Georges Bataille presents the case of the most infamous villain of the Middle Ages: Gilles de Rais. Fascinated with the depths of human experienceâ€“the meeting points of sexuality, violence, ritual, spirituality, and deathâ€“Bataille examines with dispassionate clarity the legendary crimes, trials and confessions of this grotesque and still-horrifying 15th-century child-murderer, sadist, alchemist, necrophile and practitioner of the Black Arts.
Gilles de Rais began his remarkable career as lieutenant to the devout martyr and saint Joan of Arc; after her execution, he fled to his estates in the countryside of France, where he began to ritually slaughter hundreds of children. After his arrest and subsequent trials, he was hanged and burned at Nantes, France on October 25, 1440. The latter section of The Trial of Gilles de Rais consists of the actual ecclesiastical and secular trial transcripts, annotated by Bataille, and translated from the ecclesiastical Latin by Pierre Klossowski.