se creó todo un regimiento con el nombre de la misma ciudad para conmemorar el triunfo borbónico.

“... Los enemigos eran mucho más fuertes que Lord Galway, produciendo por ello mucha extrañeza que se eligiese una llanura para atacarlos... este desgraciado suceso en España ha hecho retroceder todo, por lo que la mejor resolución que podemos tomar es hacer ver a los franceses que estamos resueltos a continuar la guerra para que podamos obtener una paz honrosa”.

“Inmediatamente después de la batalla de Almansa, el Rey me otorgó las poblaciones de Liria y Jérica con todas sus dependencias. Las erigió en ducados, con el título de Grandeza de primera clase para mi y mis descendientes. Estas tierras habían sido anteriormente bienes de los hijos segundos de los Reyes de Aragón. Habiendo quedado vacante el gobierno de la provincia de Lemosin, por muerte del Conde de Auvernia, el Rey me lo dio inmediatamente, sin plazo de tiempo para mí o mis amigos para solicitarlo”…

Tras la derrota de los partidarios del Archiduque en Almansa, se produjo toda una reorganización política y administrativa de los territorios controlados. Las regiones que habían combatido al lado del Archiduque pagaron muy pronto su apoyo al oponente de la Casa de Austria. El primer decreto de Nueva Planta vio la luz en junio de 1707, poco después de la derrota de Almansa y afectaba a los reinos de Aragón y Valencia. Esta primera medida sirvió de modelo a las restantes. Por ello la Nueva Planta no fue más que la consecuencia directa de la victoria del ejército borbónico y de la entronización de Felipe V como nuevo monarca español.

Las leyes de Castilla se habían impuesto sobre la legislación foral de la Corona de Aragón y del Reino de Valencia. Felipe V aducía una “falta al juramento de fidelidad”, alegaba su “justo derecho de conquista” y castigaba de esta forma “la rebelión” con la asunción de los poderes propios que le pertenecían: “la imposición y derogación de leyes”. Una nueva forma de gobernar hacia su presencia en la persona de Felipe V.


Veinte millas marchamos en aquel día,
sin la menor gota de agua ;
hasta que, pobres de nosotros, estábamos casi agotados
antes de comenzar la sangrienta carnicería

El bravo Galway, nuestro General,
gritó : “Luchad mientras podáis ;
luchad, valerosos ingleses ;
sois uno contra cinco en este día.”

Los holandeses acometieron espada en mano,
tal como era su deseo;
treinta y cinco escuadrones portugueses
huyeron y nunca llegaron a disparar.

Del Duque de Berwick se me ha dicho
que cursó órdenes para que
si el ejército fuese destrozado,
dar cuartel a los ingleses

“Sed amables con mis paisanos,
pues tal es mi deseo ;
con los portugueses haced lo que os plazca,
pues pronto se retirarán”

Logan W. H. Pedlar’s Pack, págs 82,83

Grand Dieu sauve le Roi
Grand Dieu venge le Roi
Vive le Roi !
Que toujours glorieux
Louis victorieux
Venge ses ennemis
Toujours soumis

Dieu Le Roy.
de Brantigny

Uniform prints are from the New York Public digital library.
Paintings are courtesy of Wiki commons.
La documentación en Almanza es de la Universidad de Valencia, España (Documentation on Almaza is from the University of Valencia, Spain.)

Almansa 1707-2007

Quan el mal ve d'Almansa, a tots alcança.

The Battle of Almansa, fought on April 25, 1707, was one of the most decisive engagements of the War of the Spanish Succession. At Almansa, the Franco–Spanish army under Berwick soundly defeated the allied forces of Portugal, Britain, and the United Provinces led by the Earl of Galway, reclaiming most of eastern Spain for the Bourbons.

It has been described as "probably the only battle in history in which the British forces were commanded by a Frenchman, the French by a Briton".
The Bourbon army of about 25,000 was composed of French and Spanish troops in equal proportion, as well as an Irish regiment. Opposing them was a mainly Anglo-Portuguese force with strong Dutch, German, and French Huguenot elements.

The battle began with an artillery exchange. When Galway committed his reserves to an attack on the Bourbon centre, Berwick unleashed a strong force of Franco-Spanish cavalry against the weakened Anglo-Portuguese lines, sweeping away the Portuguese horse. A general rout followed. Galway lost 5,000 men killed and 12,000 taken prisoner; of his army of 22,000 only 5,000 escaped to Tortosa.

