A veritable Account of the Martyrdom and Blessed death of Father Jean de
Breb¤uf and of Father Gabriel L'Alemant, in New France, in the country of
the Hurons, by the Iroquois, enemies of the Faith.
FATHER Jean de Breb¤uf and Father Gabriel L'Alemant 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 some one 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 [page 25] 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 Brebceuf and Gabriel L'Allemant:
"The Iroquois came, to the number of twelve hundred men; took our village, and seized Father Breboauf 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 their fingers. They beat them with a shower of blows from cudgels, on the shoulders, the loins, the belly, the legs, and the face,Đthere being no part of their body which did not endure this torment. " The savages told us further, that, although Father de Brebceuf 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 us encouraging these good people, a wretched Iron renegade,Đwho had remained a captive with he Iroquois, and whom Father de Breb¤uf had formerly instructed andbaptized,Đhearing him speak Paradise and Holy Baptism, was irritated, and said [page 27] to him, " Echon," that is Father de Breb¤uf's 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 slave 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 other, the burning ratchets, applied equally on both sides, give him a trouble 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 [page 29] Breb¤uf 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 conversion. 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, inorder to eat it.
While they tormented him in this manner, those wretches derided him, saying: " Thou seest plainly that we treat 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,Đfor, 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,Đsaying that Father de Brebceuf 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 Breb¤uf, by several Christian savages worthy of belief, who had been [page 31] 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 Breb¤uf was captured on the 16th day of March, in the morning, with Father Lalemant, in the year 1649. Father de Brebceuf died the same day as his capture, about 4 o'clock 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 which 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 Brebceuf and of Father Gabriel L'Alemant 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,Đwhere 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 examined first the Body of Father de Brebeuf which was pitiful to see, as well as that of Father [page 33] L'Alemant. Father de Brebeuf had his legs, thighs, and arms stripped of flesh to the very bone; I flaw and touched a large number of great blisters, which he had on several places 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 constantly spoke 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 L'Alemant. 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 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 QuÄbek, where they are held in great veneration. [page 35]
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,Đwho is, and shall ever be,
Your Very Humble and very obedient Servant,
Christophe Regnaut. [from the Jesuit Relations vol. 34, pp25-37]