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Military Orders

Anonymous, Poem on the Antichrist

Translation and notes by Helen J. Nicholson

Ed. note: the following original translation was provided to ORB by Dr. Helen Nicholson, who teaches at the University of Wales-Cardiff College.

INTRODUCTION by Helen Nicholson

This is a poem written in Anglo-Norman octosyllabic rhyming couplets by an anonymous poet for Brother Henry d'Arcy, commander of Temple Bruer in Lincolnshire, England, between 1161 and 1174. It explains the future coming of Antichrist. Everything in brackets [] has been added by the translator.


If you want to hear about Antichrist, I will give you a true account. Firstly, hear why this traitor is called Antichrist. He is called Antichrist because he will be opposed to Christ and fight against him; because Christ came humbly, and he will come arrogantly; Christ came to uplift the humble, and he will crush them; Christ came to justify sinners, but he will come to exalt felons. Antichrist will destroy the Gospel law, and seek his own glory in everything and have everyone call him "Almighty God."

Now, hear where Antichrist will be born and how he will be born and from what lineage. Don't think that I'm telling you this off the top of my head or making this up; I have searched the scriptures and I am telling you what I have found written. I will not tell you anything that I can't back up from the book. We wish to show authoritatively that Antichrist will be begotten from the Jewish people, i.e., from the lineage of Dan. For Jacob said, long ago: "Dan may be a serpent in the road, and like a leopard lying in wait by the path." [Genesis 49:17] This prophecy will be fulfilled by Antichrist, who will be born from the line of Dan. For he will lie in the roadway just like a serpent, in that he will destroy much of the way of justice and with the venom of his malice he will kill all those whom he cannot convert to himself. He will be born from a father and mother like other people, and not from a virgin alone as many believe. Nevertheless he will be born in sin, conceived in sin and begotten in sin. In the very hour when he is conceived, the devil will enter into his mother's stomach, and after that he will be under the devil's control for his whole life and never be free of it. Just as the Holy Spirit came to Mary when she conceived and never departed, overshadowing her with His virtue and surrounding her with His divinity, the devil will enter into Antichrist and fill him completely with malice, surrounding him within and without and having his dwelling within his body. For this reason he will be a son of perdition. He will destroy those who do not want to believe in him and he himself will be destroyed in the end.

Now, hear where he will be born: just as Our Lord Jesus Christ chose to be born in Bethlehem, his master has provided a place for him to be born: Babylon [i.e., Old Cairo, Egypt]. This place is suitable for a son of perdition: for Babylon means "confusion." He will live in two cities, Corozaim and Bethsaida. For this reason Our Lord Jesus Christ blamed these cities in one place in the Gospels when he said: "Alas for you, Corozaim, alas for you, Bethsaida! [Luke 10:13] For a vessel of venom will live in you."

This Antichrist will have sorcerers and enchanters with him, who will teach him through the devil's power and indoctrinate him in falsehood. Malign spirits will guide him, and they will always be his companions. Later he will come to Jerusalem and set up his throne in the Lord's Temple [Templum Domini]. Then he will have himself circumcised and say to the Jews that he is the Messiah who has been sent to them, that he has come for their salvation and he will save them. He will promise them this. Then he will convert the princes and the kings and through them he will convert the people, and give them his laws. All those whom he cannot convert to his law he will immediately cause to die a dreadful death. Then everyone will have to deny God, or else he will have them killed by fire or by flame, or he will have all those who don't wish to believe in him destroyed by serpent or beasts.

Antichrist will go to the same places where Our Lord Jesus Christ went, and undo everything which Christ did, as far as he can, for he will be full of malice. Then he will assemble preachers and send them out throughout the world. His preaching will go into the east, the south and north and into the west. His power, his mastery, his lordship will be over all people.

