History of the Devil, by Paul Carus, , at sacred-texts.com
THE saddest side of the Devil's history appears in the persecution of those who were supposed to be adherents of the Devil; namely, sectarians, heretics, and witches. The most ridiculous accusations were made and believed of the Manichees, the Montanists, the Novatian Puritans or Cathari (καϑαροί), the Albigenses, and other dissenters. They were said to worship the Devil by most obscene ceremonies, and their intercourse with him was described most minutely as indecent and outrageous. In times of a general belief in witchcraft and the Devil's power, nobody was safe against the accusation of being in the service of Satan. Thus the Stedingers, having effectually resisted the Bishop of Bremen when he tried to take their tithes from them by force of arms, were vanquished and cruelly slaughtered after having been denounced as Devil-worshippers. The order of the Templars, the richest and most powerful and even the most orthodox order of Christianity, was accused of the meanest and most bestial idolatry, simply because an avaricious king of France was anxious to deprive them of their
wealth and valuable possessions; and innumerable private citizens, poor people as a rule recklessly and rich people deliberately, were made in some way or other victims of this most shameful superstition, sometimes to benefit ecclesiasticism, sometimes to serve the interests of the powerful, sometimes out of sheer ignorance, and sometimes even with the purest and sincerest intentions of doing the right thing for the best of mankind, and with the pious desire of obeying the word of the Lord, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus xxii. 18).
The witch-prosecution mania was a general and a common disease of the age. On the one hand, it cannot (as is often supposed) be attributed to the influence of the Church alone, and it would, on the other hand, be a grave mistake to absolve the ecclesiastical institutions of the fearful crimes of this superstition; for the highest authorities of both Catholic and Protestant Christianity not only upheld the idea of witch-prosecution, but enforced it in the execution of the law in all its most terrible consequences.
It was natural that heretics should always be regarded as belonging to the same category as witches and wizards, for they, too, were according to the logic of ecclesiastical reasoning "worshippers of Satan." Deuteronomy commands that prophets and dreamers of dreams, who by signs or wonders that come to pass would persuade Israelites to obey other gods, "shall be put to death" (xiii. 5-11). We read:
"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine
own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
"Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
"Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
"But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
"And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
"And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you."
Relying on this passage, St. Jerome (340-420 A. D.) did not hesitate to advise the infliction of capital punishment upon heretics; and Leo the Great (Pope, 440-461 A. D.) takes the same view. 1
Priscillian, a bishop of Spain, a man of learning and pure morals, was the first heretic who was put to torture and together with some of his adherents decapitated at Treves in the year 385. The followers of Priscillian revered the memory of their teacher as that of a martyr, and formed a sect which continued to exist for a long time in spite of the excommunication of the Church. Pope Leo the Great justified and praised the condemnation of Priscillian.
Under Pope Alexander III., the title "Inquisitor," in the sense of judge in matters of faith, was used for the first time at the council of Tours (in 1163). The synod
of Verona (in 1184) cursed all heretics, and ordered them, in case they relapsed, to be handed over to the secular authorities for capital punishment. Pope Innocent III. (1198-1216) for the sake of crushing the Albigenses gave power to papal emissaries to sue the heretics, and enjoined all bishops on penalty of deposition to assist in the discovery and prosecution of unbelievers. Following in the footsteps of Gregory VII., he vindicated the supremacy of the Church over the State; he humiliated Philip Augustus of France, deposed Emperor Otto IV., compelled John of England to acknowledge the feudal sovereignty of the Pope and pay tribute. He instigated the fourth crusade (1202-1204) and exterminated the Albigenses. Under his papacy, at the suggestion of Castilian Dominic and the Bishop of Toulouse, the new order of Dominicans was instituted, which was destined to become the working force of the Inquisition. Pope Gregory IX. pursued the traditional policy with great vigor, establishing a regular inquisitorial office for Italy under the name of the "Holy Office," in 1224.
Gregory's policy was codified in an instrument of forty-five articles by the Council of Toulouse, in 1229, and thus the Inquisition became an established Church-institution, the appointment and superintendence of which formed an important prerogative of the Pope. It was not until this period that the Pope became the absolute ruler of the Church, for now even bishops could be cited before the papal tribunal of the Inquisition. Gregory IX. appointed (in 1232) the Dominicans as papal inquisitors, who performed the terrible duties of their office so faithfully that they truly earned the title of Domini canes,
[paragraph continues] "the sleuth-hounds of the Lord," which originated in a word-play on their name.
A famous fresco in the Santa Maria Novella at Florence entitled Domini canes, painted by Simone Memmi, represents the inquisitorial idea under the allegory of a pack of hounds chasing off the wolves from the sheepfold.
