A Marseille priest at the stake for bewitching young girls

Of the wizards who officiated in Marseille, he is for sure the less famous of the two. Certainly, residents and supporters of OM know Raymond Goethalsnicknamed the “Belgian wizard”, who carried the football club of the city on the roof of Europe one evening in May 1993. Fewer, on the other hand, remember Louis Gaufridy, a Marseille priest who ended up being burned at the stake for witchcraft one late afternoon in April 1611.

When the young Louis Gaufridy came down from his native valley in the upper Verdon to win Marseilles and officiating there as a priest in 1595, the Kingdom of France was preparing to turn the page on the massacre of Saint-Barthélemy and the war of religion. In 1598, Henri IV promulgates the edict of Nantes which acts of freedom of worship, on a part of the territory, for the Protestants. And when it comes to freedom, it would seem that the priest became the parish priest of Les Accoules, whose church located in the Panier was razed during the Revolution, took a few about his vow of chastity. It took him very badly. Its charm was its footstool for the stake. From charm to bewitchment, there is only one step, easily taken by his accusers.

“Cannibal Feasts”

His curse? Having “possessed” two young women of noble origin placed in the Ursuline convent and whose confessions Louis Gaufridy was responsible for collecting. Among them, Madeleine de Demandols, who came from a family of high Provençal lineage, provider of many knights, and whose troubled state worried the mother superior of the convent. Quickly, and obviously not ignorant about carnal relations, she learned that her young boarder had been seduced by Louis and transferred her immediately to the neighboring convent of Aix-en-Provence in 1609.

“There, confessed by Jean-Baptiste Romillon, founder of the Aix convent, she claims that her offender is a powerful magician who provoked her possession and took her to the sabbath, that sinister nocturnal assembly where sorcerers worship the devil, mate and treat each other to cannibalistic feasts”, summarizes Joris Astier, researcher in modern history, in a 2019 publication based, in particular, on two books written by contemporaries of the affair. Quickly, Louise Capeau, a second possessed of the same convent appears and the two young girls are sent to the sanctuary of Sainte-Baume to be exorcised there by the inquisitor of Avignon, Sébastien Michaëlis.

The “possessions of Aix” go beyond the borders of Provence

The show that is given there “is a real theatre” continues the historian. Because the temporality of these events is hit hard by those of the history of France. On May 14, 1610, Henri IV, king of the “reconciliation” between Catholics and Protestants who promulgated the Edict of Nantes in 1598, is murdered by a devout Catholic. For the Church of France, it is then the moment to reaffirm the superiority of the Catholicism on its dissenting branch. And the windfall is beautiful with this good story of witchcraft with strong demons and devil’s marks. All the more so since the two young girls come from Protestant families. “Everything revolves around the confirmation of our holy Catholic faith”, writes the inquisitor Sébastien Michaëlis in The wonderful story, a work published on this affair shortly after Gaufridy’s death. Comments reported by Jean-Raymond Fanlo, professor of literature at the University of Aix-Marseille.

At the sanctuary of Sainte-Baume, the nature of exorcism changes. “He denounces the sorcerer, the turpitudes of the sabbath, he accumulates the overwhelming clues, the charmed objects by means of which the sorcerer was introduced into hearts; the “marks” on the bodies are uncovered. Verrine, Louise’s devil, takes second place, it is Madeleine/Belzébuth who occupies the first place. The possessed contort and make obscene gestures,” observes the professor. These “demonic stigmata”, marks that the devil leaves on the bodies of his followers are attested to by the royal doctor Jacques Fontaine, dispatched for the occasion, proof that the history of “these possessions of Aix-en-Provence” goes beyond broad regional boundaries. The Parliament of Provence, high court of justice, seized the case in February 1611.

Burned alive, in Aix, in front of an excited crowd

It remains to obtain the confessions of Louis Gaufridy, this “prince of the Sabbath” who made Louise and Madeleine his princesses with whom he hoped to engender the antichrist heralding the last judgment according to the millenarian belief which is experiencing a resurgence of interest at the time. . Imprisoned and interrogated for many months, the priest of Accoules confesses. Yes, he hoped to breed the antichrist. Yes, he is indeed a “prince of the sabbath”.

“I admit that there were twelve priests on the Sabbath and as each one must say his mass in his row, the said priests are seated in the highest degree as princes of the Sabbath”, admits Louis Gaufridy according to comments reported in a work dedicated to his 53 confessions and published soon after his execution. Two-thirds of his confessions relate to Sabbatical rites. “In these times of religious discord, […] the Sabbatical myth functions as a secret counter-society where the opponents of God organize and plot against his kingdom,” analyzes historian Joris Astier.

On April 18, 1611, Louis Gaufridy was found guilty of the crime of witchcraft. Twelve days later, he was burned alive in front of an excited crowd on the Place des Prêcheurs in Aix en Provencerelates the chronicle.

“The Cuckold Sorcerer”

This story of witchcraft in Provence, singular by the magnitude it took and a relative anachronism as the witchcraft trials refer more to the 12th and 13th centuries, spanned the ages. Many works and will be devoted to it throughout the following centuries and until today, of which the press echoes and delivers some good sheets.

“Messire Gaufridy had never had much luck and he continued to have none: the brand new rope with which the executioner wanted to strangle him, according to the pardon that the judges had given him at the instance of the Capuchins, broke, which caused him to be burned alive, just as it had been predicted,” thus relates the Journal of Political and Literary Debates of May 14, 1912, a publication that can be found on retronews.

Sixty-five years later, the tragic fate of Louis Gaufridy still fascinates. In its edition of October 22, 1976, The world delivers a literary review of dark fountain, a novel by Raymond Jean which revisits this witchcraft trial as a love story. “In the villages, the witch devastated the herds, spoiled the harvests, sewed the aiguillette, killed the newborns. In modern cities, the sorcerer cuckolds,” concludes Jean-Raymond Fanlo. In both cases, it ends at the stake.

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A Marseille priest at the stake for bewitching young girls

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