Then he will perform plenty of miracles and marvels: the deaf will hear and the blind see; and the lame will walk and the dumb will be healed, and the sun will become dark; he will suddenly turn the moon to blood, and he will make hideous fire fall from heaven. He will make the trees suddenly bloom, and then when he wishes he will make the trees barren. The sea will move at his command, and then he will suddenly calm it. He will make water change its course, and overturn the whole of nature; and he will perform plenty of other miracles and marvels. The miracles that he will perform will be false, but they will seem true to the unbelievers. He will perform all the miracles that Jesus Christ performed, but he will not raise anyone from the dead. But he will perform other miracles, great and small, so that God's chosen would be led astray by them, if that were possible. For when they see such miracles, those who are perfect will be uncertain as to whether or not this is the same Christ who sent the scriptures to the world.

He will use three methods to turn the people to him: gifts, miracles, and fear of torment. He will permit those who believe in him to have great riches and abundance, and he will give great quantities of gold and silver to those who convert through his preaching. And he will convert and deceive many through the riches and gifts that he gives them. Those whom he cannot corrupt with money he will overcome with fear of torture; those whom he cannot convert through deceit or through miracles he will convert through fear. There will then be such a persecution as has never been since the beginning of the world. For, as Our Lord said, a son will betray his father and a father his son, and brothers will betray each other to die, and a mother will betray her daughter and a daughter her mother. And fathers and mothers will often deny the faith, and a daughter will often deny her mother, and it will often happen that the sons will deny the faith while the father remains in good belief. So they will deny the faith interchangeably and often deny it together. And when they have denied the faith and see that others do not wish to deny it, they will betray them to die; see what a grievous persecution it will be! Then many will deny their Lord Jesus for the sake of the miracles which they see and because of their fear. For Antichrist and his servants will destroy the Christian people everywhere.

But, as Our Lord says in the Gospel, whoever holds out to the end will be saved. The time of Antichrist will last for three and a half years, for the scripture show that they will trample on Christianity for forty-two months; this means Antichrist and those who follow him. For those who are careful will see that forty-two months makes three and a half years. The scripture which is before us says that Antichrist's persecution will last that long. But God will cut the time short, for the sake of His chosen ones, for otherwise His chosen ones would perish.

If you ask when Antichrist will come, hear what St Paul says about his coming: "The son of Perdition will not come," he says, "before there is dissension." That is to say, the kingdoms of the world will separate from Rome, before whom they now bow; for the whole world was formerly subject to Rome, and customarily gave an annual tribute. But before the son of Perdition is revealed there will be dissension throughout the whole empire. This time has not yet come, for first the whole empire will be divided.

Nevertheless, as long as French kings last, the Roman empire will not perish; for they are bound to uphold the Roman empire and its dignity will remain in its kings. Some of our masters say that at the end time there will be a French king who will have great wisdom and who will hold the entire empire. This man will be the last emperor of Rome. When he has governed the kingdom well for a long time with great goodness at the end this king will go to Jerusalem and come to the Mount of Calvary. Then he will take his crown and put it on the cross which will be fixed on that spot. Then he will hold his hands up to heaven and give the empire of the Romans up to God. This will end the empire and the dignity of Rome and of Christianity. After that, as St. Paul the apostle said, Antichrist will come at once.

But he will not come unexpectedly to deceive the people and lead them into error: two prophets will come before his birth to announce his arrival. These will be Enoch and Elijah, who will come before him. These two prophets will convert all the Jews who live in that time to God, and then will be fulfilled what we find in scripture: "If the Jews were as numberless as the fish of the sea, a remnant would be saved." When they have completed their predictions as I told you, before two and a half years have passed, Antichrist will come and wage war against them. He will be so enraged against them that he will kill both those prophets; and when he has cruelly killed them, he will wage war on the rest of God's faithful. Those whom he cannot convert to believe in him he will have killed without delay. And all those who wish to believe in him will bear the sign of their belief on their forehead.

You have heard all about where Antichrist will be born and the miracles and marvels he will perform. Now hear where he will come to his end and how, in what manner, he will die.

When he has ruled for two and a half years and lent on God's people with torments, vengeance and pain will come upon him, for God will kill him with His own power. They say that he will be killed in his own pavilion in the place where God went up into heaven. When Antichrist has been killed like this, the day of Judgement will not come at once; God will give His chosen ones forty days for penance. For forty days, all those who were deceived by Antichrist will do penance. After their penance is complete, as Daniel says in his prophecy, there is no one who can say when the day of Judgement will come, except God who will deliver the whole world; He will judge the world as He pleases.

