Was it really true? Did a “man of God” sell his soul to the devil — or even transmogrify into an evil entity? Or is it a myth enhanced through the passage of centuries?
From Wikipedia (for discernment only):
Urbain Grandier (born in 1590 in Bouère, Mayenne – died on 18 August 1634 in Loudun) was a French Catholic priest who was burned at the stake after being convicted of witchcraft, following the events of the so-called “Loudun Possessions.” The circumstances of Father Grandier’s trial and execution have attracted the attention of writers Alexandre Dumas père, Aldous Huxley and the playwright John Whiting, composers like Krzysztof Penderecki and Peter Maxwell Davies, as well as historian Jules Michelet and various scholars of European witchcraft. Most modern commentators have concluded that Grandier was the victim of a politically motivated persecution led by the powerful Cardinal Richelieu.
The judges who condemned Grandier ordered that he be put to the “extraordinary question,” a form of torture which was usually, but not immediately, fatal, and was therefore administered to only those victims who were to be executed immediately afterwards. In addition, Grandier was subjected to a form of the Spanish boot, an iron vise, filled with spikes, that was brought to red heat and then applied to Grandier’s calf and ankle to shatter the bones. Despite torture, Grandier never confessed to witchcraft. He was burned alive at the stake. Many theories exist as to the cause of the Loudun “possessions.” One of the most likely explanations is that the whole affair was orchestrated by Richelieu. Huxley in his book The Devils of Loudun (1952) and in the Ken Russell film version of the Huxley book (1971) alleged that the initial accusations against Grandier by the nuns of the convent of Loudun were part of a case of collective hysteria.
From Weekend in Weird:
In the nearly four centuries since the public execution of Father Urbain Grandier, his story has remained one of the most fascinating and frightening historical accounts of someone [allegedly] selling their soul to the Devil. Maybe it’s the evil spirits, the sorcery, the witchcraft, or the hard copy of Satan’s signature that has caused the story to endure, but one thing is for certain – the true life story of Grandier and the Loudun possessions is so crazy that were it not for the survival of the paper contract with Lucifer, one might think the whole story was made up.
During his life, Urbain Grandier proved time and time again that he wasn’t the greatest priest. In fact, he might have been one of the worst. Urbain spent most of his time at the Sainte Croix in Loudun, France, ignoring his vow of celibacy. Described as a devilishly handsome man, Father Grandier had a reputation for enticing many of the area’s most powerful women into bed, and to make matters even more salacious, he wasn’t particularly secretive about his conquests.
From the Daily Beast:
Historically, there have been a number of occasions on which people—either the mother herself or those around her—have designated a particular pregnancy as satanic. One of the most famous examples occurred in 17th century France when an attractive and charismatic priest named Urbain Grandier became a parish priest in the town of Loudun. According to the reports, Grandier was a ladies’ man who regularly disregarded his vows of celibacy. One nun, Mother Superior Jeanne des Anges (“Joan of the Angels”), claimed that she had been seduced by Grandier, who was actually a demon. The seduction was made possible by the fact that he pretended to be an angel and appeared to her as a radiant being. Jeanne claimed that Grandier the Angel-Priest-Demon had gotten her pregnant and her accusations were soon supported by similar allegations of sexual impropriety by other Ursuline nuns.
A pact allegedly signed between Grandier and the devil was produced and submitted as evidence at the trial. It was a veritable who’s who of the demonic world: apart from Grandier, other signatories included Satan, Leviathan (a primordial sea creature mentioned in the Bible), and Astaroth (the so-called Great Duke of Hell who teaches his acolytes mathematics). Following a lengthy investigation conducted primarily through torture, Father Grandier was burned at the stake. As for Jeanne’s pregnancy after a lengthy period of convulsions, speaking in tongues, and distress it simply went away.