Girolamo Morlini

Girolamo Morlini's (Latin) Novellae

The Monk who Prophesied an Earthquake


A monk of Naples, named V--, who belonged to the Minorite Order and had a gift for oratory, conceived a passion for a certain very beautiful and, for this city, very noble woman. He hit on a scheme to enable him to sleep with her and found a way which would lead to that desired end: Namely to predict that at night there would be an earthquake in which the whole polulation of the city would perish. And he invented this for no othere reason than that, after the servants had left the house of his Glycerium, he could more securely revel in love with her during the night.

And thus wishing to carry out what he had planned, as soon as the rays of the sun brought forth bright day, ascending the pulpit, he began with great eloquence and secret design to show that Almighty God had prepared the destruction of mankind for their sins and that it had been announced to him that there would be an earthquake on the third night, which with its violent trembling and rending would crumble and destroy all the walls of the city: "And I prophesy that this will happen at night for no other reason than to punish all equally while they are unmindful and overcome by sleep."

And when this sermon was known, though false, still it filled the people with fear so that they thought it advisable to seek safety in marshes under the open sky. What should I say? Just before the prophesied night the people of Naples, credulous to a degree in my opinion, left the city and could be seen putting up their tents in fields and marshes.

Some to be sure went to the churches in supplication; some, though a small party, having prepared for flight, remained at home. The monk however, (no nonk, but an associate of "chalconida" [a devil?]), lying with his Glycerium, what with the struggle of love, caused an earthquake in bed and not in the earth. And thus the prophecy applied only to him and deceived the people.

The novella suggests that it is a great fault to be credulous and especially to believe false prophets who, although they are mortal, claim to know heavenly matters.

From Larry D. Benson and Theodore M. Andersson, The Literary Context of Chaucer's Fabliaux. Indianapolis and New York, 1971, p. 39.