Home > Father Urbain Grandier who sold his Soul to Devil - Loudun possessions Trial - Unexplained Mysteries
Father Urbain Grandier who sold his Soul to Devil - Loudun possessions Trial - Unexplained Mysteries
See more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbain_Grandier
The Loudun possessions was a notorious witchcraft trial in Loudun, France in 1634. 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.
Father Urbain Granadier was a French Catholic priest who was burned at the stake after being convicted of witchcraft. He served as priest in the church of Sainte Croix in Loudun, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Poitiers. Ignoring his vow of priestly celibacy, he is known to have had sexual relationships with a number of women and to have acquired a reputation as a philanderer.
The case is just one of many similar witchcraft trials that occurred in the 17th century throughout western Europe; for example the Aix-en-Provence possessions (France) in 1611 or the Pendle witches (England) in 1612 before reaching the New World by the 1690s. The Loudon Possessions were among of the most notable and scandalous episodes of demonic possession in France in the seventeenth century. It was alleged that a parish priest, Urbain Grandier, had made a pact with the devil: a group of Ursuline nuns came forward claiming that they had been sexually assaulted by Grandier, as well as visited and possessed by the devil. Their symptoms included fits, convulsions and speaking in tongues. Over a period of several years, exorcisms were performed, during which nuns barked, screamed blasphemies and acted out obscene contortions.
Grandier served as priest in the church of Sainte Croix in Loudun, in the Diocese of Poitiers. Ignoring his vow of celibacy, he is known to have had sexual relationships with a number of women and to have acquired a reputation as a philanderer. He also wrote a book attacking the doctrine of clerical celibacy. In 1632, a group of nuns from the local Ursuline convent accused him of having bewitched them, sending the demon Asmodai, among others, to commit evil and impudent acts with them. Modern commentators on the case, such as the author Aldous Huxley, have argued that the accusations began after Grandier refused to become the spiritual director of the convent, unaware that the Mother Superior, Sister Jeanne of the Angels, had become obsessed with him, having seen him from afar and heard of his sexual exploits. According to Huxley, Sister Jeanne, enraged by his rejection, instead invited Canon Mignon, an enemy of Grandier, to become the director. Jeanne then accused Grandier of using black magic to seduce her. The other nuns gradually began to make similar accusations. Grandier was arrested, interrogated and tried by an ecclesiastical tribunal, which acquitted him.
However, Grandier had gained the enmity of the powerful Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of France, after a public verbal attack against him. Grandier had also written and published scathing criticisms of Richelieu. Richelieu ordered a new trial, conducted by his special envoy Jean de Laubardemont, a relative of the Mother Superior of the convent of Loudun. Grandier was rearrested at Angers and the possibility of appealing to the Parlement of Paris was denied to him. Interrogated for a second time, the nuns (including the Mother Superior) did not renew their accusations, but this did not affect the predetermined outcome of the trial. After torturing Father Grandier, the judges (clerics Lactance, Laubardemont, Surin and Tranquille) introduced documents purportedly signed by Grandier and several demons as evidence that he had made a diabolical pact. It is unknown whether Grandier wrote or signed the pacts under duress, or whether they were entirely forged.
Grandier was found guilty and sentenced to death. The judges who condemned Grandier ordered that he be put to the "extraordinary question", a form of torture which was usually, but not immediately, fatal, and was therefore administered to only those victims who were to be executed immediately afterwards. In addition, Grandier was subjected to a form of the Spanish boot, an iron vise, filled with spikes, that was brought to red heat and then applied to Grandier's calf and ankle to shatter the bones. Despite torture, Grandier never confessed to witchcraft. He was burned alive at the stake.
Many theories exist as to the cause of the Loudun "possessions". One of the most likely explanations is that the whole affair was a hoax orchestrated by Richelieu. Huxley in his book The Devils of Loudun (1952) and in the Ken Russell film version of the Huxley book (1971) alleged that the initial accusations against Grandier by the nuns of the convent of Loudun were part of a case of collective hysteria.
