On July 17th, 1794, near the end of Robespierre’s reign of terror, a few brave women became some of the bravest martyrs in France.
The Sisters of Compiègne were a group of nuns who instead of running from the French Revolution, stayed out of their commitment to God. The humanist Revolution had set itself against the Catholic Church, making the convent a target because the church refused to bow to the power of the Revolution .
The fourteen nun and their two servants were imprisoned in their convent after being named as traitors. Their imprisonment never stopped them from offering themselves to God as a penance for their countrymen; they believed that this was appropriate for their suffering. Their incarceration lasted approximately a year and a half before they were seized by the Committee of Public Safety.
On July 12, the sisters were moved to the prison in Paris to await their appointments with Madame Guillotine.
On July 17, the tumbrels took them to the scaffold. On their short journey, the prioress looked at the good sisters and saw that they were shaking and nearly fainting from hunger. She didn’t want people to mistake their low blood sugar for fear, and began to ask the people around them for help. They were given cups of chocolate to drink as they sang “Veni Creator Spiritus,” “Salve Regina,”and “Laudate Dominum” as they each waited their turn.
It’s in honor of these brave women, and the kind soul who gave them something to drink, that we’re drinking hot chocolate in July. Pass the whipped cream and lift a mug to the noble and holy Sisters of Compiègne!