Panis Conjuratio (exorcism of the bread) was the technical term which designated the ordeal of consecrated bread or cheese practiced in the Middle Ages. It was administered by presenting to the accused a piece of bread (generally of barley) or of cheese, about an ounce in weight, over which adjurations had been pronounced. After appropriate religious ceremonies, including the communion, the morsel was eaten; the event being determined by the ability of the accused to swallow it. This depended of course on the imagination, and we can readily understand how, in those times of faith, the oppressive observances which accompanied the ordeal would affect the criminal who, conscious of guilt, stood up at the altar, took the sacrament, and pledged his salvation on the truth of his oath. 'The mode by which a conviction was expected may be gathered from the forms of the exorcism employed, of which a number have been preserved:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, . . grant, we pray thee, by thy holy name, that he who is guilty of this crime in thought or in deed, when this creature of sanctified bread is presented to him for the proving of the truth, let his throat be narrowed, and in thy name let it be rejected rather than devoured. And let not the spirit of the devil prevail in this to subvert the judgment by false appearances. But he who is guilty of this crime, let him, chiefly by virtue of the body and blood of our Lord which he has received in communion, when he takes the consecrated bread or cheese tremble, and grow pale in trembling, and shake in all his limbs; and let the innocent quietly and healthfully, with all ease, chew and swallow this morsel of bread or cheese, crossed in thy holy name, that all may know that thou art the just Judge," etc.
Even more whimsical in its devout impiety is the following:
"O God most High, who dwellest in the heaven, who through thy Trinity and majesty hast thy just angels send, O Lord, thy angel Gabriel to stick in the throat of those who have committed this theft, that they may neither chew nor swallow this bread and cheese created by thee. I invoke the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with twelve thousand angels and archangels; I invoke the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, uand John; I invoke Moses and Aaron, who divided the sea, that they may bind to their throats the tongues of men who have committed this theft, or consented thereto. If they taste this bread and cheese created by thee, may they tremble like a trembling tree, and have no rest, nor keep the bread and cheese in their months, that all may know thou art the Lord, and there is none other beside thee."