Alpais of Cudot (1150-1211) contracted a severe skin disease as a teen that was so odiferous the villagers put her out fearing contagion. That Easter (1169), she was cured of the skin malady through a vision of the Virgin Mary. According to Alpais, the vision said: "...because, dear sister, you bore long starvation in humility and patience, in hunger and thirst, without any murmuring, I grant you now to be fattened with an angelic and spiritual food. And as long as you are in this little body, corporeal food and drink will not be necessary for the sustaining of your body, nor will you hunger for bread or any other food... because after you have once tasted the celestial bread and drunk of the living fountain you will remain fattened for eternity…".
The oldest account of Alpais’ inedia was preserved by a Norbertine monk of Auxerre, Robert Abolanz. He wrote in his chronicle of St. Marien: “The year 1180 there is currently in the town of Sens-Cudot a girl known and widely renown. This young girl has been given by divine favor to live bodily life without the need for physical food, and this condition has lasted at least ten years.”
Astounded that such a happening occurred within the diocese, the archbishop, Guillaume de Champagne, assigned witnesses to attest to the facts. First he sent a monk from the Cistercian abbey of Les Echarlis as well as a Premonstratensian canon from another abbey. When they could not find fraud, the archbishop sent ladies who monitored Alpais for a month to confirm the girl’s fast. Satisfied, he commissioned a church to accommodate the pilgrims attracted to Cudot to see Alpais. The cell she lived in was quite tiny with enough room to accommodate her bed and allow her family to minister to her needs. Although her skin eruptions disappeared, Alpais remained nearly paralyzed.
Along with the prolonged inedia, Alpais had frequent episodes during which she appeared asleep but reacted as if she were dead. During these times, today called OBE, her consciousness left her body, visiting a number of locations despite being confined to her bed. She was even adopted as the patron of astronauts because of her description of the earth as seen in one of her visions: “as a whole having a circular, spherical shape – the sun bigger than the earth – the earth resembling an egg suspended in space and surrounded by a belt of water all around.”
Alpais was once asked by a pious gentleman about the appearance and characteristics of the soul. After all, if she spent all her spare time in other realms, she would be the resident expert on such matters. She responded that it was difficult to explain as nothing in the physical world remotely resembled its image and form.
“For the soul is simple, invisible, and incorporeal; is not divided into parts like the body, nor into limbs, for it has no hands or feet with which it could walk or feel, no eyes or ears with which it could see or hear. For in all its actions and movements it is wholly present. Whatever it touches, it touches as a whole and all at once, and all at once it experiences and apprehends soft of hard; warm and cold it distinguishes with the fingertip as a whole; what it smells, it smells as a whole and absorbs fragrances with all its being; what it tastes, it tastes as a whole, and as a whole distinguishes each taste; what it hears, it hears as a whole and as a whole recalls the sound; what it sees, it sees as a whole and as a whole remembers its images. In short, the soul feels, smells, tastes, hears, sees, and remembers as a whole.”
Alpais was quite proficient at what we now call out-of-body experiences. Again, her words were memorialized by that Cistercian monk::
“But once it appeared to me—if I may say it, although I dare not assert it as certain—that I had been outside the body. But how and when my soul left its body, how it threw off the body I cannot tell. For so lightly and suddenly, in an instant, as it seemed to me, did my soul throw off the cloak of flesh, as when one clad in an open cloak is running along the road, and the cloak slips suddenly from the shoulders of the runner, who is entirely given over to the eagerness of his path and his running, and it falls to the ground without his knowing anything of it; he notices that it has fallen only when he sees himself naked and his cloak lying beneath him on the ground. Thus, as it seems to me, my soul suddenly left my body, quite without my knowledge. I perceived it only when my soul, stripped of its flesh, began to contemplate its body, which lay motionless upon the bed. It looked at the body and rejoiced in gazing and delighted in it, for it appeared very beautiful to her, it was precious in her sight, and she felt of it and lifted it up. And very heavy and burdensome was its weight to my soul, still my soul loved it and embraced it with wondrous passion.”