The victory was a major step in the consolidation of Spain under the Bourbons. With the main pro-army in Spain destroyed, the pretender duc d'Anjou regained the initiative and gained Valencia.

The city of Xàtiva was burned, and its name changed to San Felipe in order to punish it. (In memory of these facts, nowadays the portrait of the monarch still hangs upside down in the local museum of L'Almodí)

Before long, the only remaining allies of the Habsburg pretender, Archduke Charles, were his supporters in Catalonia and Balearic Islands.

Vive le Roy.
de Brantigny


Une Chanson Royaliste.

J'ons vu le poème fringant
Fait par ce maître Voltaire
Quoiqu'il ait de l'esprit tant
Est-ce que nous devons nous taire ?
Pour briller tout comme lui

Je n'avons qu'à chanter Louis !
Je n'avons qu'à chanter Louis !

Aux plaines de Fontenoy,
Si t 'avais vu ce Monarque,
Son air inspirait l'effroi
Semblait commander à la Parque
Ses ennemis criaient tous :

Le voilà, morbleu, sauvons-nous !
Le voilà, morbleu, sauvons-nous !

On voyait aussi partout
Le mari de la Dauphine;
De son Père il a le goût,
La bonté, le coeur et la mine
C'est grand bien d'être Papa

Quand on a des Enfants comme ça !
Quand on a des Enfants comme ça !

Et toi brave Maréchal,
Toi de Saxe le grand Comte,
Si l'on trouvait ton égal,
Je dirais, bon que chien de Comte,
Car je n'y vois que ce Roi

Qui puisse l'emporter sur toi !
Qui puisse l'emporter sur toi !

Vous aussi, braves guerriers
Colonels et capitaines,
Et vous autres officiers,
Cueilleurs de lauriers par centaines,
J'dirai ce qui vous convient,

Mais un moment. Voilà, ça vient !
Mais un moment. Voilà, ça vient !

Les Anglais à leurs dépens
Connaissaient votre courage,
A tous vos coups foudroyans
En vain ils opposaient leur rage;
Ceux qu'échappent à l'armement

Sont contraints de ficher le camp !
Sont contraints de ficher le camp !

Vive Louis XX! Vive Le Roy! Vive le France!
de Brantigny


Images of the Petit Trianon

From "Trianon de la Reina . . . María Antonieta, última reina de Francia blog, by Anabel in La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The following is my poor translation from the Spanish. The google map is a great idea. (Why didn't I think of that?)

Imágenes del Petit Trianon

Como dije anteriormente, el Petit Trianon es el palacete ubicado a unos minutos de Versalles que le regaló Luis XVI a Maria Antonieta. Ella lo remodeló y lo acondicionó a su estilo. Aquí, algunas imágenes del Petit Trianon:

"Images of the Petit Trianon"

"As I have said previously, the Petit Trianon is a small palace located to some minutes outside of Versailles, given to Marie-Antoinette by Louis XVI. She remodeled it and she changed it to her style. Here are some images of the Petit Trianon:"

To see a satellite picture go here...

Thanks and tip of the beret to Anabel.

Vive le Roy,
de Brantigny

New Blog added to my Blogroll

I found this blog while researching the Gardes Suisses. A tip of the beret to Jean-Christophe Vallet.

Vive le Roy
de Brantigny

Drummers Fifers and Music of the Kings Guard

An interesting feature of the French King's retinue were the Guard Regiments, and the Kings household. The Troops of the Royal Household (Maison du Roi) were:
the Gardes du Corps (body guards)
the Cent-Suisses (hundred Swiss, dresed similar to the Swiss Guards Vatican)
the Gentilshommes à bec de corbin
the Gardes françaises (regiment created in 1563)
the Chevau-légers (light cavalry) (1593)
the Gendarmes de la garde (1609–1611)
the Gardes suisses (1616)
the Musketeer (two compagnies, 1622 and 1660)
the Gendarmerie d'ordonnance (1660, suppressed in 1788)
the Grenadiers à cheval (1676)

This article is concerned with the music of the Guard. For information on uniforms of the French during the ancien Regime see, here.

When considering military music we distinguish instruments used to transmit commands - drums, fifes, bugles and trumpets - from those of the band with its variety of instruments to enhance military ceremonials and entertain the soldiers. The differences also marked by bugle calls (signals) being sounded by company personnel, whereas the band musicians are administered by the unit headquarters, with their own rates of pay and terms of service.