Urbain Grandier was appointed parish priest of St-Pierre-du-Marche in Loudun, a town in Poitou, France, in 1617. Grandier was considered to be a very good-looking man, and was both wealthy and well-educated. The combination made the priest a target for the attention of girls in Loudun, one of whom was Philippa Trincant, the daughter of the King's solicitor in Loudun. It was believed by the people of Loudun that Grandier was the father of Trincant's child. In addition to Trincant, Grandier openly courted Madeleine de Brou, daughter of the King's councillor in Loudun. Most assumed that Madeleine was Grandier's mistress after he wrote a treatise against the celibacy of priests for her.
Grandier was also a very well-connected man, high in political circles. When he was arrested and found guilty of immorality on June 2, 1630, it was these connections that restored him to full clerical duties within the same year. Presiding over the case was Chasteigner de La Roche Posay, the Bishop of Poitiers, a man who was known to dislike Grandier and admitted to wanting him out of the parish.
Two stories exist about what happened next. Either the Bishop of Poitiers approached Father Mignon, confessor to the Ursuline nuns, and a plan was made to persuade a few of the sisters to feign possession and denounce Grandier, or Father Mignon was approached by the Mother Superior Jeanne des Anges (Joan of the Angels) for help.
According to the first story, Father Mignon readily persuaded the Mother Superior, Jeanne des Anges, and another nun to comply. They would claim that Father Grandier had bewitched them, falling into fits and convulsions, often holding their breath and speaking in tongues.
The second story claims that Jeanne had illicit dreams about Father Grandier, who appeared to her as a radiant angel. As an angel, he enticed her to sexual acts, causing her to rave loudly at night. Jeanne suffered flagellation and did penance for the night-time disturbances, but she was no less troubled and soon it was found that other nuns were being haunted by hallucinations and vulgar dreams. It was then, this version claims, that Mother Superior Jeanne des Anges called for Father Mignon to hear her confession and purge the convent of demons.
However it came about, Father Mignon and his aide, Father Pierre Barre, saw in the activity an opportunity to remove Grandier.
Fathers Mignon and Barre immediately proceeded to perform exorcisms on the possessed nuns. Several of the nuns, including Jeanne des Anges, suffered violent convulsions during the procedure, shrieking and making sexual motions toward the priests. Following the lead of Jeanne des Anges, many of the nuns reported illicit dreams. The accusers would suddenly bark, scream, blaspheme, and contort their bodies. During the exorcisms, Jeanne swore that she and the other nuns were possessed by two demons named Asmodeus and Zabulon. These demons were sent to the nuns when Father Grandier tossed a bouquet of roses over the convent walls.
Nearby and realizing the danger he was in, Father Grandier pleaded with the bailiff of Loudun to isolate the nuns; the bailiff's orders were ignored, and the exorcisms and denouncements continued. Desperate, Grandier wrote to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who sent his personal doctor to examine the nuns. No evidences of true possession were found, and the Archbishop ordered the exorcisms to cease on March 21, 1633. The nuns were sequestered in their cells.
Having failed to remove Grandier, his contemporaries continued their efforts in earnest. One of these was Jean de Laubardemont, a relative of Jeanne des Anges' and favored by the powerful Cardinal Richelieu. Laubardemont and a Capuchin monk, Tranquille, visited the Cardinal with news of the unsuccessful exorcisms and added further evidence against Grandier by providing a copy of a libelous satire Grandier had written about Richelieu. Aware that a relative of his, Sister Claire, was in the Loudun convent, Richelieu asserted his power and organized the Royal Commission to arrest and investigate Grandier as a witch. Laubardemont was appointed head of the commission.
Pact in Backwards Latin
One of the documents introduced as evidence during Grandier's second trial is a diabolical pact written in Latin and apparently signed by Grandier. Another, which looks illegible, is written backwards, in Latin with scribal abbreviation, and has since been published and translated in a number of books on witchcraft. This document also carries many strange symbols, and was "signed" by several demons with their seals, as well as by Satan himself.] Deciphered and translated to English, it reads:
We, the influential Lucifer, the young Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Elimi,
and Astaroth, together with others, have today accepted the covenant pact
of Urbain Grandier, who is ours. And him do we promise
the love of women, the flower of virgins, the respect of monarchs, honors, lusts and powers.
