Eva Vliegen, the woman who lived on flowers.
The first blossoms herald the coming of spring. Camellias flower under the brisk mantle of winter’s end, birds come back to sing amore, our meals find their true colours again and tuberoses pile up in our florists’ stores.
A few weeks ago, mimosa and its powdery blooms foretold this hour. Who hasn’t stopped by a florist’s stall in the market and taken a good whiff of their inebriating and solar scent? Who hasn’t revelled in this luminous fragrance, which clouds our senses in sheer warmth? Who hasn’t found themselves so absorbed by the smell of a perfume that the world around suddenly went mute?
None so much than Eva Vliegen, the Crone of Muers – the woman who lived off the scent of flowers.
Eva Vliegen was born in Muers, in the actual province of North Rhine-Westphalia. Raised by farmers, her duty was in the pigsty and one can easily assume she was used to little food or wine. Pious and ascetic, she became famous when word spread around the country that she lived only off the smell of flowers.
Many people wouldn’t believe her and yet, like the Rhineland mystics, young Eva quickly witnessed hoards of people, young and old, rich and poor, coming to meet her and assess whether or not she was a saint. Her popularity and the controversy surrounding it were so intense that Prince Maurice I, Stathouder of the Netherlands, came to visit her himself – and he saw that all she said was true.
All those who came to her witnessed this: that Eva lived off the scent of flowers. The Mayor of Muers even took her to his home for a few days and a few nights to see whether or not she would eat or drink and he too came to realise that she was honest. This continued until her passing in 1614, shortly after an angel told her that a great doom would shortly befall mankind.
The story doesn’t end her however as in 1628, so 14 years after she had died, a local physician discovered that Eva Vliegen was pretty much alive and that she had in fact been secretly fed all these years by her aunt.
Condemned to being publicly flogged, Eva was finally pardoned by the Prince Frederick Henry, successor to late Maurice, whom had acknowledged the truth of Eva’s sainthood.
No one however has yet assessed whether or not it is possible to live on love alone…