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Miracles in Spain - 3

The Devout Thief

Gonzalo de Berceo
The miracle tales compiled by the 12th century priest Gonzalo de Berceo were memorized and spoken aloud among the Castilian people. His work was very popular of medieval Spain.

There was a bad thief who would rather steal than go to church or build bridges. He knew how to maintain his house by theft, a bad habit that he took up and could not quit.

Among his other evil habits, he did have one good habit, which availed him in the end and gave him salvation. He believed in the Glorious Lady with all his heart. He always greeted Her, facing Her Majesty and saying "Ave Maria" and more of the prayer. He always bowed before Her image, and felt very great shame under Her gaze.

But, as he who walks in evil must fall, this thief was caught with stolen goods. Since he had no way to defend himself, he was sentenced to be hanged in the gallows.

our lady hanged thief

Our Lady has mercy on her criminal servant

The constable took him to the crossroads where the gallows had been erected by the council. They covered his eyes with a well-tied cloth, and raised him from the ground as high as they could with a tightly drawn rope. Those who were nearby considered him dead.

But the Glorious Mother, who is accustomed to helping Her servants in trouble, wished to protect this condemned man. She remembered the service that he always rendered Her. As he was hanging, under his feet She placed Her precious hands and gave him relief. He did not feel burdened by anything at all and had never been more comfortable or more content.

Then, on the third day his relatives came, and with them his friends and acquaintances. They came grieving to take him down.

But the situation was better than they thought. They found him alive, happy and unharmed. He would not have been so comfortable had he been lying in a bath. He said that under his feet there was a certain footstool and that he would not feel any pain if he hung there a year.

When the ones who had hanged him heard this, they thought that the noose had been faulty and they regretted that they had not cut his throat. That entire band was of the same mind: They had been foiled by the bad noose, but they should now cut his throat with sickle or sword so that their town would not be shamed by a thief!

The most agile young men went to cut his throat with strong blades, long and sharp, but Holy Mary interposed Her hands and the gullet of his throat remained intact.

When they saw that they could do him no harm, that the Glorious Mother wished to protect him, they withdrew from the dispute and, until God willed otherwise, they let him live.

They allowed him to go his way in peace, for they did not wish to oppose Holy Mary. He bettered his ways and set aside his folly. Thus he completed his life and died when his time came.

Mother so compassionate, of such benevolence, Who has mercy on the good and the bad, we should bless Her with all our heart, for those who do so earn great riches. And she comes to the aid of all who call upon Her.


Adapted from Gonzalo de Verceo , Miracles of Our Lady,
trans. by T. Mount and A. Cash, Un of Lexington Press, 1997, pp 44-45

Posted June 8, 2019

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