Historia flagellantium

Title page.

Historia flagellantium: de recto et perverso flagrorum usu apud christianos is a book by Jacques Boileau (1635-1716) first published in Paris in 1700. The author was a French abbot, the elder brother of the famous French poet Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux.


Monastic/religious M/F birching scene, possibly depicting Cornelius Adriaensen.

In ten chapters the book covers religious flagellation from antiquity to the end of the 17th century. The author compiles facts and quotations, and rails against the profane and sexual aspects of such "discipline". He does not limit his discussion to the sect of the Flagellants but covers the topic of self-flagellation and other flagellation by and among Christians throughout the ages. He discusses cases such as that of the 16th-century Dutch Franciscan priest Cornelius Adriaensen.

Boileau's book caused great protests from the cleric and the author became the subject of frequent attacks by a variety of religious orders such as the Jesuits. Historia Flagellantium was put on the Catholic Church's Index of Prohibited Books by 1703.

The book discusses and criticises flagellation from a moral and not from a medical point of view.


The original 1700 edition is in Latin language. In 1701, the book became available in French translation under the title Histoire des flagellans où l’on fait voir le bon et le mauvais usage des flagellations parmi les chrétiens.

In 1777, Jean Louis de l'Olme (who is often misspelled "de Lolme" or "Delolme") published Boileau’s Historia Flagellantium in an edited and commented edition in English: The History of the Flagellants, or the Advantages of Discipline; Being a Paraphrase and Commentary on the ’Historia Flagellantium’ of the Abbé Boileau, Doctor of the Sorbonne etc. Another edition was published 1784 in London under the modified title Memorials of Human Superstition: Paraphrases and Commentary on the HISTORIA FLAGELLANTIUM of the Abbe Boileau, Doctor of the Sorbonne, Canon of the Holy Chapel, &c., By One who is not Doctor of the Sorbonne.


Historia Flagellantium saw many reprints. There is even a modern paperback reprint of the original Latin edition by Kessinger Publishing (2009): ISBN 1104765004, ISBN 9781104765002, ISBN 978-1104765002

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