“The murder of children and sodomy”
Born at Machecoul, Pays de Retz, on 10 September 1404, to French nobility, Gilles de Rais was a renaissance man — a brave soldier, a linguist and an arts patron. He was also a killer with a particular fascination for children. After the death of his parents, his cruel grandfather, Jean de Craon, raised the young Gilles. The old man arranged for de Rais to marry the boy’s cousin, Catherine de Thouars of Brittany, the heiress to La Vendee and Poitou, but only after kidnapping her.
The marriage made de Rais among the wealthiest of men in France. He joined the French army and fought alongside Joan of Arc, finally retiring in 1435. Bored with civilian life and freed from the tyranny of his grandfather after the old man’s death in 1432, de Rais began to experiment with the occult. An extremely pretty boy by the name of Etienne Corrillaut, also known as Poitou, was taken to his castle at Machecoul and raped by de Rais.
Just as the boy was about to be killed, a servant suggested keeping Poitou as a page and de Rais agreed. Poitou became one of his most devoted acolytes. Boys would be lured to the castle where they would be fed and clothed. Then they would be taken to a special room where they would be hanged on a hook and raped. The boy would then be taken down, still alive, and comforted by de Rais before the process would be repeated again. De Rais either decapitated the child or had one of the servants do it.
If his lust was not sated, de Rais would continue to abuse the headless corpse, cutting open the stomach and pulling out the entrails before masturbating over the bloody mess. Afterwards, he would retire to bed where he would stay for some time while his servants cleared up his mess, cremating the corpse in a special oven. Hundreds of children died this way. On 15 May 1440 after mass, de Rais kidnapped the priest, Jean le Ferron of the Church of Saint-Etienne-de-Mer-Morte. Violating ecclesiastical property was a capital offence and the Bishop of Nantes began an investigation, which concluded on 29 July. De Rais and his cohorts were arrested on 15 September.
Machecoul, Pays de Retz, France
Gilles de Rais was charged with “the murder of children and sodomy, the invocation of demons, the offending of Divine Majesty and heresy”. On 21 October he confessed and took the blame so that his companions might be freed but two days later Poitou and another aide, Henrie Griard, were condemned. Some of the more graphic passages were ordered by the judges to be stricken from the record. On 26 October 1440 de Rais, Griard and Poitou were hanged at Nantes.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Despite his depravity, de Rais was a devout Catholic who built several chapels and a cathedral for the church.