The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

August 18, 2013

August 18, 1634

Urbain Grandier, a French priest, born in 1590,  died August 18, 1634. He had been setup. The first judge decided he was innocent of witchcraft. In the words of Aldous Huxely, 

De Cerisy's preliminary investigations had left him convinced there was no genuine possession, only a sickness, improved by some little fraud on the part of the nuns, by a great deal of malice on the part of Canon Mignon, and by the superstition, fanaticism and professional self-interest of the other ecclesiastics, involved in the affair. ...When he tried to put an end to...[ the investigations] ...Mignon.. triumphantly produced a written order from the bishop charging them to go on excorsising the Uruslines [nuns] til further notice. Unwilling to risk a scandal De Cerisy gave his permission for the exorcisms to continue but insisted on being present for the performance. On one of these occasions, it is recorded, that there was a terrifying noise in the chimney and a cat suddenly appeared in the fireplace. The animals was pursued, caught, sprinkled with holy water, signed with the cross, and adjured in Latin to depart. After which it was discovered that this devil in disguise was the nuns' pet Tom, who had been out on the tiles and was taking a shortcut home.

Grandier was found innocent. Hanky-panky is not, and was not then, the same as witchcraft. The aggrieved parties though were well-connected in the French power elite. Apparently Cardinal Richelieu was himself involved in retrying Grandier. This second time they produced a document, a contract written in backwards Latin and signed by the Devil himself, and by, Grandier. With this convenient find, the priest was tortured and burned at the stake. He never admitted guilt. Which makes this priest a man of rare integrity for any century. 

The story of The Devils of Loudun, (1952) has been recounted by others besides Huxley: Alexandre Dumas, pere, and Jule Michelet, wrote about the incident also. 

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