Gregory IX. (1227-1241) sent Conrad of Marburg to Germany and gave him unlimited power of citing before his tribunal all people suspected of witchcraft, commanding him to bring the guilty to the fagot. And this fiendish man obeyed with joy his master, whom he revered as the Vicar of Christ on earth. He encountered much opposition, for the people became rebellious, and even the Archbishops of Cologne, Treves, and Mayence attempted to resist him. But Conrad remained firm; his practices had the unequivocal sanction of his Holiness the Pope, and he did not hesitate to begin proceedings even against these three highest dignitaries of the Church in Germany. Wherever Conrad appeared, the fagots were lit, and many innocent people became the victims of his fanaticism. The Archbishop of Mayence, bent on stopping this fiend, wrote a letter to the Pope, in which he said:
"Whoever fell into his hands had only the choice between a ready confession for the sake of saving his life and a denial, whereupon he was speedily burnt. Every false witness was accepted, but no just defence granted,--not even to people of prominence. The person arraigned had to confess that he was a heretic, that he had touched a toad, that he had kissed a pale man, or some monster. Many Catholics suffered themselves to be burnt innocently rather than confess to such vicious crimes, of which they knew they were not guilty. The weak ones, in order to save their lives,
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POPE URBAN V. PROCLAIMING THE BULL. In Cæna Domini, 1362, CONDEMNING HERETICS.
lied about themselves and other people, especially about such prominent ones whose names were suggested to them by Conrad. Thus brothers accused their brothers, wives their husbands, servants their masters. Many gave money to the clergy for good advice as to how to protect themselves, and the greatest confusion originated." (Alberici Monachi chron. ad. a. 1233.) 1
The Archbishop's letter failed to impress his Holiness and did not in the least change the course of things.
On the contrary, Rome pursued more vigorously than ever its old policy, which was at last definitely formulated by Pope Urban V. in his bull "In cæna Domini," proclaimed in 1362, which sounded the slogan against all who ventured to dissent from Rome, and solemnly condemned heresy in strong and unequivocal terms.
Meanwhile the success of the Inquisition had been greatly imperilled by the opposition which Conrad of Marburg encountered in Germany. When the Inquisitor-General indicted Count Henry of Sayn for heresy, he wag cited before the German Diet that was held in Mayence. The Diet was not inclined to respect Conrad's authority and passed a vote of censure. Bent on vengeance for the
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THE CHAMBER OF THE INQUISITION. LISTENING TO AN INFORMER.
insult received, the Inquisitor left for Paderborn, but before he could do further mischief he was overtaken by several noblemen on the 30th of July, 1233, near Marburg, on the Lahn, and slain. 1 Thus he fell a martyr
to his bloody profession. The Germans breathed more freely, but Gregory IX. canonised him as a saint and martyr, and ordered that a chapel be built on the spot on which he was killed.
While the establishment of the Holy Office in Germany met with serious difficulties, the inquisitors were
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VARIOUS MANNERS OF CROSS-EXAMINING THE DEFENDANTS.
welcomed in France by Louis the Pious, Philip the Fair, and Charles IV.
The Inquisitor Hugo de Beniols had a number of prominent people burned alive at Toulouse, in 1275, among them Angèle, Lady of Labarthe, a woman of
sixty-five years accused of sexual intercourse with Satan. It is stated that she had borne a monster with a wolf's head and a serpent's tail, whose sole food consisted of babies. Under the rule of Charles IV. the ill-famed Bastile was built, because the prisons no longer sufficed to hold the indicted heretics.
The reign of Charles VI. is distinguished by a temporary
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A MAN AND A WOMAN CONVICTED OF HERESY WHO HAVE PLEADED GUILTY BEFORE BEING CONDEMNED TO DEATH.
lull in the witchcraft-prosecution in France, mainly due to the weakness of the papacy arising from the great schism between Rome and Avignon. The curses which the two popes mutually visited on their adherents appeared to change into blessings. The Synod of Langres (1404) speaks of soothsayers as impostors, and holds out to those who are in the power of Satan the hope of salvation through repentance and penance. The
tribunal of Toulouse (1606) enacted no other punishments upon thirteen persons than fines, fasts, pilgrimages, and almsgiving, while the Inquisitor was tried and convicted for the misappropriation of confiscated property. King Charles VI. ordered that he be deprived of his salary. 1
In Spain the Inquisition prospered best. The Directorium
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HERETICS CONDEMNED TO BE BURNED.
inqusitorum of N. Eymerich (Rome 1587), the inquisitor-general for Castile, affords us a complete insight into the proceedings of the Holy Office, its spy-system, its modes of cross-examination and torture, and its spoils. Torquemada and Ximenes were the most determined and unrelenting successors of Eymerich. 2 The
wealthiest, the most powerful, the most learned, were threatened alike, and even Archbishop Carranza, the primate of the Church of Spain, could not escape the prosecution of the inquisitors.