Armies have always used instruments for orders and field calls. During the Burgundian Wars of 1474-1477 mercenaries of the Swiss Cantons were organized as regimental units which were sub-divided. The unit was the Banner and the sub-units the Fahnlein, numbering from 50 to 150 men. Each banner was accompanied by 3 musicians who played the fife, the drum and the bagpipes. These were paid by the Commanding Officer. The wind instruments for the cantons of Lucerne and Uri were, however, the ‘harsthorner’.

Although German mercenaries were the first to adopt the fife, it was also used by Swiss mercenaries in France. It is also generally agreed that the fife was re-adopted in France for the regiments of Francis I (1494-1547). The ‘tambourin was encased in wood and was about 2 feet in diameter: carried on the left side of the body, this was also adopted. Although used in earlier times, it was in the reign of Francis I that the French military forces were supplied with fifes and drums from ordnance.

It is clear that from its formation the French royal household Regiment of Swiss Guards had drums and fifes. In March 1640 there was one instrument of each kind per company. Twenty-five years later these were augmented by three drums (May 1665). Later the establishment became 1 drum and 5 fifes. In May 1692 the ‘Mercure Galant’ reported the presence of 40 drums of the Swiss Guards at the siege of Namur.

In spite of successive ordinances regulating salutes and signals for the Corps of Drums in French regiments, the Swiss Guard retained their own original ones and were thus distinct from other Royal troops. Precise details of the established ordnance of the Corps of Drums in the Regiment are lacking but by an Order of May 1754 a Corps of Drums was made obligatory for all French regiments. An earlier Order of 6 June 1745 records the establishment of a drum-major for each headquarters. However, it must be recognized that such an appointment had existed before that date, the title having been given to the chief drummer of a regiment by a decree of 4 November 1651.

When the Swiss Guard carried out Guard Duties ‘Outside the Louvre’ a company of 100 Swiss (Cent Suisses not part of the Garde Suisses) also formed a part of the guard ‘Inside the Louvre’. In their magnificent Spanish style uniforms (there would come a time when they would be vilified as ‘untellable lackey-soldiers’), the hundred Swiss would march in front of the King with their fife and three drums. They played when the King attended Mass; on the mornings the sovereign took Communion, usually on the eves of Easter and Christmas; and when he attended the ceremony of touching the sick. The General Salute was beaten only for the Blessed Sacrament and for the King and the Queen. The drums were beaten, without rolls, for the Dauphine and Marshals of France.

In 1758 the drum-major was paid 600 livres (1 livre = 1 franc), a sergeant-major 540 and a captain 6000. By an ordinance of 25 April 1767 the size of the drum was defined as 33 centimeters high and 37 in diameter. In future the barrel would be of brass, weighing 3½ kilograms.

It was on 24 August 1762 on the recommendation of the colonel, the Duc de Brion, that the King authorized the formation of a band of musicians for the French Regiment of the Guard, which already had a small band of 4 oboes(haute bois), 2 bassoons and 2 horns. Officially the band would in future comprise 4 oboes, 4 clarinets, 4 horns and 4 bassoons. It is possible that the Swiss Guard had maintained some musicians, but no unit could include musicians in the rolls of authorized personnel. Musicians, whether supernumerary or under contract, were paid by the colonel and/or from officers’ contributions.

We can date the organization of the band of the Swiss Guard from the end of 1762. Brigaded with the French Royal Guard, the Swiss also had 16 musicians and the authorized number of instruments. In an ordinance of 28 April 1763 and a regulation of 1 June determining the reorganization of the Regiment, one notes the mention of the drum -major, whose pay was 800 livres. Also the establishment of 16 musicians in the headquarters, each to be paid 900 livres a year, plus 166 livres as clothing, instrument maintenance and heating allowances - making a total budget of 2666 livres for the allowances. We note for 1769 the mention of Cholet as drum-major and his son as junior drum-major. We now find the marching column being headed by the regimental pioneers (in 1808 to be designated sappers) and the artillery, with the drums, fifes and band following. This change is illustrated in the pictures of Noreau the Younger and in the water colors of Louis La Paon.

