Upon awakening from her demonic reverie – so the legend goes – Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione found herself soaked in ink. A bizarre letter had apparently come into her possession during the night, and it was scrawled with inscrutable glyphs. Adding to the mystery, it seems that the nun claimed Satan himself had written the message – and yet no one was able to understand it…
the island of Sicily, where Sister Maria had taken spiritual refuge, is a place of deep-rooted Christian traditions. Indeed, Saint Paul is said to have preached there nearly two millennia ago. But where there is Christ, arguably there is Satan, for the eternal struggle between good and evil is a fundamental tenet of Christian doctrine.
Born in 1645, Isabella Tomasi was 15 years old when she joined a Benedictine convent in the Sicilian town of Palma di Montechiaro. There, she was baptized and renamed Maria Crocifissa della Concezione. The Benedictine order traditionally teaches work, peace and prayer. But for all her toil and devotion, Sister Maria did not seem to be at peace. In fact, she professed to be possessed by the Devil himself.
and whether or not the Devil exists, Sister Maria did indeed appear to be a conduit for fiery torment. When approaching the convent altar, she would reputedly sometimes shriek and lose unconsciousness. Apparently convinced that Satan was trying to turn her towards evil, the nun seemed to be racked with inner conflict.
Then one day in 1676 the Devil took control of the nun’s body – or so she claimed – and authored a diabolical letter. The note did not use a familiar language, though, nor even a recognizable alphabet. Instead, its mysterious glyphs seemed to resemble a jumble of archaic letters and occult symbols.
the letter was, in fact, practically indecipherable. However, Sister Maria’s fellow nuns took her claims seriously and placed the item on public display. Then over the ensuing centuries many code-breakers tried to crack the supposedly Satanic language. And yet it was not until 2017 that anyone even came close.
for it was in 2017 that a team of computer scientists based on the island – at the Ludum Science Center – managed to break the code with the help of a powerful decryption program. The software is used by governments and does not appear to be widely available. Hence, the team sourced it from the dark web – the hidden part of the internet that, among other activities, trades in contraband.