1600’s, Aix-en-Provence, the first in a series of trials of witchcraft and possession began at a convent at the hand of one Madeleine de Demandolx. She was a very young nun with a history of, through today’s knowledge, clinical depression and bipolar disorder. She met a priest, Louis Gaufridy, who became on the outside, her confessor, but was suspected of being her lover.

A year later, she was sent back to the convent, at which time, he called off the love affair, much to her protest. She went back to the convent, concocted an enormous lie, that she was possessed by him, resulted in her performing the rites of a Black Mass upon herself and cut herself in all the right places making ‘Devil’s marks’ so that her argument against Gaufridy was truly convincing. She stated that he called Satan upon her soul, afflicted her with 666 demons. She convinced, easily, another nun (Louise Capeau, an older, but was an easily influenced nun, who happened to harbor deep jealousy for Madeleine) that by speaking to her, she is now also infected with possession. Together the two weaved a monstrous tale surrounded with deception, all because if Madeleine could not have Gaufridy, then no one could, not even God.  

Louise and Madeleine are exorcised by an inquisitor with a growing reputation, Sebastien Michaelis (a monk with a deep seated resentment toward the clergy -priests- for their loose morals… a very politically charged argument at that time). Michaelis used the exorcism as a way to gain power and celebrity in the church, but also to gain political favors in the monastery. Michaelis charged Gaufridy with witchcraft. Gaufridy endured torture and eventually, Michaelis extracted a confession, albeit a false one. 

The trial began. First, Louise gave a convincing argument, citing specific demons that were infected by Gaufridy. Then Madeleine gave her testimony that included such grotesque things as losing her virginity to a bull, killing people and being forced to consume their flesh. Finally, Gaufridy is brought to the stand. He recanted all that was in his confession and fought against the arguments that Michaelis put forward. The witnesses and evidence were too convincing that the judge ruled immediately for his execution by fire.  

Gaufridy was walked through the streets of Aix for five hours. He was strung up atop the pyre. He was given his last words, those of innocence and devotion to God, and forgiveness to everyone for what he was about to endure. For some reason, he was granted mercy of strangulation before he was burned, perhaps by his convincing argument that in fact, he was innocent of the charges, but the crowd is too blood-thirsty…if the judgment was recanted this late, it would be chaos. The judge holds his ground on granting strangulation, however Michaelis knew this would lay doubt in people’s minds. While the executioner was tying up Gaufridy’s noose, Michaelis ran down to the pyre and lit it too fast to grant strangulation.  

After, back in the church, Michaelis questioned the girls to see their state. Louise is still tormented, seemingly gesturing with her eyes that Madeleine is the culprit. Michaelis commited her to an asylum against her protestations. Madeleine states she is cured and that she is leaving the church. Michaelis tried to force her to stay but Madeleine said to him that if he would force her, she would charge Michaelis as the guilty one. The accuser holds the key.  

We open on the final scene. Madeleine is sitting at the bench where she first met Gaufridy. A priest sits and inquires into what she is writing. She tells him of a betrayed love, a love that she should have never had. The two begin conversation, she pulls out a peach and offers it to him seductively. It begins again.


Aix-en-Provence possessions

Cases of possession

Louis Gaufridy