The Charitables Brotherhood

Gaël Turine

Founded in the region of Béthune in 1188 during a plague epidemic that was ravaging Europe, the Confrérie des Charitables had taken on the heavy task of burying the dead. While the world faces a new pandemic, their mission continues, in the shadow of history, in the service of all.

Their action never ceased — with the exception of the French Revolution. Even during the Second World War and the bombing of 27 April 1944 which killed many, the Charitables came from all the brotherhoods of northern France, despite the prohibition of the Germans, to come and accomplish their mission.

“From his scythe the quick death; comes to decimate the city; we have a strong arm; a heart saying with pride; in vain the plagues and the storm; around us sowed fear; never failed the courage; of the ministers of Saint Éloi.”

Their anthem takes on a very relevant meaning at a time when the COVID pandemic continued to have serious effects on France and the world. In April 2020, we still observed their silhouettes draped in black capes, wearing bicorns and faces hidden by surgical masks accompanying a deceased person to his final resting place, between the tombs of the Béthune cemetery.

Rich or poor, famous or anonymous: everyone was graciously taken care of by the Charitables when their time came. The organization emancipated itself from the Church between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, but its soul remains inhabited by the values that Christianity claims.

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