Nicole Aubrey was a 15 or 16 year old girl who was part of a exorcism process in 1565 and 1566, conducted by the counter-reformed Roman Catholic church in the French city of Laon during the French wars of religion. It was the so-called Miracle of Laon.

Events leading up to the exorcism

In the 16th century, protestantism split of from the Roman Catholic Church, which gradually resulted in a division of Western Europe in a protestant and a catholic camp. Many Roman Catholics, including the Pope, tried to make an end to protestantism and reformed the Roman Catholic Church during the Council of Trent. In the Council of Trent, the Pope got more power at the cost of nationally organized Roman Catholic churches, like the Gallican Roman Catholic church of France. The Roman Catholics in France regarded their church as a national French church, independent from Rome and from the Council of Trent.

Before 1560, protestantism, in the form of Calvinism spread through France. Only a minority of France became Calvinists, called Huguenots in the french context, but this included a couple of influential noblemen, like the prince of Condé who lived near Laon. Many Huguenots lived in the city of Laon.

The adherents of the Gallican Roman Catholic church didn't like Calvinism and preferred that all Frenchmen were part of the Gallican Roman Catholic church. But, they supported the protestants, in order to counter the attempts of the counter-reformed Roman Catholic church from taking over the country. The difference between the two branches of Roman Catholicism was not absolute. The Counter-reformed Roman Catholics were able to establish their own presence in the French Roman Catholic church and in the French government. Also the Calvinists were influential within the French government, during the rule of the regent Catherine de Medici. De Medici ruled with the support of the Gallican Roman Catholics and the Huguenots.

The Counter-Reformed Roman Catholic church responded with the massacre of Vassy, leading to the war of 1562-1563. The 'miracle of Laon' occurred in the peace after this war.

Exorcism of Aubrey

On 3 November 1565, Nicole Aubrey was diagnosed for being possessed by demons. She suffered from a vision on her grandfather. Daily processions were conducted by Roman Catholics to the cathedral of Laon. There it appeared that she was possessed by Beelzebuth, who claimed to be the prince of the Huguenots. Beelzebuth supposedly said that Huguenots were cruel and infidel. They had stolen the communion wafer, cut it up, boiled it and burned the pieces. According to Beelzebuth, the Huguenots would do more evil to Jesus Christ, than the Jews had done. On 8 February 1566, the 'miracle of Laon' occurred, when Beelzebuth left the body of Aubrey and the girl was saved. Some Huguenots were convinced by the exorcism and converted back to Roman Catholicism. Others considered the exorcism as a hoax and remained protestant.


In 1567, war broke out again. The news of this 'miracle' spread through Europe and became part of the Counter-Reformed Roman Catholic propaganda against protestantism. It was the start of the witch hunt in France, which was severely limited by the resistance of the French courts, who were dominated by adherrents of the Gallicanism. According to the Counter-Reformed demonologists all people are atheist who are not Roman Catholic and who don't believe that witchcraft is widespread in society and should be exterminated with the aid of the death penalty for witches.

Outside France, many protestant countries were conducting witch hunts as well. It is momentarily widespread among protestant churches in Africa.


Pearl, Jonathan L., The Crime of Crimes. Demonology and politics in France 1560-1620 (Waterloo 1999) 43-45.

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