Catherine Théot

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Catherine Théot depicted in the 18th century.

Catherine Théot (born at Barenton (Normandy), France in 1716; died September 1, 1794) was a French visionary. Catherine believed she was destined to work for God,[1] she gained notoriety when she was accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the Republic and was attributed to the downfall of Maximilien Robespierre.[1]


Théot was born into a peasant family and from a young age suffered from hallucinations, she had a long course of religious asceticism in the convent of the Miramiones in Paris that lead to a break in her mind. After being placed in a mental hospital in Salpetrière, she was liberated in 1782, and not much is known about her activities for the following twelve years,[1] she believed that she was destined to be the mother of the new Messiah and was hailed as the "Mother of God".[2]

Political activity[edit]

The Theotists saw the redeemer of mankind in Maximilien Robespierre, and preparations for his initiation were put in motion, the enemies of Robespierre, resenting his theocratic aims, used his relations with the Theotists as a way to get revenge.[2] What became known as the "Catherine Théot affair" brought her notoriety in 1794. Marc-Guillaume Alexis Vadier announced at the National Convention the plot to overthrow the Republic, accusing Théot and the people who met with her.[1]

On the 9 Thermidor Vadier claimed that a letter was found under Théot's mattress that proclaimed Robespierre to be John the Baptist of the new cult,[1] although the letter was likely fabricated, it was a way to condemn Robespierre for his connection with Théot and his Cult of the Supreme Being. The accusations lead to the arrest of Théot and some of her disciples.[1]

The case was tried in the Revolutionary Tribunal, and figured in the proceedings of 9thThermidor, the accused were ultimately acquitted and set free.[2] Catherine died in prison one month after Robespierre's execution.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Garrett, Clarke (1974). "Popular Piety in the French Revolution: Catherine Théot". The Catholic Historical Review. 60: 215–219 – via JSTOR. 
  2. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.