Armella Nicolas’s “First Vision” Account

Armella Nicolas (1606-1671) was a serving-maid who lived in France in the 17th century, who came to be held in high veneration in the Catholic church. She could not read or write, but told friends of her spiritual experiences, including one sister Jeanne de la Nativite, who wrote down her experiences. The following is one of her recorded experiences.

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Portrait of Armella Nicolas, known as “the good Armella” (17th century)
Armella Nicolas (1606-1671) was a serving-maid who lived in France in the 17th century, who came to be held in high veneration in the Catholic church. She could not read or write, but told friends of her spiritual experiences, including sister Jeanne de la Nativite, who wrote down her experiences. The following is one of her recorded experiences:

I regarded myself as a poor malefactor who desires to enter into a friendship with her prince… The more wretched I saw myself, the more I wished to unite myself with him whom I knew as my only good and my all.

Thus I passed the entire Lenten season. On Good Friday I went to hear the sermon. Before I had heard the sufferings of my Savior spoken of for a quarter of an hour, my heart was already so powerfully wrenched and pierced by sorrows that I could no longer remain, but was forced to leave for fear that my heart would break in pieces, or at least reveal by some action how violently it was moved. I went home; there was no one there at the time. I locked myself in; and at first I ran from one place to another and screamed till I was out of breath, like a madwoman and one who is quite beside herself; afterward I threw myself down on the floor and screamed, “Mercy, Lord, mercy!” I begged the whole host of heaven for aid and conjured all the saints to help me. And turning to God, I said to him with flaming ardor, “O my Lord and my God, see, the day has come when I must be all yours. Cleanse and wash me in your dear blood. Anoint my heart with the oil of your mercy. Pierce me with the arrows of your holy love. Accept me into the ranks of your disciples. Show yourself to me and unite with me.”

In the middle of this prayer, while I was saying just these words, which were inwardly dictated to me—for I myself did not know what I was saying and did not even understand the meaning of these words, nor yet the mysteries they contain, only I was forced and compelled to speak them; and this I did with a forceful violence, so that it seemed to me that every word was an arrow, well sharpened to penetrate into God’s very heart—as I lay in the midst of this prayer and had labored and tormented myself, suddenly in an instant I was led up to the highest attic of the house, without knowing how; I simply found myself there, although beforehand I had no thought of it.

Then I threw myself down on the floor, because I could no longer hold or carry myself, so extreme was the distress to which I had been brought. And in the same moment God let a ray of his divine light shine into the depth of my heart; through this ray he revealed himself to me and let me know clearly that he whom I had so desired was entering into me and taking full possession of me. When this grace occurred to me, I felt myself wholly clothed and surrounded as with a light. In the beginning terror came over me, but it lasted only a moment, for immediately my heart was again placed in surety and so changed that I no longer knew myself, and I felt such a contentment of all desires that I did not know whether I was on earth or in heaven. I remained for some time motionless as a statue, so that I could not move. And from this time on all the faculties of my soul were so fulfilled and contented, and in all my senses was such a great peace, that I could in no way doubt that God had now intimately united himself with me, as had been my fervent wish up till then. And this truth was as infallibly certain in me as if I had seen it with my own eyes, for the light that was then communicated to me far surpassed all that may be seen with the eyes…

(Source: Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions, San Francisco: Harper & Row (1985), p. 118-119.)

Later she says that the light in her was like a consuming “divine fire.”

Some similarities to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to include:

  • Praying to God, seeking soulfully, pleading
  • In a very distraught state of mind, in torment
  • Felt as if they would be destroyed
  • Prayed to God for deliverance
  • Mind taken away, beside themself
  • Saw a divine Light that descended onto them, surrounding them
  • The Light was like a consuming fire
  • Saw God in the Light
  • Communicated with God
  • The terror left them
  • Filled with peace and joy (contentment)
  • Was in a heavenly vision, taken away from normal surroundings
  • Felt absolutely certain, without a doubt, that they had encountered God
  • The Light was far more than normal natural light

If you would like to submit a “First Vision” account, either personal or found, for inclusion on this website, please click here.


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