The burning alive of Father Louis Gaufridi

The burning alive of Father Louis Gaufridi for bewitchment of the nuns at Aix in 1611 formed the legal precedent for the conviction and execution of Urbain Grandier at Loudun more than 20 years later.

This case was one of the first in France to produce a conviction based on the testimony of a possessed demoniac.

Prior to the 17th century in France, accusations from a demoniac were considered unreliable, since most clerics believed that any words spoken by one
possessed by the Devil were utterances from “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and would not stand up to accepted rules of evidence.

As in Loudun, sexual themes dominated the manifestations of the nuns’ possession.

In The World of the Witches (1961), historian Julio Caro Baroja comments that “in the history of many religious movements, particularly those who have to struggle against an Established Church, an important part is played by men who have a physical and sexual power over groups of slightly unbalanced women in addition to strong spiritual powers.”

By the 17th century, the Catholic Church was fighting to stem the tide of Reformation through miraculous cures and demonstrations of faith and by the torture of heretics and witches.

Baroja continues: “At a later stage [in the religious movement] we find such people formally accused of being sorcerers and magicians . . . and causing the women they had abused [or seduced] to be possessed by the Devil.”

Baroja finds Father Gaufridi to be the perfect example, concluding that if he indeed was guilty of sexual crimes, he certainly was not a Satanist (see Satanism).

Nevertheless, Father Gaufridi was convicted by his own confession following torture and the accusations of two nuns: Sister Madeleine Demandolx de la Palud and Sister Louise Capel.

Gaufridi recited his Devil’s pact for the inquisitors, in which he renounced all spiritual and physical goodness given him by God, the Virgin Mary and all the saints, giving himself body and soul to Lucifer.

Sister Madeleine also recited her pact, renouncing God and the saints and even any prayers ever said for her.

Aix-en-Provence Possessions  Gaufridi was burned alive, and the two nuns were banished from the convent.

Two years later, in 1613, the possession epidemic at Aix spread to nearby Lille, where three nuns accused Sister Marie de Sains of bewitching them.

Most notable about Sister Marie’s testimony, in many ways a copy of Sister Madeleine’s earlier pact was her detailed description of the witches’ sabbat:

The witches copulated with devils and each other in a natural fashion on Mondays and Tuesdays, practiced sodomy on Thursdays, and bestiality on Saturdays and sang litanies to the Devil on Wednesdays and Fridays. Sunday, apparently, was their day off.