This is an account of the torture and death of Fathers Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalement written days after the event which occurred March 16 and 17,1649:
We had been informed by some escaped captives of the certain deaths of Father Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemen. The next morning as soon as we were assured that the enemy had departed we sent one of our Fathers and seven other Frenchmen to seek their bodies at the place of torture. There they found a spectacle of horror- the remains of cruelty personified - or, rather, the testimony of the love of God which alone triumphs in the death of sorrow.
If I were so allowed , I would gladly call them by that glorious name because of their own free will, motivated solely by the love of God and the salvation of their neighbor these men exposed themselves to death, and to an extremely cruel death, if ever in the world there n was one . They could easily and without sin have put their lives in safety had they not been filled with the love of God rather than for themselves. A much stronger reason for this title of martyr, however, is that despite their charitable dispositions, hatred for the Faith and contempt for the name of God were among the most powerful motives influencing the minds of the barbarians to exercise upon them cruelties as racking as ever the tyrants ts obliged the early martyrs to endure_ martyrs who , at the climax of their tortures, triumphed over both life and death.
As soon as the Fathers were taken captives they were stripped naked and some of the nails torn out. The welcome they received upon entering the village of Saint Ignace was a hailstorm of blows with clubs on their shoulders, their loins, their legs, their abdomens, and theiri faces _ no part of their bodies escaped suffering its own torment.
Father Jeand de Brebeuf , overwhelmed by the burden of these blows, did not for all that disregard the care of the flock. Seeing himself surrounded by Christians whom he himself had instructed and who were now suffering captive with him, he encouraged them thus: “ My children, let us raise our eyes to Heaven in the midst of the unutterable afflictions,: let us remember that God is witness to our sufferings and that he will soon be our glorious reward. Let us die in this faith and let us hope from his goodness the fulfillment of his promises. I feel much more pity for you than for myself. Bear with courage the few remaining torments. They will end with our lives, but the glory that follows will never end. “ Echon” ( this is the name the Hurons gave to Father Brebeuf) they cried, “ ours spirits will be in Heaven whiles our bodies are suffering on earth. Pray to God for us.that he may show us his mercy: we will invoke him until death>”
Some Huron infidels_ former captives of the Iroquois and now naturalized among them, long_ standing enemies of the Faith_ were annoyed by these words and by the fact that the Fathers, though their captives, did not hold their tongues captive. The infidels cut off the hands of one Father and pierced the other Father’s hands with sharp awls and iron points. They applied hatchets heated red in the fire to their armpits and to their loins. They placed a necklace of these glowing heads about their necks in such a way that any motion of their bodies produced a new torture. If they attempted to lean forward , the red- hot iron hanging behind them burned their shoulders, and if they thought they could avoid the pain by bending back a little, their chest and stomachs suffered a similar torment. If they stood upright, without leaning on one one side or the other, they glowing hatchets touched them on all sides and wer an intolerable torment to them. Their persecutors fastened on them belts of bark filled with pitch and resin, then set them afire and thus burned the entire body of their poor victims.
At the height of the torments, Father Gabriel Lalement raised his eyes to Heaven, clasped his hands several times, and sent prolonged sights to God, begging his aid. Father Jean de Brebeuf suffered like a rock, insensible to the fires and flames, not uttering a single cry, but keeping a profound silence. This restraint thoroughly astonished his tormentors. No doubt the heart of the sufferer was already reposing in his God/ Then, as if returning to himself, he preached to those infidels, his torturers. He hard more encouragement, however for the many good Christians captives who felt a deep sympathy for him.
Father de Brebeuf’s persecutors then became indignant at his zeal , and to hinder his from speaking further of God, they gouged out circles around his mouth, cut off his nose, and tore off his li[s. His blood then spoke more loudly than his lips had done. Since his heart was not torn out, his tongue did not fail to serve him, until his last sigh, blessing God for all these torments and exhorting his Christians more vigorously than ever.
In derision of holy baptism, which these ood Fathers had so charitably administered even during the attach and in the heat of the fight, those wretched enemies of the Faith devised the plan of baptizing the Fathers with boiling water. Their charred bodies were completely bathed in it, not only once,, but two or three times, and even more, with biting insults to accompany these torments. “ We baptize you” announced these heathens, “ so that you may be blessed in Heaven, for without proper baptism ou cannot be saved.” Others mockingly added: “ We treat you as a friend, since we are the cause of your greatest happiness in Heaven. Thank us for all our kind services, for the more you suffer the more God will reward you”
Most of these tormentors were apostate Hurons who had been captives among the Iroquois for a long period and were longtimes enemies of the Faith. They had had sufficient instructions for their salvation but had impiously abused it. Truly their cruelty did serve for the glory of the Fathers, but is much to be feared that it was also for their own ignominy.
The more their torments were increased, the more the Fathers entreated God that their sins should not be the cause of the wickedness of these poor blind souls whom they pardoned with all their heart. How truly they can now say “ Through fire and water we have passed, but now relief you granted us.” ( Ps 65(66 ):12
When they were fastened to the post where they suffered these torments and where they were to die, they knelt down, embraced it with joy; and kissed it piously as being the object of their desires and their love and as a sure and final pledge of their salvation. They were some times in prayer, a much longer time than their executioners were willing to allow them.
Their tortures were not of the same duration. Father Jean Brebeuf was at the height of his agony at about three o’clock on the same day he was captured March 16. He rendered up his soul about four o’clock in the evening. Father Gabriel suffered longer, from six o’clock in the evening until about nine o’clock next morning, March 17.
Before they died, both of them had their hearts torn out by means of an opening above the breast. Those inhuman barbarians feasted on these organs, drinking the blood of their victims while it was still warm, drawing it from its source with sacrilegious hands. While the Fathers were living and still conscious, pieces of flesh were removed from their thighs and from the calves of their legs. These morsels their executioners placed on coals to roast and then at them in the sight of their captives.
The torturers had slashed the holy bodies of the Fathers in various places, and, in order to increase their pains, had thrust red-hot hatchets in their wounds.
Father Jean de Brebeuf had had the covering of his skull torn away; his feet were cut off and the flesh torn from his thighs all the way down to the bone. A hatchet blow had split one of his jaws.
Father Gabriel Lalement had received a hatchet blow on the left ear, driving all the way into his brain and clearly exposing the latter organ. We could find no part of his body from his feet to his head, which had not been broiled and scorched while he was still alive_ even his eyese, into which those impious wretches had thrust burning coals.
They had broiled the tongues of both saints, repeatedly thrusting flaming firebrands and burning pieces of bark into their mouths to prevent hem from invoking even while dying, him for whom they were suffering and who could never die in their hearts. I have learned all these details, from persons worthy of credence. They saw it, and reported it to me firsthand. These men had been the fellow captives of our Fathers but, having been reserved for death at a later date, had managed to escape.