Cover image for A case of witchcraft : the trial of Urbain Grandier
A case of witchcraft : the trial of Urbain Grandier
Rapley, Robert, 1926-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Montreal ; Buffalo : McGill-Queen's University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
viii, 277 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KJV130.G73 R36 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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As a Catholic priest, Grandier was an influential figure in the Loudun community and local government. A brilliant speaker, he was popular with his parishioners. But he had enemies, including Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII, who was trying to wrest political autonomy from local governors and centralize power in Paris. Grandier's support of the governor of Loudun meant that he was seen as an enemy of the crown. In addition, the debonair priest's romantic intrigues brought him into conflict with some of the town's most influential power brokers. When a nearby convent of Ursuline nuns began experiencing strange visions and hallucinations, Grandier's enemies seized the opportunity to orchestrate his downfall. These mass possessions, which spread through the convent despite attempts at exorcism, were regarded as witchcraft and Grandier was accused of having caused them. Condemned by Richelieu and the king, Grandier was tortured and burned at the stake for his alleged crimes. He maintained his innocence to the end. This tale of conspiracy, corruption, and mass hysteria provides a fascinating exploration of human behaviour and community dynamics.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The sensational story of Urbain Grandier (d. 1634), priest of Loudun in western France, and his trial and execution for sorcery has been told and retold many times; it is perhaps best known to readers of English through Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun (1952). Rapley, an independent scholar, has studied virtually all the relevant sources, both primary and secondary, as well as a considerable background literature on early modern witchcraft, politics, social tensions, and gender relations. He has produced an engaging narrative interpretation directed more at a popular than a scholarly audience. Rapley's reconstruction of the sexual, political, and legal entanglements that led to Grandier's burning at the stake is generally persuasive, if still quite speculative. He disputes some aspects of the tale as traditionally told, and offers a few genuinely original insights. Scholars of the period will find that he often oversimplifies complex background in order to tell a good story, and there are not a few lapses from the normal standards of critical scholarship. But despite its faults, the book offers a very good read, especially for undergraduates and interested general readers. R. B. Barnes; Davidson College