With those of the French Guards, the bands of the Regiments took part in official festivals, notably those of 16 May 1770 for the marriage of the future Louis XVI. Chroniclers noted that the two bands of the Brigade of guards rendered fanfares and were dressed in Turkish fashion and ‘making a great noise’. The bands of the Turkish Janissaries was very much in vogue in Europe at that time and had been copied to some extent by the addition of cymbals, triangle and the ‘Jingling Johnie’ - all visible in the bands, but not in the rolls of accounts of the Treasury.

Records of the band organization are contradictory. In 1774 the headquarters company held 16 official musicians (and 21 instruments) quartered at Versailles but, on the other hand, one finds that the band accompanying the guard mounting numbered 21 musicians, including 10 clarinets. Yet it is also stated that in 1774, the same year, there were 12 clarinets, 2 trumpets, 4 or more flutes, horns and bassoons, led by the music-major. In another document we read of 16 authorized musicians of the headquarters company and also the military band comprising 23 men. After 1774, however, the names of 16 instrumentalists are recorded.

Around 1780 the journals refer to evening concerts given by the bands of the French and Swiss Guards on the terrace at Versailles and in Paris; also of ‘serenades sur le boulevart’(sic). This custom was a foretaste of music ten years later for the great public festivals which were to be so dear to the revolutionaries, aiding the development of the military band and leading to improvements in the making of wind instruments. Both Guards bands took part in the rendition of the Te Deum in 1783 at Notre Dame de Paris on the occasion of a consecration service for the treaty which granted independence to the young American Republic. Louis S. Norean (1740-1814) in his ‘Nouveau Paris’, published in 1799/1800, records that the Swiss Guard took part in the preparation of the Champ de Mars for the festival of the Federation on 14 July 1790, saying "they arrived to the sound of their band". By then the regulation drum had been re-standardized. In the Regulation of 1 October 1786, well known to uniformologists for military dress and details, we read that the bass drum must be 32.5 cms high and 37.9 cms in diameter. In referring to the drum we mention that the children of members of the Guards were, from the age of 7, ‘enfants de troupe’. Clothed in the colors of the colonel, they were fifers or drummers and subject to military discipline.

The repertoire of the bands of the Guards was chiefly derived from arrangements of music from opera-comique or songs, such as ‘a Belle Gabrielle, Malbrouk, Au pres de ma Blonde and others. The Swiss Guard marched past to the sound of rolls ‘a la Suisse’ and then to La Marche de Colin-Tampon, whose slow rhythm corresponded to that slow tempo for a march past which endured for many years but is now used only by the French Foreign Legion.

We know of several marches played by the band of the Swiss Guard, including two by Andre Philidore (curator of the Royal Music Library); two by Michel De la Lande (1657-1726); one by Michel Corette (1709-1795); one by an officer of the Regiment, Christian Zimmermann of Lucerne, and one by Martini (under his real name Schwarzendorff - 1741-1816) composer of the famous Plaisir d’Amour. His march gained a prize, having been won in competition when chosen by the Duc de Choiseul (8) It was forbidden, under the pain of death for members of the Swiss Guard to sing the celebrated Ranz des Vaches because this melancholy song, recalling their homeland caused nostalgia which might encourage desertion or even suicide. This fact (9) is confirmed by J Rousseau (1712-78) in his Dictionnaire de La Musique. (who also wrote the socail contract and who is vilified by me elswhere in my blog)

In 1792, 12 musicians were quartered at Courbevoie. The band was not present in the Tuileries on 10 August. Not so the drummers and fifers attached to the companies, who suffered the cruel destiny of the massacre. The musicians were then imprisoned in the Palais Bourbon, but we may suppose that they were later freed. A famous bandmaster in Revolutionary and Napoleonic times, Michel Gesture, had entered the band of the Swiss Guard as in instrumentalist at the age of 14. He was a Chapel Royal alto at 20 and in 1791 was a member of the band of the Paris National Guard. Later he became bandmaster of the Consular Guard and then of the Grenadier Regiment of Foot of the Imperial Guard. He served in all the campaigns of the Corps but was among those lost in the Russian Campaign of 1812. He composed over 200 works for military band.

From World Military Music Bands.

The prints in this article are from the New York Public Library Digital collection. 1740-1750

Vive Le Roy,
de Brantigny



Le magnifique Chateau de Chambord
Val de Loire, France

Vive Le Roy!
Richard, Sieur de Brantigny

Death of Madame Elisabeth

Elena-Maria has a short article on the sister of King Louis XVI, Madame Elisabeth. She was also the mentor and friend of Madame Royale. I do not think I could be far wrong in saying that after her parents, Madame Elisabeth was the most influential person in Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte's life. She was a model of Christan piety , chastity, and holiness. Young women who today are all to "into" role models like Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, and the like would do far better to emulate the life of this Daughter of France.

