Eva Flegen of Meurs
A note to Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book III, chapter 21

From The Protestants and Iesuites up in Armes in Gulicke-land, Also, A true and wonderfull relation of a Dutch maiden (called Eve Fliegen of Meurs in the County of Meurs) who being now (this present yeare) 36 yeares of age, hath fasted for the space of 14 yeares, confirmed by the testimony of persons, both Honourable and worshipfull, (as well English, as Dutch.Truely translated according to the Dutch Coppy. London, 1611. Pages 1-9

Eva Fliegen near her garden

Laus Deo this 27 of Iuly Anno

1611 stilo magnæ Brystanniæ.

The Letter.

Beloved Brother: many hearty commendations, &c. I have sent unto you the picture and lively description of a Dutch maiden, drawn out of Dutch colours, & put into English. The Dutch coppy comes along with it, which I have translated,as best to give you testimony of my brother affection towards you, as to have my Countreymen in England acquainted with so miraculous a power of Gods worke on so weake a creature, therby the more to magnifie his glory. If the newes of this be not as yet come to London, I wish you to send it to the Presse. It is not to be doubted but that a relation so fresh and un-common, wil be acceptable to our Nation, to whom Newes are most welcome I know. To confirme the truth hereof, my Lord Generall, with many other noble Gentlemen, are worthy witnesses, who both know this maiden, & have seene her. The report is new and lately published: If it had bin possible to have gotten meanes (by a messenger) sooner to have sent it to you, it had sooner come to your hands. But as it is, I pray receive it, & with it, a second Newes, as fresh in the mouthes of all men, and fuller of construction, by reason of an expected Event thereof, to breake into a warres. And that is in Aken, within a Dozen miles of Gulicke: which I pray you likewise to publish to the common view.

The Dutch Coppy of the relation

of Eve Fliegen of Meurs in the county of

Meurs, a maiden (now aged 36 yeares) who

hath neither eate nor drunke, any manner

of Sustenance, by the space of 14 yeares,

translated into English as followeth.

The Omnipotent Creator of the world hath not at times past onely expressed the glory of his power, in his wonderfull composition, framing and presenting to the eye of Man all sorts of creatures, both in heaven, earth, and the waters: But even now at this day, is the same his miraculouss hand working still. Amongst infinite numbers of which his excellent peeces, able to hold man in astonishment, this of a Maiden is well worthy of admiration, of whom (because the true body and shape cannot in substance bee sent up and downe the world) this picture or counterfeit (so neere as words can expresse her) shewes her drawne to the life.

This Maiden (by name Eve Fliegen) lives at this present within the towne of Meurs, she was borne in the yeare of our Lord 1575, within a little of that towne at a place called Fliegenhouse, whereupon she takes her name: of meane and very poore parents. So that in her yonger dayes (they being not able better to maintaine her) she was compelled to keepe swine for the country people, enduring (by that hard course of her life) the bitternesse of much hunger as she her selfe confesseth.

Living in this extremity of misery, she often (so well as she could, seeing no other wayes nor hope of comfort) made earnest prayers to God, that he would take pitty of her wretchednes, and relieve her, from that daily hunger, by which her body was tormented & consumed; her prayers were heard, according to her request: And such compassion tooke the Almighty of her miseries that in the yeare 1594, her desire of feeding, which in former times she had, grew to be faint, & very small. Insomuch that every 2, 3 & 4 daies, she tooke little sustenance or none at all. From the 4 day she began voluntarily to fast til the 20 day & so did forbeare, or rather had no stomacke to meate, the space of fourteene dayes together, which abstinence of hers grew in the end to such a custome, that shee utterly refused the tast either of meate or drinke, and in that manner hath her body (by gods providence) beene preserved every since the yeare of our Lord 1597 to this present yeare 1611 (being full 14 yeares). This strange wonder continuing thus long, drew not onely many people to see her, but also many tryals to be put upon her, amongst which, this was one, In the yeare 1599, the Noble Countesse of Meurs with her waiting Gentlewoman, having brought this Eve Fleigen into a garden, with much importunity to have her eate somewhat, so prevailed that shee plucked a cherry and tasted it, and had no sooner eaten it downe, but that the Ldy with her servants were in feare shee would there presently have dyed, shee fell into so sodaine and violent passion of an extreme sicknesse: in the which she continued a long time, but in the end with much ado recovered her health. Within a yeere after the said Eve falling againe into a greater sickenes, it was held fit (by the opinion of Docters) to have her drinke a spoonefull or two of the thin whey, which comes from Buttermilke, being sodden: shee made offer to tast it, but could by no meanes take it downe. At another time of sicknes, shee her selfe thought she could sup the broth of a chicken, but no more then a spoonefull being offered to her, shee fell into a more extreme fit of sickenes then before, so that finding her body afflicted by these tryals, shee utterly abandoned the use of any food, or nourishment, by the full space now of 14 yeares. In all which time, through no disposition of the season or time of the yeare, hath shee beene seene or knowne either to complaine of thirst or p5hunger: yet untill her age of 20 or 22 yeares, shee tooke her food (where by her labour or other honest meanes it could be gotten) as other people commonly use to do.

This her forbearance to take the due nourishment that should maintaine life, hath brought her body to a weaknes, and her face to an exceeding palenes.

