The NDE of "Christina the Astonishing"
Updated: May 16, 2019
Christina Mirabilis, known in English as "Christina the Astonishing," was a Belgian saint who had an NDE in 1171. In modern discussions about her life it's often assumed that she was mentally ill. Interestingly, this reflects a perception during her own lifetime that she was possessed by demons, which led to her being captured, bound with iron chains, and imprisoned. While the Western world has a long and unfortunate history of pathologizing NDEs and other extraordinary experiences (particularly when concerning women), some of Christina's post-NDE behavior was truly bizarre. However, the descriptions of her actions were clearly intended to show the miraculous transformative effects of NDEs, as well as to demonstrate that she fulfilled a pact she made with God during the experience: to voluntarily undergo extreme suffering in order to help save the souls of sinners by leading them to divine redemption.
According to her biographer, a Flemish monk named Thomas of Cantimpré writing in 1232 - eight years after Christina's death - she could not stand the smell of humans, so she fled to a forest where she lived in trees and survived by breast-feeding herself (made possible by divine intervention). Honoring her deal with God, she repeatedly tormented herself by entering burning ovens and boiling cauldrons, and staying underwater for days at a time - but always emerging unharmed. She also had the ability to dematerialize at will, the gift of prophecy, and a supernatural "angelic" form of singing that resonated from her chest. Most bizarrely, during prayer
"all her limbs would gather together into a ball as if they were hot wax, and all that could be perceived of her was a round mass. After her spiritual inebriation was finished and her active physical senses had restored her limbs to their proper place, like a hedgehog her rolled-up body returned to its proper shape and her limbs which had been bent formlessly once again were spread out."
Christina's NDE occurred in church, during her own funeral. When she revived, everyone fled in terror though Mass continued. Christina levitated up to the rafters until it was over, then returned home to tell her family of her experiences in other worlds.
This image is from a 1630 calendar of saints, showing an angel ascending to paradise with Christina's radiant spirit, holding it up to God. Below are purifying torments being suffered by the souls of sinners in purgatory.