In the beginning of the fifteenth century, Johannes Nider, a German and a Dominican monk, published a book on Witches and Their Deceptions. 1 At the same
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A MAN AND A WOMAN CONDEMNED TO BE BURNED BUT PARDONED ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR CONFESSION.
time Pope Eugene IV. (1431-1447) encouraged the inquisitors in a circular letter to proceed with severity, "summarily, without ado, and without any judiciary form." 2
The Prior of St. Germain, William von Edelin, who had preached against the reality of witchcraft, had to beg pardon publicly in the Episcopal Chapel at Evreux on September 12, 1453, and to confess that he himself had worshipped Satan, had renounced his faith in the cross, and preached that witchcraft was an illusion at the especial command of the Devil for the propagation of the Satanic
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THE INQUISITION IN SESSION ON THE MARKET SQUARE AT MADRID
A. King and Queen.
dominion. 1 Edelin remained incarcerated and was soon released from further persecution by death.
In 1458 J. Nicolaus Jaquerius appeared in the field with another publication called the heretics' scourge or
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PROCESSION OF THE INQUISITION OF GOA.
A. The Banner.
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THE LAST SERMON PREACHED TO THE CONDEMNED.
[paragraph continues] Flagellum heriticorum fascinariorum 1 (Frankfort, 1581) in which Edelin's case is reported 2 as one argument among many others for the reality of witchcraft. And now at last all opposition to the practices of witch-prosecutors were put down.
The Inquisitor Pierre le Broussart, member of the Dominican order, cited during the absence of the Bishop
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THE HERETICS’ DEATH ON THE FAGOTS.
of Arras a number of persons before his tribunal and made them confess on the rack that they had been with the Waldenses; he promised to spare their lives if they agreed publicly to confess all the abominable crimes of which the Waldenses had been accused. At a public
meeting the accused persons appeared on a scaffold; they wore caps exhibiting pictures of Devil-worship. The various ceremonies of obscene demonolatry were read to them, and they were asked whether they were guilty. All the accused affirmed their guilt, whereupon, in utter neglect of previous promises, they were sentenced and turned over to the secular authorities to be burned alive. In vain did they now shout that they had been cheated, that they knew nothing of the crimes of which they had been accused, and that they had only confessed because they had been promised to be let off with a nominal punishment. Broussart was determined to set an example, and had them executed in 1560 in spite of the protestations of their innocence.
Witch-prosecutions received a new impulse in the year 1484 through . the bull of Pope Innocent VIII., beginning with the words Summis desiderantes affectibus. The inquisitors of Germany, Heinrich Institoris (whose German name was Krämer) and Jacob Sprenger, complained of having met with resistance while attending to their duties, and the Pope afforded them the desired assistance for the sake of strengthening the Catholic faith 1
and of preventing the horrible crimes and excesses of witchcraft. 1
The bull of Pope Innocent VIII. had reference to Germany only; but other popes, Alexander VI., Julius II., Leo X., and Hadrian IV., issued bulls written in the same spirit, instigating the zeal of the inquisitors to do their best for the purification of the faith and the supression of witchcraft.
The heinous bull of Pope Innocent VIII. was the immediate cause of the writing of the Malleus Maleficarum, or Witch-Hammer, which received the sanction of the Pope, and a patent from Emperor Maximilian. With the Witch-Hammer in hand, Sprenger and Institoris appeared in 1487 before the theological faculty of Cologne and demanded their approbation, which was given with reluctance and after long hesitation. The original form of the document is very guarded and approves of the principles of punishing witchcraft only "in so far as they do not contradict the sacred canons." This did not appear sufficient and the inquisitors insisted upon a more decisive verdict. There are four further articles which contain an unequivocal request to the secular authorities to assist the inquisition in the interest of the Catholic faith.
In addition the inquisitors secured a notary's certificate concerning the Emperor's patent and the approbation
of the theological faculty; but it is noteworthy that the Emperor's patent is not literally reproduced; nor has it (according to Soldan's 1 opinion) ever been published. The notary declares merely that the Emperor promises to protect the papal bull and to assist both inquisitors.
Such is the first introduction of the Witch-Hammer in Germany, and the book was at once recognised by zealots as the main source of information on witchcraft. Damhouder, the great criminalist of the sixteenth century, esteemed its authority as almost equal to the law; 2 and its baneful influence extends over a period of three centuries.
