By Edmund Goldsmid
The Devils of Loudun is a book by Edmund Goldsmid that tells the story of a disastrous and contentious case of mass demonic possession in 17th-century France. It’s also a story about religious zealotry and sexuality. Edmund Goldsmidt does a fantastic job of researching the case and piecing together what happened. He also has a very engaging and readable writing style.
The book begins with a history of Loudun and the convent of St. Ursula, where the possessed nuns resided. Goldsmidt then goes into detail about what happened before the nuns were possessed. These include: the arrival of a new priest, Father Grandier, who was known for being handsome and charismatic; the nuns becoming increasingly frustrated with the convent’s strict rules; and Grandier allegedly seducing one of the nuns.
The possessed nuns began to behave strangely, such as speaking in tongues, levitating, and entering trances. Father Grandier was blamed for their plight and accused of witchcraft. He was arrested and charged.
The book follows the possession from its earliest manifestations to the possessions’ trial and, finally, to the execution of the possessions’ leader, Urban Grandier. The story of the Loudun nuns’ Possession has been told many times, but Edmund Goldsmid’s account is unique in that it is based on first-hand accounts and contemporary documents. Goldsmid has conducted a thorough examination of the trial transcripts and other primary sources, and his book is a must-read for anyone interested in the case.
The book is an enthralling account of fanaticism, repression, and the Catholic Church’s power in 17th-century. Goldsmid offers a detailed and insightful look into the minds and motivations of those involved in the Possession of Loudun. Anyone interested in the history of the Catholic Church, demonology, or 17th-century European history should read The Devils of Loudun.