Friday, January 12, 2018

Urbain Grandier

In was in the early 1980s that I first learned of Urbain Grandier, a 17th century French Catholic priest who was burned at the stake, after being found guilty of witchcraft in a case involving "demonic possession" of nuns in the town of Loudun, France. One of the cable movie channels (Showtime, Cinemax, or HBO) was running the 1971 Ken Russell film, The Devils. The film was based on the 1952 non-fiction novel by Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun.

Being curious, I went on a search for Huxley's book. A copy of the book was supposed to be available at my local public library, but I was told that the book was frequently stolen when placed on the shelf. There was a copy available behind the main desk, but it could not be checked out. The book could only be read in the library.

Fortunately for me, there was a very nice used book store in town. The owner could find any book - for a price, of course. I purchased a copy from her. I cannot say what became of the book.

I bring this up now because the story of Grandier is told in volume four of Alexandre Dumas' Celebrated Crimes. Sadly, the series could have been entitled Celebrated Crimes by Christians. A good many of the crimes described by Dumas illustrate the horrors committed by some using God's name.

According to a Wikipedia article, the French historian Jules Michelet discussed Grandier in a chapter of La Sorcière. An English translation of La Sorcière is available at Project Gutenberg. That book is now on my list of books to read in 2018.

The Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki wrote an opera, Die Teufel von Loudun based on the story. I was unable to find a copy of the opera on Spotify - although many of Penderecki's works are - but a TV version of the opera can be found on Youtube.

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