The Devils of Loudun: A Case of Demonic Possession in 17th century France

In 1952, writer Aldous Huxley published ‘The Devils of Loudun,’ an account of a 17th century case of demonic possession in an Ursuline Convent, in Loudun, France. A rather more salacious re-telling was filmed by Ken Russell as ‘The Devils’ starring Oliver Reed in 1971. It has proven to be one of the most bizarre and baffling cases of possession in Europe.

In 1617, Urbain Grandier rode into the town of Loudun, France to assume his new role as priest of the church of St Pierre du Marche and canon of Collegiale of Sainte Croixe. Young, handsome and charismatic, he had been an exemplary student and was much feted for greatness by his Jesuit peers.

Yet, seventeen years later, he was found guilty of sorcery, for having made a pact with the devil and responsible for the demonic possession of the nuns residing in the town’s Ursuline Convent. His trial culminated in a period of incarceration and put to such horrific torture that he was left unable to stand. He was eventually burnt alive at the stake before his beloved Sainte Croixe in the town’s market place. Witnesses claimed to have seen demons escaping from the flames.

How could such a turn of fortunes have occurred in such a short space of time?

And how could a man of God find himself accused of maleficium?

It is one of the strangest and most infamous cases of witchcraft in 17th century France and early modern Europe.


Wayne Perkins has been an archaeologist for over 22 years, seven of those spent excavating in France. He is a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.

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19th Nov 2023 8:00 pm - 09:30 pm

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