She saith that every second day an exceeding cleere light shineth round about her body; the common light or brightnes of the day, being nothing comparable to it: which light when she beholdeth and (as she saith) feeleth shining upon her, she hath likewise a feeling on her tongue of a strange and extraordinary delicate sweetenes, the moisture of which strengthens her (to her seeming) for her eies can beholdd no other thing but only that perfect and mutuall light.

The Preacher of Meurs (by name Conradus Felthnijsen) could not a long time be perswaded that this was truth, which hee heard reported of this maiden: to give therefore not onely content to himselfe, but satisfaction in this matter to others his friends, who were of his beleefe likewise, he took the said Eve (being come to heare the evening Sermon) home with him to his owne house, & there kept her in a chamber by the space of 15 daies, watched day and night by sundry other persons his friends, candles burning every night, and she never being suffered to be alone without company the space of one minute, in all which time shee never tasted foode, and (at the end of 13 daies and nights) being demanded whether she were then either hungry or thirsty, she answered no: so that the Preacher now having by the experience of his owne eyes, found out that which he could not before beleeve, is not inforced with admiration to acknowledge to be true. to whose testimony, a thousand persons (both honourable and of other condition) can witnesse, and there is she living at this day, in the towne of Meurs to be seene, and spoken with daily and hourely, & her manner of living being observed with the narrowest eyes, & severest circumspection, so that it is impossible, she should be an imposter or deluder: and the better to confirme the truth of this, a worthy Magistrate of the same towne hath given liberall and ample approbation to certaine Citties, & to severall persons of worth, with his certificate and the seale of the towne thereunto annexed: if all these testimonies of her, cannot perswade and win credit to our report, the maiden (of whom it is made) is yet to be seene, in the towne of Meurs. Nor shall it be amisse, the better to strengthen this short discourse, to set downe in a few lines more what some histories of our present times do mention of persons who in the like manner have fasted long (beyond the ordinary strength & custome of mans body) and lived (as this maiden does now) without eating.

Franciscus Citesius (Doctor in the university at Poitiers) witnesseth (in his booke written in Lattine & imprinted at Montpellier in Anno 1602) that for certaine yeares, one Catherine of Colberghen lived in Spires 7 yeares together, without meate or drinke. Also within the town of Conflans in France lying upon the borders of Limosin upon the river Vien, a Smith (by name, Iohn Balam) begot of his wife (Lucroce Chambelle) in the yeare 1588, a daughter named Ione Balam, who for the space of two yeares, did neither eate or drinke, in publication of which wonder, that famous and eloquent Doctor, Iacobus Viverius wrote certaine verses, which are thus Englished.

How many wonders great before our eies appeares,
Whereof no reason firme to you can shewed be.
Behold, a maid in health, indures at womans yeares
Twise 12 moneths long to fast, for sustenance none takes she.
The Lords and neighbours there, to her had good regard,
That dwelt in Conflans towne, on that Vienish fare.
No meate nor drinke in all that time so long she mard,
Her throat so narrow was, her victuals she did spare.
Full strange it was to see, her belly was so flat,
The passages were shut, no entrance there was found,
She voyded nothing forth, nothing at all she ate,
Her privy parts were cleane, thence nothing fel to ground,
But yet she speakes, she sighs, she goes, she feeles I know,
Mine eies are witnes sure, hereof you need not doubt:
Which wondrous work doth teach, that nature here below
By God alone is rul'd, who governes all about.
To whom all things that were, or ever yet shall be,
Must stoope their lofty tops, their heads also much bend,
Whose wisdom, might & power, ô man doth teach to thee
To praise his name for aye: And so I make an end.

Over the picture of the maiden in the Dutch
Coppy, stood these Lattine verses, viz.

Meursæ hæc (quam Cernis) decies ter, sexq; peregit
Annos, bis septem prorsus non vescitur Annis.
Nec potat, sic sola sedet, sic pallida vitam
Ducit, & exigui se oblectat floribus Horti.

Thus Englished.

This Maid (of Meur)s hath thirty sixe yeares spent
Fourteene of which she tooke no nourishment
Thus pale and wan shee sits (sad and alone)
A garden is all she loves to looke upon.

The Letter.

Beloved Brother, if you call to remembrance my former letters (written unto you about the beginning of September 1603) you shall find in them a report of this Maiden of Meurs, who at the time had fasted but eight yeares: which report I know you very sleightly entertained, and as I thinke, thought it fabulous and untrue: But before that time, and ever since, her manner of living hath beene so narrowly looked into, that I am now myselfe thoroughly perswaded to beleeve it, because not onely I, but thousands besides, have seene her, & can testify with mee. None of the Princes of Germany, nor any Noblemen or Gentlemen of England, travelling neere that may, but have beene eye-witnesses of what I write to you, concerning her, many at this present in the English Court have seene her. His excellency (Grave Maurice) who is Earle of Meurs, never commeth into the Towne, but he makes her one of his guests, yet she eateth nothing at all. Thus much of this wonder.


*For a nineteenth century take on the question and some more recent examples, see Fasting Girl by William A. Hammond; and see the passage from Hakewill, who reproduces much of this material.

James Eason created and maintains this page.