The Devils of Loudun
|Cover artist||Val Biro|
|Published||1952 (Chatto & Windus)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
It is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression, and mass hysteria that occurred in 17th-century France surrounding unexplained events that took place in the small town of Loudun. It centers on Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier and an entire convent of Ursuline nuns, who allegedly became possessed by demons after Grandier made a pact with Satan. The events led to several public exorcisms as well as executions by burning.
The book, though lesser known than Huxley's other books, is considered one of his best works.
Urbain Grandier was a priest burned at the stake at Loudun, France on 18 August 1634. He was accused of seducing an entire convent of Ursuline nuns and of being in league with the devil. Grandier was likely promiscuous and was insolent towards his peers. He had antagonized 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.
The story was adapted into a 1960 stage play by playwright John Whiting. This was, in turn, adapted into the controversial 1971 Ken Russell feature film The Devils, which starred Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed. A 1969 opera based on the play, Die Teufel von Loudun, by Krzysztof Penderecki, was videotaped and released on DVD.
- The Loudun possessions — historical events the book was based upon
- Dreams of Roses and Fire — a 1949 novel by Eyvind Johnson based on the same events.
- Mother Joan of the Angels — a 1961 Polish film
- The Devils