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Miracles in Spain - 4

The Pilgrim Deceived by the Devil

Gonzalo de Berceo
In this story, the 12th century Fr. Gonzalo de Bercero records a miracle written by the great St. Hugh, Abbot of Cluny, who ruled over more than 1,000 monasteries and dependencies at his death in 1109.

Gentlefolk and friends, for God's and charity's sake, hear another miracle, which is truly lovely.

pilgrims santiago

The pilgrim sets out for Santiago without making penance

St. Hugh, Abbot of Cluny, wrote it for it happened to a monk of his Order. A man called Guiralt before becoming a monk was not very wise, and committed the folly and sin of an unmarried man without obligations.

He decided one day to go on a pilgrimage to the Apostle of Spain (Santiago in Compostela). He arranged his affairs and made plans for departure with his companions. When they were about to leave he did a vile thing: Instead of keeping vigil, he lay with his mistress. He did not do penance, as prescribed by law, and set out on the way with this stinging nettle.

He had covered only a little of the journey when he had an encounter along the way that appeared to be good, though in truth it was not. The old Devil, always a traitor, is a skillful master of all sin; at times he appears as an angel of the Creator, but he is a cunning Devil, an enticer to evil.

Now the false one transformed himself into the semblance of a holy pilgrim, and stood before Guiralt in the middle of the path:

"Welcome, my friend," he said to the pilgrim, "you seem to me a simple thing, innocent like a lamb. You left your house to come to mine, but upon leaving you committed a folly. You intend to complete the pilgrimage without making penance. Holy Mary will not reward you for this!"

St James

The Devil in disguise as St. James

And he continued: "I am James, son of Zebedee. Be aware, friend, that you are wandering astray; it seems you have no desire to save yourself."

Guiralt said: "Well, sir, what do you command? I want to comply with all that you tell me, for I see that I have committed great iniquities. I did not do the penance that the abbots dictated."

"What do you command, sir?" the pilgrim asked him.

The false James responded: "This is my judgment: that you cut off the parts of your body that commit fornication; then, cut your throat. Only thus will you do service to God, for you will make sacrifice to him of your very flesh."

The ill-fated one, crazed and foolish, believed him. He took out his well-sharpened knife and the poor crazy wretch cut off his genitals; then, he slit his own throat and died excommunicated.

When the companions with whom he had set out arrived to where Guiralt was and saw him like that, they were in the greatest affliction. How this had come to pass they could not imagine! They saw that his throat had not been cut by thieves since they had taken nothing from him nor robbed him. Nor had he been challenged by anyone.

They all quickly fled and scattered, thinking they would be suspected of this death and perhaps be taken prisoner and accused.

Then that Devil, the one who gave the advice, together with his followers, big and little, small and large, falsehearted traitors all, they shackled the soul of Guiralt and were carrying it to the fire, and not gently.

St. James calls for the judgment of Our Lady

our lady

St. James calls on Our Lady to hear his case

St. James, whose pilgrimage it was, saw all this. And so he came out in great haste to the road and stood before the malevolent group. "Evil ones," he said, "free the prisoner that you carry, for he is not quite as surely yours as you think."

The Devil retorted:

"James, you are trying to make mockery of us. You want to go against our right; you have some wicked scheme under your scapular. For Guiralt committed a sin, killing himself with his own hand. He must be judged as a brother of Judas. He is in all ways our parishioner!"

St. James said to him:

"Treacherous tongue wagger, your speech cannot be worth a bogus coin. Using my voice as a false advocate you gave bad advice. You killed my pilgrim! Had you not told him that you were James, showing him the sign of my scallop shells, he would not have harmed his body with his own knife nor would he lie as he lies here now, outside in the road.

"I am greatly offended by your behavior. I consider my image mocked by you. You killed my pilgrim with a skillful lie. Let me await the judgment of the Virgin Mary, for I appeal to Her in this case."

Mercy for Guiralt from the Glorious One

They presented their arguments before the Glorious Virgin, the matter well-stated by each party. The Precious Queen understood the arguments and the dispute ended appropriately with her judgment:


The deceitful band return to Hell

"The deceit that he suffered must be held in his favor," she said, "for he thought he was obeying St. James and that, in so doing, he would be saved. The deceiver is the one who should suffer more."

She continued: "I order this and give it as judgment. The soul over which you have the dispute shall return to its body and do penance; then, as he merits shall he be judged."

This sentence was carried out, it was sanctioned by God. The wretched soul was returned to its former abode, even though this judgment grieved the Devil and all those of his band.

The body, which was lying there dazed, arose. Guiralt of the slit throat cleaned his face and stood there like someone bewildered.

As for the wound he had from the throat-cutting, its scar barely showed. Of everything else he was healed and mended, except for his private parts that were cut off never grew back one bit, and he remained in that condition.

Guiralt gave thanks to God and to Holy Mary and to the holy Apostle James whose pilgrimage he was making.

He made haste and found his company who all greatly marveled.

This great wonder was sounded throughout Compostela and all the townspeople came out to see him.

When he went back to his homeland and people heard what had happened, there was a great commotion. The people were moved upon seeing this Lazarus returned from death to life.

This pilgrim pondered his good fortune, how God had delivered him from the wicked teeth. He abandoned the world, friends and relatives. He entered the Abbey of Cluny and dressed in a penitent's habit.

Hugh, a good man, Abbot of Cluny, a religious man of very great holiness, told this miracle that truly happened. He put it in writing, doing an honorable thing.

Guiralt died in the Order, leading a good life, serving the Creator in word and deed persevering in good, repenting of sin. The evil enemy did not get the upper hand again. For all that Guiralt had sinned, he made good amends to God.


A model of Cluny Abbey at its height


Blason de Charlemagne
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Adapted from Gonzalo de Verceo, Miracles of Our Lady,
trans. by T. Mount and A. Cash, Un of Lexington Press, 1997, pp. pp. 49-53

Posted July 20, 2019

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