Hallowed Ground, Hollow Heart

Molière

On February 17, 1673, the desperately ill French dramatist Molière insisted on going on stage so as not to let the rest of the company down. When the play was over he had to be carried home, where he died shortly afterward. Religious prejudices against the theater were so powerful that it was customary for a dying actor solemnly to abjure his profession so as to obtain burial in consecrated ground. Molière’s sudden death prevented this formality and appeals to the archbishop of Paris were fruitless. Molière’s widow sought the aid of the king. Louis sent to the ecclesiastical authorities to ask how deep consecrated ground may run. Back came the answer: “Fourteen feet.” “Very good,” said Louis. “Let Molière’s grave be dug in the churchyard sixteen feet deep and then it cannot be said that he is buried in consecrated ground, nor need it scandalize the clergy.” (This tradition may be intended to account for the fact that Molière’s grave has never been located. There is the suspicion that the archbishop of Paris, who would permit the funeral to take place only at night and attended by only two priests—and no one else—later had the grave moved out of the churchyard.)

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Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 1:25 PM  Leave a Comment  
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