The Devils of Loudun

For the opera, see The Devils of Loudun (opera).
The Devils of Loudun

First edition
Author Aldous Huxley
Cover artist Val Biro
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject History, Biography
Published 1952 (Chatto and Windus)
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

The Devils of Loudun is a 1952 non-fiction novel by Aldous Huxley. It is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression, and mass hysteria that occurred in seventeenth-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.

The story was adapted into a stage play in 1960, which was then adapted into the controversial 1971 Ken Russell film The Devils, which starred Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed. There is also an opera based on the book, Die Teufel von Loudun, by Krzysztof Penderecki, available on DVD. The book, though lesser known than Huxley's other novels (such as Brave New World), is widely considered one of his best works.[1]

Historical details

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 probably sexually promiscuous and too insolent to his peers. He had antagonised 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.


Playwright John Whiting adapted Huxley's book as the play The Devils (1960). Ken Russell directed a feature film adaptation, The Devils (1971), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed. Krzysztof Penderecki wrote an opera, The Devils of Loudun (Die Teufel von Loudun), in 1969.

See also


  1. "The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley". Harper Collins. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
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