One of Huxley’s most important later works is The Devils of Loudun (1952), a detailed psychological study of a historical incident in which a group of 17th-century French nuns were allegedly the victims of demonic possession. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Penderecki writes the music and libretto based on this book.
It is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression, and mass hysteria that occurred in 17th-century France surrounding unexplained events that took place in the small town of Loudun. It centers on Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier and an entire convent of Ursuline nuns, who allegedly became possessed by demons after Grandier made a pact with Satan. The events led to several public exorcisms as well as executions by burning.
Urbain Grandier was a priest burned at the stake at Loudun, France on 18 August 1634. He was accused of seducing an entire convent of Ursuline nuns and of being in league with the devil. Grandier was likely promiscuous and was insolent towards his peers. He had antagonized the Mother Superior, Sister Jeanne of the Angels, when he rejected her offer to become the spiritual advisor to the convent. He faced an ecclesiastical tribunal and was acquitted.
It was only after he had publicly spoken against Cardinal Richelieu that a new trial was ordered by the Cardinal. He was tortured, found guilty and executed by being burnt alive, but never admitted guilt. Huxley touches on aspects of the multiple personality controversy in cases of apparent demonic possession within this book.
Join us tonight at 6pm EST, listening to this opera, in celebration of Penderecki’s date of birth, at the Opera, Blood, and Tears Club, on Clubhouse.