Have you ever wondered what the Devil would say if he could write a letter to a human being? Well, you are not alone. In 1676, a Sicilian nun named Maria Crocifissa della Concezione claimed that she had received such a letter from the Prince of Darkness himself.
The letter was written in a mysterious code that baffled scholars for centuries, until recently, when a team of researchers used a software found on the dark web to decipher it. What did they find? And what does it tell us about the nun, the Devil, and the history of cryptography?
The nun and the letter
Maria Crocifissa della Concezione was born Isabella Tomasi in 1645. She was a descendant of the aristocratic Tomasi family, which included the famous writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
At the age of 15, she entered the Benedictine convent of Palma di Montechiaro in Sicily, where she took the name Maria Crocifissa. She was known to be a talented musician and painter, but also prone to visions and fits of hysteria. She believed that she was often possessed by the Devil, who tried to lure her away from her faith.
On August 11, 1676, she was found unconscious in her cell, with ink stains on her hands and face, and a letter on her desk. The letter was written in an unknown alphabet, composed of 14 symbols and 500 letters.
She claimed that the letter was dictated to her by the Devil during one of her possessions, and that she had no idea what it meant. She and her fellow nuns believed that the letter was a trap set by Satan to make her renounce God.
The letter was kept in the convent’s archives for centuries, along with other writings and paintings by Maria Crocifissa. It was one of several coded letters that she produced during her life, but the only one that survived. Many scholars and cryptographers tried to crack the code, but none succeeded.
The code and the software
In 2017, a group of researchers from the Ludum Science Center in Sicily obtained a copy of the letter and decided to try a new approach.
They used a software that they found on the dark web, which they believed was used by intelligence services for codebreaking. The software used artificial intelligence and deep learning to compare the symbols in the letter with various alphabets and languages.
The researchers primed the software with ancient Greek, Arabic, Latin, and Runic alphabets, as well as some invented symbols. They then fed it the text of the letter and waited for the results.
To their surprise, the software managed to decipher 15 lines of the letter, revealing a mixture of languages and references.
The message and the meaning
The deciphered text of the letter revealed a bizarre and inconsistent message, full of blasphemies and insults against God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
The letter also expressed some philosophical thoughts about human nature, free will, and evil. Here are some excerpts from the letter:
– “God thinks he can free mortals”
– “This system works for no one”
– “Perhaps now, Styx is certain”
– “The Holy Trinity are dead weights”
– “Nobody can pay us”
– “You are all flames”
– “You are all fire”
– “You are all burning”
The researchers concluded that the letter was not really written by the Devil, but by Maria Crocifissa herself.
They suggested that she had a good command of languages, which allowed her to invent the code, and that she may have suffered from a mental condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which made her imagine dialogues with the Devil.
They also noted that some of the phrases in the letter were similar to those found in other historical texts, such as The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli or The City of God by Saint Augustine. This indicated that Maria Crocifissa was well-read and influenced by various sources.
The researchers published their findings in a paper titled “The Devil’s Letter: A Cryptographic Mystery from 1676”. They also received many inquiries from curious people and satanic sects who wanted to know more about the letter.
The mystery and the history
The letter from Maria Crocifissa is a glimpse into the history of religion, culture, and psychology in 17th century Europe.
At that time, Europe was undergoing major social and political changes, such as the rise of absolutism, nationalism, and colonialism, the decline of feudalism, and the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War. It was also a period of scientific and artistic innovation, as well as religious conflict and persecution.
The Catholic Church was facing challenges from the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the rise of secularism. It responded with the Counter-Reformation, which aimed to reform the Church from within and to combat heresy and dissent. The Church also promoted the cult of saints and relics, as well as the practice of exorcism and witch-hunting.
In this context, many people experienced religious visions, miracles, and possessions, which were often interpreted as signs of divine or demonic intervention.
Some of these people were revered as saints or mystics, while others were condemned as heretics or witches. Some of them were also involved in cryptography, either to conceal their messages from enemies or to communicate with supernatural beings.
Maria Crocifissa was one of these people. She lived in a time and place where the boundaries between reality and fantasy, between faith and reason, between God and the Devil, were blurred and contested. Her letter is a testament to her personal struggle, as well as to the larger historical forces that shaped her world.