Gilles de Rais was subjected to two trials. One was by an ecclesiastical court and the other by a secular, both conducted by Jean de Malestroit, who was, conveniently, both Bishop of Nantes and Chancellor to the Duchy of Brittany. After Gilles was read his charges on September 15, de Malestroit assembled a slew of witnesses from all echelons of society. Hearing their testimony, he increased the original charges chiefly related to the seizing of Saint-Etienne-de-Mere-MortÃ¨ to 49 indictments for heresy, murder, Sodomy, and paedophilia. On 9th October, Gilles heard the new accusations, and pled not guilty to all charges.
Gilles also refused to swear an oath to the truth of his testimony, despite being threatened four times with excommunication. The court was adjourned twice, after Gilles labelled the judges âthieving rogues who took bribes’, and that he âwould rather be hanged than answer their questions’. On October 13, Gilles was formally excommunicated, and given 48 hours to reconsider his stance. Excommunication was a serious matter: in Catholic theology, it would see the subject condemned irredeemably to the pit of hell. Thus at court on October 15, after tearfully pleading for the excommunication to be lifted, Gilles took the oath.
The court still needed to secure a guilty plea, despite the extensive verbal evidence against Gilles. Thus they threatened him with torture to extract his confession, as was customary in 15th-century France. On October 21, the day he was due to be put in excruciating agony, Gilles suddenly confessed all. He did not hold back on lurid detail, as he noted: âI have told you… enough to hang 10, 000 men’. The rest of the trial was perfectly simple. On October 25, Gilles de Rais and his page, Poitou, were convicted of all charges and condemned to death.