In her Memoirs, translated by John Wilson Croker, Madame Royale describes the last days of her aunt, Madame Elisabeth, guillotined on May 10, 1794. After Madame Elisabeth was taken away, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte was alone. Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI, was thirty years old when she was killed. more...
Thanks and a tip of the beret to Elena-Maria Vidal

Find Trianon here...
Find Madame Royale here...

Vive Le Roy,
de Brantigny

Vatican tells parishes not to open archives to Mormons

Mormons are nice people. They are mixed up but they can be nice. I was working up a discorse for some of the Native American inmates h ere and I was suprised to find that members of the Catawba Tribe are almost exclusively Mormon. But Mormons are not Christian. Just having Jesus Christ in your church name does not make you Christian. I have cousins who have become Mormons, I can only hope that they have not performed the sacreledge of “posthumous baptism.”

Catholic News Agency, 08-05-08

In a letter sent to all of the Episcopal conferences of the world, the Congregation for the Clergy has reiterated the desire of the Holy See that Catholic parishes refrain from opening their archives to Mormons, who often request information through the Genealogical Society of Utah.

The letter signed by the prefect for the Congregation, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, indicates that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, through a letter dated January 29 of this year, has responded to a question—raised by some bishops—about the possibility of allowing the Genealogical Society of Utah (Mormons) to microfilm and digitalize the information contained in parish registries.”

“In complete agreement with the grave reservations expressed by that Congregation,” the letter continues, “this dicastery desires to notify your episcopal conference, so that each Diocesan Ordinary be instructed not to consent, in his respective territory, to the above-mentioned practice which violates the privacy of individuals and, in addition, would involve cooperation in the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

The “erroneous practices” referred to in the letter from Cardinal Hummes is the Mormon belief that one’s ancestors can be saved through “posthumous baptism.” The Genealogical Society of Utah uses the ancestral lines reconstructed from parish archives in order to determine which ancestors can be “saved” through “proxy baptism.” According to a source with the Congregation for the Clergy consulted by CNA, the letter from Cardinal Hummes “reiterates what the same Congregation stated on April 29, 2005, in protocol letter N. 20050757 signed by then-prefect Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos.”

Since the Diocese of Salt Lake City contains a large concentration of Mormons and the headquarters of the LDS Church, CNA contacted Colleen Gudreau, the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Salt Lake City to find out how this letter impacts the diocese.

Ms. Gudreau explained in an email to CNA that, “the Diocese of Salt Lake City has never released parish registers,” and therefore, “there is no need for any additional action.”

Although the letter from the Congregation for the Clergy mentions bishops who reported requests being made for baptismal records, Gudreau said that she is “not aware of any such requests” being made in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Rather than negatively impacting the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Mormon Church, Ms. Gudreau said she believes the letter will bring about a greater mutual understanding.

“The Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation. Although we have a lot in common, there are also differences. The letter underscores one of the differences and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dialogue requires truth. It helps us achieve a greater level of understanding,” she said.

Dieu Le Roy,
de Brantigny

Do Embryos Have Souls?

Last week I entered and article about a mother in Britian who sacrificed her life so that her son might live. I have been taught that in its puriest form this witness that she performed gained her immedate Sainthood. That act was after all a martyrdom. Yet there are some who knowing the teachings of the truth are contumacious in regards to abortion. Some claiming, authority granted to them by the "people" speak of insoulnation. This is reational ism in its highest (or lowest form)... Father Thadeusz speaks about insoulnation and what the Church really teaches. Somebody sent a copy to Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.

People are sometimes surprised to hear that the wrongness of destroying a human embryo does not ultimately depend on when that embryo might become a person, or when he or she might receive a soul from God.

They often suppose that the Catholic Church teaches that destroying human embryos is unacceptable because such embryos are persons (or are "ensouled"). While it is true that the Church teaches that the intentional and direct destruction of human embryos is always immoral, it would be incorrect to conclude that the Church teaches that zygotes (a single-cell embryo) or other early-stage embryos are persons, or that they already have immortal, rational souls. The magisterium of the Church has never definitively stated when the ensoulment of the human embryo takes place. It remains an open question.

