The Devils of Loudun
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"It was in 1605 that Joseph Hall, the satirist and future bishop, made his first visit to Flanders. “Along our way how many churches saw we demolished, nothing left but rude heaps to tell the passenger, there hath been both devotion and hostility. Oh, the miserable footsteps of war! ... But (which I wondered at) churches fall, and Jesuits’ colleges rise everywhere. There is no city where these are not rearing or built. Whence cometh this? Is it for that devotion is not so necessary as policy? These men (as we say of the fox) fare best when they are most cursed. None so much spited of their own; none so hated of all; none so opposed of by ours; and yet these ill weeds grow.”" incipit to The Devils of Loudun (1952) by Aldous Huxley
The Devils Of Loudun, a non-fiction book by Aldous Huxley, was first published in 1952. It is an historical account of supposed demonic possession, superstition and religious fanaticism in 17th century France, based on events which took place in the small town of Loudun in Poitou.
Urbain Grandier was a priest burned at the stake at Loudun, France on August 18, 1634. He was accused of seducing an entire convent of Ursuline nuns and of being in league with the devil. Grandier was probably too promiscuous and too insolent to his peers. He had antagonised the Mother Superior, Sister Jeanne of the Angels, when he rejected her offer to become the spiritual advisor to the convent. He faced an ecclesiastical tribunal and was acquitted.
It was only after he had publicly spoken against Cardinal Richelieu that a new trial was ordered by the Cardinal. He was tortured, found guilty and executed by being burnt alive but never admitted guilt. Huxley touches on aspects of the multiple personality controversy in cases of apparent demonic possession within this book.
Playwright John Whiting adapted Huxley's book as the play The Devils (1960). Ken Russell directed a feature film adaptation The Devils (1971), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed. Krzysztof Penderecki wrote an opera, The Devils of Loudun (Die Teufel von Loudun) in 1969.
- Mother Joan of the Angels (film)