Hear how God will come to the day of Judgement and how He will call all people before Him. According to the book, Doomsday will come on an Easter day. The Saturday before all the men and women who are still living will die. And then shortly afterwards all will rise again, in the twinkling of an eye, and come to the Judgement. Then Our Lord will come to the Judgement, very disdainful and very angry. He will not come alone to the Judgement, as He came when He first came, but He will come in His great glory and in His great power, and the nine orders [of angels] in his company will come with Him. The prophets who preached to the world, the apostles, martyrs, virgins and confessors, and the angels will come before Our Lord, and carry the sign of the cross before Him, as Jerome says--and we regard him as our assurance of this. When he has descended with his army into the starry sky, which is between heaven and earth, then fire will fall on to the earth and all the earth under heaven will be burned up, so that the whole earth will be destroyed. Flames will fall to the earth like rain.

That day will be bitter and full of horror, so that all the angels will tremble with fear. Then Michael, who is prince and sovereign over all the angels, will sound his trumpet; and at the sound of the trumpet all the men and women who have died will rise. Souls will be joined to bodies in the twinkling of an eye, and all the good people will have the beauty and height of thirty years of age. Scripture says nothing about the height and age of the bad people. Then the chosen people will be caught up into the air, where Our Lord will be, his angels with Him. And the damned will be on the earth amidst the flame; but they will not be burned. You should know that the fire of hell burns each person as much as they deserve to be burned.

Then the bad people will be separated from the chosen ones, in the same way as goats are separated from the sheep. God will place the chosen ones on His right and the bad ones on His left. Then He will turn to the right and say to the blessed company: "Come forward, those blessed by My Father, come, receive the kingdom which awaits you! For when I was hungry and thirsty, you supplied my needs; when I was shut up in prison, you came to visit me; I was naked, you clothed me; when I had no where to stay, you welcomed me." Then they will reply and say: "Lord, when did we see You like this?" "When you did good to one of My little ones, be sure that you did it to Me, good son!" Then He will turn to his left and speak to the damned: "Leave me, evil ones, go into the eternal fire, and the hell prepared for the devil; for I was hungry and thirsty, I was shut up in prison, I had no where to stay, and I had no help from you." Then they will say: "When did we see You in such distress and did not help You?" And God will say: "When you did nothing for My people, be sure that you did nothing for Me." Then they will go into eternal pain, and the righteous into overpowering joy.

Then the Judgement will be complete, and Our Lord will at once go up into Heaven. Then the world will be of great beauty when it has been purged with fire, as I said. But although it will be delightful, neither man nor devil will live there. Then the saints in Heaven will shine like the sun, but they will not all shine with equal light; for one star in the sky is brighter than another, and the saints in Heaven will be the same. After the Judgement the sun will shine seven times brighter than it did before, and all those who are perfectly good will shine like the sun. The others, who are not of equal merit, will shine as much as they deserve. Now consider what great dignity a man must have to have such great brightness. Many say: "If I was within the gates of paradise I would have joy and light forever." This is correct, but they ought not to say this, because in my opinion it is folly to say such things. For whoever says that their only desire is to be within those gates, these words and thoughts show that they have a feeble heart, for they want to be last and not first. All of you, hear my advice! Be of great heart and undertake boldly to do good, and God will help you. If you deserve the highest place, He will give it to you. May God grant through His grace that we may be among the first, but if not, at least among the last. Amen.

Translated from the edition by R. Fawtier and E. C. Fawtier-Jones, in Romania, 49 (1923) pp.331-340.

Further reading:

R. C. D. Perman, 'Henri d'Arci: the Shorter Works', in E. A. Francis, ed., Studies in Medieval French presented to Alfred Ewert in honour of his seventieth birthday (Oxford, 1961), pp. 279-321.

K. V. Sinclair, 'The translations of the Vitas Patrum, Thaïs, Antichrist and Vision of Saint Paul for Anglo-Norman Templars. Some neglected literary considerations', Speculum 72 (1997), 741-62.

Copyright (C) 1998, Helen J. Nicholson. All rights reserved.. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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