The Nun was a 2018 film that took place in The Conjuring universe. While the supernatural tales told are claimed to be based off true stories, they are often blown more out of proportion. What actually happened isn’t nearly as dramatic as the what was portrayed in the films. However, to say that these films don’t have a shred of information taken from actual historical facts would be inaccurate. While the actual story of the nun this film was based off of wasn’t nearly as terrifying or lead to as many deaths, there is still a scary and demonic-seeming origin to the tale. This is the real story of the nun that the 2018 film was based off of.
The Time Was 1676
It all happened in August of 1676. While scientific studies were still performed during this time, people were still overly reliant on their religion to explain things that they didn’t understand. They’d often turn to priests or other religious leaders in order to explain things that they didn’t understand. Said religious leaders were well-respected among their communities for their devout faith. And some of the most devout individuals were the nuns. So, it was all the more surprising when it was nun that claimed to have been possessed by the devil.
The name of the nun was Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione of the Monastery of Palma di Montechiaro in Sicily. Before joining said monastery, she was born Isabella Tomasi, daughter of Prince Giulio Tomasi di Lampedusa. They were actually ancestors of the famous Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Not much is known about her mother or her childhood before she entered the convent at age 15. The Palma di Montechiaro monastery she studied at was a Benedictine Convent, studying the teachings of St. Benedict and was one of the oldest religious orders of the Western Church.
Becoming A Nun
The Palma di Montechiaro monastery Sister Maria studied at was a Benedictine Convent, studying the teachings of St. Benedict, and was one of the oldest religious orders of the Western Church. The life of a nun was a rather difficult one that required vows of chastity and poverty in order to officially become one. Benedictine Convents were especially rigorous in their teachings, requiring several hours of prayer in isolation each day. This was to ensure that God always came first in the eyes of the nuns.
Sister Maria’s Studies
Initially, Sister Maria appeared to take to her studies quite well, keeping up with the other nuns. She was a member of the choir and learned to read and speak several different languages (Greek, Latin, Arabic, and others). However, at some point, Maria’s behavior began to change. It became quite clear that her feelings of the monastery were beginning to change. Or that something was beginning to change them for her.
Sister Maria began to suffer severe fainting spells while praying at the altar. She’d let out chilling screams, echoing through the halls, before losing consciousness. She began to become more fearful, claiming that the devil was going to tempt her away from the path of God. During one of her confessions, her behavior suddenly changed and she became disrespectful to the priest. She hadn’t even realized what she had said to the priest until after the confession was over. But it all came to a head on August 11th 1676.
On this day, August 11th, Sister Maria had missed a choir performance with the other nuns. They began to search for her, but were not able to find her anywhere. It wasn’t until the next morning they decided to check her quarters and found her in an unsightly state. She was terrified and covered in ink.
As it turned out, Sister Maria had been suffering from multiple fainting spells, accounting for her disappearance the night before. However, it was during that time that the possession appeared to have occurred. Not fully conscious, Sister Maria had picked up a pen and had begun to write down several, strange characters on paper. It wasn’t until she had come to that she had realized what she had done.
Upon awakening, Sister Maria found herself tired and gasping for breath. In addition, she was surrounded by numerous papers written in unintelligible characters. She claimed to have been surrounded by demons and had been possessed by Lucifer, himself. The tale was so haunting to the nuns that it was written down by one of them, Mother Sor Maria Serafica. This codified the tale, allowing people of today to know the story.
The Consensus Back Then
None of the nuns knew what the letter said, aside from Sister Maria, herself. The only word that was legible was “alas”, written at the bottom of the page as if it were Sister Maria’s signature. The nuns of the time simply chalked it up to Lucifer trying to turn Sister Maria away from God. The contents of the letter, itself, remained a mystery for over 300 years afterwards.
300 Years Later
While the contents of the demonic letters remained a mystery for many years, it was in 2017 when most of the pages were finally deciphered. At the LUDUM Science Center in Italy, researchers were able to discover an algorithm on the dark web in order to decode the strange characters. The symbols turned out to be a scrambled combination of Greek, Arabic, runic alphabet, and Latin, all languages Sister Maria had learned during her studies.
What It Said
30% of the letter’s writing still remain indecipherable, but much of what was translated remains chilling. One phrase was “God thinks he can save mortals… This system works for no one.” God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were described as “deadweights”. Another phrase was “God does not exist. Trinity is fake. There is only me”. And yet another phrase strangely mentioned Greek mythology; “Perhaps now, Styx is certain”.
Sister Maria’s Fate
No one knows what became of Sister Maria following this event. Whether or not her afflictions persisted or if she recovered is a complete mystery. However, LUDUM Science Center director Daniele Abate managed to produce a potential psychological profile of her.
A Possible Explanation
Abate believed that Sister Maria may have suffered from a mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Her strong grasp on multiple different languages allowed her to create this language, either intentionally or subconsciously, in order to facilitate her communication with what was perceived as Lucifer. In actuality, this may have been an alternate personality or a dissociative event of some kind.
There are a few different theories on what may have actually happened in the monastery. One of them is that Sister Maria was simply an attention seeker. She used her knowledge of languages to create a new one and pretended to be possessed in order to get the attention of the other nuns. However, this theory isn’t quite as popular. Considering how dangerous it could be to conduct “witchcraft” or perform other acts against God, it was likely Sister Maria wasn’t doing this just for the attention, as it would have been dangerous to do so. The more popular theory is that she suffered from some kind of mental illness.
Mental Illness In the Nunnery
The potential for Sister Maria having suffered from some kind of mental illness is rather possible. For many centuries, mental illness went undiagnosed. Certain fits or changes in personality were often attributed to some kind of supernatural force as opposed to a neurological one. Considering the stress Sister Maria was in at her monastery, it was quite possible that her communication with the devil was some kind of coping mechanism.
Importance of Mental Health
Because of the lack of proper study, it’s impossible to tell how many cases of demonic possession or witchcraft were actually products of mental illness. Even today, scientists’ understanding of mental health is evolving, in order for them to better understand how to help people suffering from some disorders.
In The End
While it is unknown what happened to Sister Maria, her letter was put on public display. The nuns believed their friend’s plight and supported her. While we don’t what happened to Sister Maria afterwards, that could possibly mean that there was nothing new or supernatural to report on. Perhaps it was the support of the other nuns that helped Sister Maria better handle any mental illness she may have been suffering from. Or perhaps, the devil had already said what it wanted to and saw not need to possess Sister Maria any longer.