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A Case of Witchcraft: The Trial of Urbain Grandier [Paperback]

Robert Rapley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Feb 2002
An extraordinary tale of passion, intrigue, and revenge, "A Case of Witchcraft" is the true story of Urbain Grandier, a seventeenth-century priest who was accused and found guilty of sorcery. Although popularised by Aldous Huxley's, "The Devils of Loudun", the story has never been told in its entirety. Robert Rapley provides a compelling new interpretation of the case, revealing startling evidence of a secret conspiracy to destroy the priest that went as high as Louis XIII. As a Catholic priest, Grandier was an influential figure in the Loudun community and local government. A brilliant speaker, he was popular with his parishioners. But he had enemies, including Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII, who was trying to wrest political autonomy from local governors and centralise power in Paris.Grandier's support of the governor of Loudun meant that he was seen as an enemy of the crown. In addition, the debonair priest's romantic intrigues brought him into conflict with some of the town's most influential power brokers. When a nearby convent of Ursuline nuns began experiencing strange visions and hallucinations, Grandier's enemies seized the opportunity to orchestrate his downfall. These mass possessions, which spread through the convent despite attempts at exorcism, were regarded as witchcraft and Grandier was accused of having caused them. Condemned by Richelieu and the king, Grandier was tortured and burned at the stake for his alleged crimes. He maintained his innocence to the end. This tale of conspiracy, corruption, and mass hysteria provides a fascinating exploration of human behaviour and community dynamics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press; New edition edition (1 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077352312X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773523128
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 15.6 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,503,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A superb unravelling of the story of Grandier ... This is a work of impeccable scholarship, yet it has the verve and narrative drive of a first-rate historical novel ... Reading Rapley's harrowing account of the last hours of this flawed hero, one finds oneself wondering if perhaps the Devil was indeed at work in Loudun that day." The New Yorker

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Loudun was a magnificent sight, set on a hill in the middle of a wide, rich valley. Read the first page
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true tale of Hysteria 6 Nov 2004
This historical account of the life and subseqent trial of Urbain Grandier is spell binding, it recreates the sense of religious prejudice in the seventeenth century and the narrow mindedness of the Church. Sex, politics, religion are all interwoven by our narrator 'Rapley', the onset of plague which he accounts for the true cause of the possesion of the Ursuline nuns and the havoc this brings to Loudon creates a sense of an evil time in the period for the inhabitants of this provincial French town. In essence a witch had to be found and Urbain Grandiers' somewhat liberal views in this period of history condemned him to be sought out at by his enemies who he had wronged in the past. A true account of political sorcery!
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and a disturbing historical account 11 Jan 2002
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
A Case Of Witchcraft by independent Canadian scholar Robert Rapley is the true story of Urbain Grandier, a priest who was accused of sorcery, tortured, and burned at the stake during the reign of King Louis XIII. a meticulously researched and scholarly look at mass hysteria and religious extremism at its worst, A Case Of Witchcraft is so compelling it cannot be put down - the thoughts and acts every character within are reconstructed from records, documented evidence, and sometimes oral legends that have survived the centuries. A Case Of Witchcraft is simultaneously a fascinating and a disturbing historical account.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witchy Book 14 Jan 2007
By M. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Urbain Grandier was a Catholic priest in the 1600s was an influential figure in Loudon, France. When Ursuline nuns in a nearby convent began experiencing strange visions and hallucinations, Grandier's enemies seized the opportunity to orchestrate his downfall. These mass possessions, which despite exorcism spread through the convent, were regarded as witchcraft and Grandier was accused of having caused them. Condemned by Louis XIII, Grandier was tortured and burned at the stake for his alleged crimes, but maintained his innocence to the end. This book helps show how witch trials were primarily motivated by men with their own motives.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a sharp and cogent tale, a microcosm of Human History 30 Aug 2012
By Philip K. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
This novel is a first person narration by Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Watson is laid up as the result of an Operation to remove the Jezail bullet he had carried since his Service in Afghanistan. The daughter of a clergyman has asked Holmes to investigate the disappearance of her father on one of the Scottish North Sea islands. As the object of the Reverend's investigation was one of three main source tales for the traditional Cinderella story, one that involved witchcraft and had been denounced by the Established Church, his daughter believed that he might have been taken by devotees of the Mother Goddess for use as a sacrifice at the upcoming Halloween celebrations. Holmes agrees to investigate and sets out for the North coast of Scotland.

On the northbound train he falls in with the young Aleister Crowley and their discussions of Witchcraft, Eastern religions and Holmes' case lead Crowley to offer his services as companion/bodyguard to Holmes for the duration of his investigation. Their discussions make the Author's Historical points by citing examples but they avoid giving a general summary of the details available about the World's oldest surviving Religion. The events that triggered this particular `Ur-Cinderella' variant seem to have occurred in Viking times and to have taken place on an island later noted as a source of `Witches.'

My own acquaintance with what is now called Wicca and its history assure me that its origins go back to and, possibly, before the Neolithic Age. I still recall first reading Robert Graves' "Hercules, My Shipmate" and my astonishment at the Priestesses of The Mother Goddess parching next year's seed grain in a dispute with the Priests of the local Thunder God. The God's reply was traditional, as, in visions to his priests, he encouraged the men to go a-raiding to find loot to buy food. Mr. Revill's characters cite elements of various worship systems across Eurasia that seem to echo worship of the Mother Goddess. In fact, the same tenets remain with us to this day cloaked in the guise of "green" practices with all of the `religious' elements removed, except, perhaps, the ardor.

Holmes, in this book, uses a prose style that is spare and simple. It is not the same voice that we hear in The Canon when Holmes is dictating. It is possible that difference from the Canon might well be due to the efforts of the Literary Agent on the Canon. In any case, this Holmes is inclined to discuss philosophy and his personal views much more than in previous publications. He is also less prone to descriptions and to pontificating and belittling the efforts of the police. Maybe it is the presence of Crowley, a public non-Christian, who would not be offended by Holmes' Atheism following his studies in Tibet that encourages Holmes to open his thoughts more to his audience. Watson, of course, would have been shocked to the core of his Established Church soul.

Perhaps the most singular feature of this book is its interesting characters. All of the people depicted present strong and impressive personalities to the world. From the local Detective Sergeant to the Schoolmistress and from the Island Provost to the waitress at a Fish and Chips store, all are distinct, interesting and individual people. Secrets abound within secrets and there are several secretive movements at odds with one another. The Nineteenth Century is dying before it really had a chance to enter into the lives of the Island and the twentieth Century is banging on the door loudly demanding entry. Meanwhile, all involved are still trying to untangle the problems of the Tenth Century.

This book is deceptive. A reader may expect some descent into barbarism and mumbo-jumbo or a tale of horror and madness. Instead, one finds people coping with inherited Cultural positions and striving for control (`Power' is such a Nasty word) over their lives. The same conflicts that arose at the very dawn of History are alive and kicking. People are still only people and lives are taken, altered and enriched by the oddest trifles and strangest events. Over all there remains the story of Cinderella, told from the viewpoint of the `wicked stepmother.' It is a sharp and cogent tale, not just a case from Late Victorian times, but also a microcosm of large parts of Human History.

Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, November 2011
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