InSouls under Siege, Nicole Archambeau explores how the inhabitants of southern France made sense of the ravages of successive waves of plague, the depredations of mercenary warfare, and the violence of royal succession during the fourteenth century. Many people, she finds, understood both plague and war as the symptoms of spiritual sicknesses caused by excessive sin, and they sought cures in confession.
Archambeau draws on a rich evidentiary base of sixty-eight narrative testimonials from the canonization inquest for Countess Delphine de Puimichel, which was held in the market town of Apt in 1363. Each witness in the proceedings had lived through the outbreaks of plague in 1348 and 1361, as well as the violence inflicted by mercenaries unemployed during truces in the Hundred Years' War. Consequently, their testimonies unexpectedly reveal the importance of faith and the role of affect in the healing of body and soul alike.
Faced with an unprecedented cascade of crises, the inhabitants of Provence relied on saints and healers, their worldview connecting earthly disease and disaster to the struggle for their eternal souls. Souls under Siege illustrates how medieval people approached sickness and uncertainty by using a variety of remedies, making clear that "healing" had multiple overlapping meanings in this historical moment.
Introduction: Telling Stories of Danger in Fourteenth-Century Provence
1. Bertranda Bertomieua and the Death of King Robert of Naples, 1343
2. Bishop Philippe Cabassole and the "War of the Seneschals," 1347–1349
3. Master Nicolau Laurens and the Mercenary Invasion of 1357–1358
4. Lady Andrea Raymon and the Great Companies, 1361
5. Master Durand Andree and the Sacrament of Penance as a Moment of Danger
6. Sister Resens de Insula and the Desire for Certainty
Conclusion: Lord Giraud de Simiana and the Health of Body and Soul
Nicole Archambeau is Assistant Professor of History at Colorado State University.
Archambeau belongs to a small but vibrant generation of U.S.-based historians who are making important contributions to the study of medieval Provence, a region whose fascinating history is surprisingly little known outside the community of specialists in France and Canada. Souls under Siege is a very welcome addition to the growing bibliography and illuminates Provençal history in an unusual and fascinating way.
Through its shifting patterns of speakers and contexts, we come to see individuals in a complex world struggling in the midst of violence and disease to find a way to feel whole.