The Declaration on Procured Abortion from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1974 phrases the matter with considerable precision:

"This declaration expressly leaves aside the question of the moment when the spiritual soul is infused. There is not a unanimous tradition on this point and authors are as yet in disagreement. For some it dates from the first instant; for others it could not at least precede nidation [implantation in the uterus]. It is not within the competence of science to decide between these views, because the existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field. It is a philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent."

That being said, the moral teaching of the Church is that the human embryo must be treated as if it were already ensouled, even if it might not yet be so. It must be treated as if it were a person from the moment of conception, even if there exists the theoretical possibility that it might not yet be so. Why this rather subtle, nuanced position, instead of simply declaring outright that zygotes are ensouled, and therefore are persons? First, because there has never been a unanimous tradition on this point; and second, because the precise timing of ensoulment/personhood of the human embryo is irrelevant to the question of whether or not we may ever destroy such embryos for research or other purposes.

Interestingly, ensoulment has been discussed for centuries, and so-called delayed ensoulment was probably the norm for most of Christian history, with immediate ensoulment gaining some serious momentum of its own beginning in the 1600s (and representing the position most widely held today). Augustine seemed to shift his opinion back and forth during his lifetime between immediate and delayed ensoulment. In the 1200s, Thomas Aquinas held that human ensoulment occurred not right at the first instant, but at a time-point removed from the beginning. This, he argued, would enable the matter of the embryo to undergo development and become "apt" for the reception of an immortal soul from God (by passing through simpler initial stages involving “vegetative” and “animative” souls). Even today in various quarters, the discussions continue, with new embryological details like twinning and chimerization impinging upon the debate, and new conceptual questions arising from the intricate biology surrounding totipotency and pluripotency.

Any destructive action against them as they move along the continuum of their development disrupts the entire future time line of that person. In other words, the embryo exists as a whole, living member of the human species, and when destroyed, that particular individual has perished. Every human embryo, thus, is unique and sacrosanct, and should not be cannibalized for stem cell extraction.

We must recognize that it is God's business as to precisely when He ensouls embryos. We do not need an answer to this fascinating and speculative theological question, like counting angels on the head of a pin, in order to grasp the fundamental truth that human embryos are inviolable and deserving of unconditional respect at every stage of their existence. Rather, this moral affirmation follows directly on the heels of the scientific data regarding early human development, which affirms that every person on the face of the planet is, so to speak, an “overgrown embryo”. Hence, it is not necessary to know exactly when God ensouls the embryo, because, as I sometimes point out in half-jest, even if it were true that an embryo did not receive her soul until she graduated from law school, that would not make it OK to kill her by forcibly extracting tissues or organs prior to graduation.

Human embryos are already beings that are human (not zebra or plant), and are, in fact, the newest and most recent additions to the human family. They are integral beings structured for maturation along their proper time line. Any destructive action against them as they move along the continuum of their development disrupts the entire future time line of that person. In other words, the embryo exists a whole, living member of the human species, and when destroyed, that particular individual has perished. Every human embryo, thus, is unique and sacrosanct, and should not be cannibalized for stem cell extraction.

What a human embryo actually is, even at its earliest and most undeveloped stage, already makes it the only kind of entity capable of receiving the gift of an immortal soul from the hand of God. No other animal or plant embryo can receive this gift; indeed, no other entity in the universe can receive this gift. Hence, the early human embryo is never merely biological tissue, like a group of liver cells in a petri dish; at a minimum, such an embryo, with all its internal structure and directionality, represents the privileged sanctuary of one meant to develop as a human person.

Some scientists and philosophers will attempt to argue that if an early embryo might not yet have received its immortal soul from God, it must be OK to destroy that embryo for research since he or she would not yet be a person. But it would actually be the reverse; that is to say, it would be more immoral to destroy an embryo that had not yet received an immortal soul than to destroy an ensouled embryo. Why? Because the immortal soul is the principle by which that person could come to an eternal destiny with God in heaven, so the one who destroyed the embryo, in this scenario, would preclude that young human from ever receiving an immortal soul (or becoming a person) and making his or her way to God. This would be the gravest of evils, as the stem cell researcher would forcibly derail the entire eternal design of God over that unique and unrepeatable person, via an action that would be, in some sense, worse than murder. The human person, then, even in his or her most incipient form as an embryonic human being, must always be safeguarded in an absolute and unconditional way, and speculation about the timing of personhood cannot alter this fundamental truth.


Dieu Le Roy.
de Brantigny