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A convent of Ursuline nuns said they had been visited and possessed by demons. Following an investigation by the Catholic Church , a local priest named Father Urbain Grandier was accused of summoning the evil spirits. He was eventually convicted of the crimes of sorcery and burned at the stake. The case contains similar themes to other witchcraft trials that occurred throughout western Europe in the 17th century, such as the Aix-en-Provence possessions France in or the Pendle witches England in before reaching the New World by the s.
In its continuing efforts to consolidate and centralize power, the Crown ordered the walls around Loudun, a town in Poitou , France, to be demolished. The populace were of two minds concerning this. The Huguenots , for the most part, wanted to keep the walls, while the Catholics supported the monarchy.
In May , an outbreak of the plague in Loudun claimed many lives. Together, the events contributed to an atmosphere of anxiety and apprehension in the divided town. Grandier was considered to be a good-looking man, wealthy, and well-educated. An eloquent and popular preacher, he incurred the envy of some of the local monks.
As he did not support Richelieu 's policies, he was in favor of retaining the town's wall. It was widely believed that Grandier had fathered a child by Philippa Trincant, the daughter of one of his friends, the King's solicitor in Loudun. However, Niau's views may be understood as those of a participant in the subsequent proceedings, and who fully endorsed them. Around , Jacques de Thibault, possibly a relative of Philippa, was quite vocal in expressing his opinion of Grandier's conduct regarding women.
When Grandier demanded an explanation, Thibault beat him with a cane outside the Church of Sainte-Croix. In the course of the resulting trial, Thibault raised certain charges in his defense, causing the magistrates to turn Grandier over to the ecclesiastical court. The Bishop then prohibited Grandier from performing any public functions as priest for five years in the Diocese of Poitiers, and forever in Loudun.
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Grandier appealed to the court at Poitiers. As a number witnesses retracted their statements, the case was dismissed without prejudice should new evidence be presented. The Ursuline convent was opened in Loudun in In prioress Jeanne des Anges presided over seventeen nuns, whose average age was twenty-five. The first reports of alleged demonic possession began about five months after the outbreak of plague in , as it was winding down.
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While physicians and wealthy property owners had left town, the physicians because there was nothing they could do , others attempted to isolate themselves. The convents had shut themselves behind walls, the nuns discontinued receiving parlor visitors. Grandier visited the sick and gave money to the poor. A young nun said that she had had a vision of her recently deceased confessor, Father Moussant.
Canon Jean Mignon, the convent chaplain, decided that a series of exorcisms was in order. In the town, the people were already saying it was an "imposture". When questioning the supposed evil spirit thought to be possessing the nuns to identify who caused its presence, various answers were given: a priest, Peter, and Zabulon. It was only after almost a week, on October 11, that Grandier was named as the magician responsible, although they had never met him.
Next, physicians and apothecaries were brought in. Canon Mignon informed the local magistrates of what was happening at the convent.
Grandier filed a petition stating that his reputation was under attack and that the nuns should be confined. The nuns increasingly extreme behavior, shouting, swearing, barking, etc. At length, the Crown in the person of Cardinal Richelieu decided to intervene. Grandier had already offended Richelieu by his public opposition to the demolition of the town walls, and his reputation for illicit relations with parishioners did not improve his standing with the cardinal.
In November , M.
Grandier was arrested as a precaution against his fleeing the area. The Commissioner then began to take statements from witnesses who said Grandier often mysteriously appeared at the convent at all hours, although no one knew how he was able to effect entrance.
The priest was further accused of all manner of indecency. Laubardemont then questioned the accused as to the facts and articles of accusation, and after, having made him sign his statement and denials, proceeded to Paris to inform the Court. Letters from the Bailly of Loudun, Grandier's chief supporter, to the Procurator-General of the Parliament, were intercepted, in which it was asserted that the possessions were an imposture.
The latter's reply was also seized.
Celebrated Crimes 6: Urbain Grandier
Monsieur de Laubardemont returned to Loudun with a Decree of the Council, dated 31st May , confirming all his powers and prohibiting Parlement and all other judges from interfering in the matter, and forbidding all parties concerned from appealing, under penalty of a fine of five hundred livres. Grandier, who had been held at the prison of Angers was returned to Loudon. Laubardemont once again observed and interrogated the nuns, now dispersed among a number of convents.
The Bishop of Poitiers, after having sent several Doctors of Theology to examine the victims, came to Loudun in person, and over the next two and half months, himself performed exorcisms, as well as Fathers Tranquille O. On June, 23, , the Bishop of Poitiers and M. Croix in his parish, to be present at the exorcisms.
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All the possessed were there likewise. And as the accused and his partisans declared that the possessions were mere impostures, he was ordered to be himself the exorcist, and the stole was presented to him. He could not refuse, and therefore, taking the stole and the ritual, he received the pastoral benediction, and after the Veni Creator had been sung, commenced the exorcism in the usual form. In August , The case was heard before the local magistrates.
It was alleged that Grandier had made a pact with the devil,  and had invited someone to a witches' sabbat. Grandier was found guilty of sorcery and placing evil spells to cause the possession of the Ursuline nuns; he was condemned to be burned at the stake. We have ordered and do order the said Urbain Grandier duly tried and convicted of the crime of magic, maleficia, and of causing demoniacal possession of several Ursuline nuns of this town of Loudun, as well as of other secular women, together with other charges and crimes resulting therefrom.
For atonement of which, we have condemned and do condemn the said Grandier to make amende honorable , his head bare, a rope round his neck, holding in his hand a burning taper weighing two pounds, before the principal door of the church of St. Ursula of this town. There on his knees, to ask pardon of God, the King, and the law; this done, he is to be taken to the public square of St.
In , Grandier had written a sarcastic discourse about Cardinal Richelieu. By , Richelieu had become one of the most powerful men in France, and would play an important role in the Loudun case. Get A Copy. Published first published June 10th More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
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