He will go whoring three days long; the carousal will be dear to him. He offers us once
in the year a seal of blood, under the feet he will trample the holy things of the church and
he will ask us many questions; with this pact he will live twenty years happy
on the earth of men, and will later join us to sin against God.
Bound in hell, in the council of demons.
Lucifer Beelzebub Satan
Astaroth Leviathan Elimi
The seals placed the Devil, the master, and the demons, princes of the lord.
When exorcisms resumed at Loudun, they were led by the expert exorcists Capuchin Father Tranquille, Franciscan Father Lactance, and Jesuit Father Jean-Joseph Surin, and they were held publicly; up to 7,000 spectators attended. The priests employed dramatic commands, threats, and rituals to both direct and encourage the nuns in their accusations against Grandier.
Adding to the hysteria prompted by the public exorcisms were the stories told by both nuns and Father Grandier's former lovers. As in both the Louviers possessions and the Aix-en-Provence possessions, the claims made against Grandier were overtly sexual and showed visible physical responses. Because they were public and dramatic, the citizens of Loudun and surrounding areas were set against Grandier.
In addition to the dreams that Jeanne des Anges and other nuns had related, Jeanne added a third demon to the array of possessors afflicting the nuns: Isacaron, the devil of debauchery. After admitting to this third demon possessor, Jeanne went through a psychosomatic pregnancy. In all, Jeanne and the other nuns claimed to be possessed by a multitude of demons: Asmodeus, Zabulon, Isacaaron, Astaroth, Gresil, Amand, Leviatom, Behemot, Beherie, Easas, Celsus, Acaos, Cedon, Naphthalim, Cham, Ureil and Achas.
In an effort to clear his name, Father Grandier performed an exorcism on the nuns himself. He spoke to the nuns in Greek, testing their knowledge of languages previously unknown to them (a sure sign of possession). The nuns had been coached, and responded that they had been ordered in their pact to never use Greek.
In another exorcism, performed by Father Gault, the priest obtained a promise from the demon Asmodeus to leave one of the nuns he was possessing. Later, a devil's pact allegedly written between the Devil and Grandier was presented to the court. In this pact, stolen from Lucifer's cabinet of pacts by Asmodeus himself, was signed in blood by Grandier and various demons. Asmodeus had apparently written out the same promise he'd given to Father Gault on this pact:
I promise that when leaving this creature, I will make a slit below her heart as long as a pin, that this slit will pierce her shirt, bodice and cloth which will be bloody. And tomorrow, on the twentieth of May at five in the afternoon of Saturday, I promise that the demons Gresil and Amand will make their opening in the same way, but a little smaller - and I approve the promises made by Leviatam, Behemot, Beherie with their companions to sign, when leaving, the register of the church of St. Croix! Given the nineteenth of May 1629.
On December 7, 1633, Father Grandier was put in prison at the Castle of Angers. His body was shaved and a successful search for devil's marks was made by inquisitors. Protests by Dr. Fourneau, the physician who prepared Grandier for torture, and the apothecary from Poitiers were ignored. These protests claimed the inspection was a hoax, and stated that no such marks had been found.
Nicholas Aubin's 1693 The Cheats and Illusions of Romish Priest and Exorcists Discovered in the History of the Devils of Loudun describes what happened next:
They sent for Mannouri the surgeon, one of [Grandier's] enemies, and the most unmerciful of them all; when he [came] into the chamber, they stripped Grandier stark naked, blinded his eyes, shaved him every where, and Mannouri began to search him. When he would persuade them that the parts of his body which had been marked by the Devil were insensible, he turned that end of the probe which was round, and he guided it in such a manner, that not being able to enter into the flesh, nor to make much impression, it was pushed back into the palm of his hand; the patient did not then cry out, because he felt no pain; but when the barbarous surgeon would make them see that the other parts of his body were very sensible, he turned the probe at the other end, which was very sharp pointed, and thrust it to the very bone; and then the abundance of people [outside] heard complaints so bitter, and cries so piercing, that they [were] moved...to the heart