The “perfect nun” is supposed to be devoted to God, pious, sing in choirs, and teach students. Then there are the other kinds of nuns, the antithesis of what nuns should be, those that have become popular in the horror genre. They are evil, possessed, and demonic, terrifying anyone who encounters them.
There was even a nun whom the Devil himself possessed. Historians and linguists have studied this nun from Italy, and the strange letter she wrote for over 400 years. In 2017 we finally learned what Maria Crocifissa wrote, and it is frightening.
Who was Isabella Tomasi?
Maria was born Isabella Tomasi was born somewhere in Italy in 1645. She was the daughter of Prince Giuilo Tomasi di Lampedusa. The Tomasi family were the ancestors of author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, known for his book “The Leopard.” When Isabella was 15 years old, she became a nun, a sister at the Benediction convent in Palme di Mantechiaro in Sicily, Italy.
Isabell Tomasi was then baptized and renamed Maria Crocifissa della Concezione. It was and still is a practice for many newly baptized nuns to choose or be assigned a religious name. This new religious name symbolized the person’s new relationship with Christianity and God.
By shedding their old names, they put the past and any sins behind them. Isabella Tomasi became Sister Maria Crocifissa and embraced her role as a nun.
Maria was a bit different than the other nuns. She was said to have told her sisters in the convent that the Devil possessed her. Maria fully believed that Satan was constantly trying to make her turn her back to God. Satan was trying to lead her down the path of evil. She feared that the Devil would force her to sin against her will.
The other nuns witnessed unexplained behavior from Maria during her 16 years in the convent. It was said that upon coming near the convent alter, she would scream as if she was scared of something only she could see and faint. She had even confessed that she heard the Devil’s voice whispering to her.
The Devil’s Letter
On August 11, 1676, Maria was found writhing on the floor of her room. Her face was smeared with black ink and in her hand was a letter. The nun was described to be in some sort of trance that she suddenly came out of.
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Exhausted and weak, Maria said that Satan possessed her and had her dictate a letter. She said she didn’t know what she wrote while in this demonic trance, and she wasn’t writing, but he was.
Maria’s story became frighteningly true when the letter in her hand was inspected. It was written in a strange mix of rustic glyphs and ancient Latin, Greek, and Arabic letters and appeared to have occult symbols. The letter was illegible, and it was said to be “Satan’s handwriting.”
For almost 400 years, linguistics and codebreakers have tried to decipher Maria Crocifissa’s letter from the Devil with no success. In 2017, the first breakthrough in the translation of the letter occurred thanks in part to the dark web.
Yes, that Dark Web. The digital world’s seedy underbelly where drugs, weapons, and explicit can be bought, sold, and accessed without being traced, somehow did what nobody else could and cracked her code.
The Ludum Science Center in Catania, Italy, is privately-funded and was opened in 1969. LUDUM is an institution that has worked with both educational organizations and research.
A team of researchers and scientists heard about some software that was rumored to be used by intelligence services to crack codes. To know what the letter said, they needed to find the software and the dark web was where they went.
The software, created by the military and used by different governments across the globe, was applied to the letter. The scientist recognized some letters in ancient Latin, Arabic, Greek, and Rustic symbols and entered those languages into the decryption algorithm software. All that was left was to wait and hope the software could figure out the Devil’s Letter.
And amazingly it worked. The decryption algorithm was, at long last, able to translate Maria’s demonic letter after almost 400 years. Well, the software translated most of the letter. Only 70% of the entire Devil’s Letter was translated. The message was clearly demonic in nature, but also, sadly, made zero sense.
The letter said:
Humans are responsible for the creation of God.
This system works for no one.
God thinks he can free mortals.
Perhaps now, Styx is certain.
God and Jesus are dead weights.
This is not an exact translation. It has been phrased and punctuated to make sense to modern-day English-speaking people. When translated into Italian, it didn’t make sense either.
What did make sense was that if the nuns could have read that message uncoded, she would likely have been executed for heresy. She said we created God and that he and Jesus were “dead weights.” not something a nun should think, let alone write.
The reason the letter mentions Styx has yet to be figured out but is likely related to Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, the River Styx separates the land of the living and the land of the dead. Could this mean that Satan or evil would win the fight between good and evil?
A Demonic Threat or Something Else?
Many historians believe the letter was possibly a prank pulled by a very bored nun who had been at the convent since a young age. There is also the belief that Isabella the girl didn’t much enjoy being Maria the nun, and wanted to vent her frustrations.
She put her heretical feeling and rebellious thoughts on paper and used a code she created to disguise the words. She might have also been a linguist, and no one else knew she learned ancient Latin, Greek, and Arabic on her own.
For many years, Maria had been reading religious scripture. Scriptures that were written in ancient languages. It may have allowed her to create her own secret code. Other historians and religious people believe that the letter is the Devil’s handwriting.
There also could be a more psychological explanation. Maria Crocifissa could have possibly had schizophrenia. Religious hallucinations are the most common type of hallucinations. Auditory hallucinations, voices you can’t see but hear, can be experienced.
There are many times when those with schizophrenia are lucid and able to tell when things are real or not. Her fainting and screaming near the church’s altar may be due to slipping out of lucidity. We cant posthumously make a diagnosis for Maria, so there is no confirmation that she had a mental illness.
We all have our demons. Perhaps some of them like to write strange, cryptic, and incomprehensible letters. Or perhaps Maria Crocifissa knew something we didn’t.
Top Image: What was the Devil trying to say through Sister Maria? Source: Sutlafk / Adobe Stock.
By Lauren Dillon