The Malleus Maleficarum, or Witch-Hammer, is one of the most famous and infamous works ever written. Its name indicated that it was intended to crush witchcraft. No author is mentioned but Sprenger's spirit is recognised in both its preface (the Apologia) and the various chapters of the book.' Its style is poor, its ideas are foolish, its intentions are villainous, and the advice given to the inquisitors concerning their procedure betrays a diabolical perfidiousness. The book contains the most confounded nonsense, often self-contradictory, and is throughout irrational and superstitious. The Witch-Hammer advises beginning the trial with the question "whether or not the person on trial believes in witchcraft." The statement is added: "Mind that witches generally deny the question." If the culprit denies, the inquisitor continues: "Well, then, whenever witches are
burnt, they are innocently condemned. "A denial of witchcraft sealed the doom of the accused at once, for the Witch-Hammer declares: "The greatest heresy is not to believe in witchcraft" (haeresis est maxima opera maleficarum non credere). However, if the accused affirmed the question, the tortures made him confess all that he knew about it and whether or not he had learned and practised the black art. To plead ignorance would not avail, for the very refusal of a confession was counted a crime under the name maleficium taciturnitatus. There was no escape, and the best course for the victim on the rack was to confess all at once without a relapse into denials, for that at least abbreviated the procedure and ended the tragedy without its incidental terrors. As a rule the prisoners of the inquisition ask for death as a boon and wherever possible commit suicide; for torture made of every one a hopeless cripple unfit for either work or enjoyment of life, even though he might be released. Acquittals, however, were rare and the Witch-Hammer advises the inquisitors never to acquit, but only temporarily to stop proceedings. A nolle pros was recommended as the safer way. The culprit should be handed over to the secular authorities for capital punishment, especially if the sentence of being burned alive was mitigated to decapitation, 1 a penalty which the Church avoided inflicting; for "the Church thirsts not for blood" (ecclesia non sitit sanguinem). A confessor and even the judge himself is advised to speak in private with the prisoner
and upon the promise of pardon and mercy to extort a confession. The Witch-Hammer suggests that the judge may say: "'If you confess, I shall not condemn you to death,' for he may at any time call in another judge to take his place, who is at liberty to pronounce the sentence."
The victims of the Inquisition were practically without any assistance, for witchcraft was regarded as an exceptional crime (crimen atrocissimum and crimen exceptum) for which the usual rules of procedure were not binding. It belonged before the secular and also the ecclesiastical tribunal (crimen fori mixti). The culprit must be dealt with according to the maxim of Pope Boniface VIII. (1294-1303), "simply and squarely, without the noise and form of lawyers and judges." 1
To us who live in an age of calmer thought and more exact investigation, it is difficult to understand how the Witch-Hammer could ever have been believed.
Witch-prosecution appears to us as rascality pure and simple, but it was not. It was the result of a firm and deep-seated religious conviction, as may be learned from the Malleus Maleficarum, a work of John Trithemius, Abbot of the Monastery of Spongheim (1442-1516), who at the request of Joachim, Markgrave of Brandenburg, investigated the subject, and after years of conscientious study presented to the world his views in a
book of four volumes, which was completed October 16, in the year 1508, when the pious abbot had reached the mature age of sixty-six years.
Trithemius distinguishes four classes of wizards and witches: (1) Those who hurt and kill others through poison and other natural means. (2) Those who injure others by the art of magic formulas. (3) Those who converse with the Devil personally. (4) Those who have actually concluded a contract with the Devil and have thus procured his assistance for evil designs. Trithemius believes that there is no other way of protecting the commonwealth against the obnoxious influence of these malefactors than by extirpating them, but best by burning them alive. He says:
"It is to be lamented that the number of witches in all countries is very great, for indeed there is not a village, be it ever so small, which does not harbor at least one of the third and of the fourth class. But how rare are the judges who punish these crimes against God and nature."
And in another passage the abbot utters the complaint:
"Men and animals die through the infamy of these women, and none considers that it is due to the malignity of witchcraft. There are many who suffer from serious diseases and do not even know that they are bewitched."
The great dangers of witchcraft seemed to demand extraordinary means for combating its evils; and thus the torture, which had formerly been applied only in exceptional and special cases, began to be developed in a most formidable and barbaric way.
Suspected persons were subjected to fire and water
ordeals, but the latter test was preferred; and this is the reason, as we read in König's work on the subject:
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THE WATER ORDEAL.
"A case is known in which the accused person successfully passed through the fire ordeal. It happened immediately before the appearance of the Witch-Hammer. In the archives of Donau-Eschingen there is a document according to which a certain Anna Henne from Röthenbach, in the Black Forest, in 1485, cleared herself of the suspicion of witchcraft by carrying a hot iron."
Concerning the water ordeal the same author says:
"The water ordeal is very old. Ludwig, the Pious, abolished it, but Hinkmar of Rheims defended its practice. In the times of Bernhard of Clairvaux, it was used against the Manichees. Pope Innocent III.
again abolished it in the Lateran Council, 1215. The famous law book, The Saxon Mirror, written by Eike von Repkow, in the year 1230, provides that if two men lay claim to the same thing and the neighbors can bear no witness, the water-ordeal shall decide."
The Mirror of the Swabians, also of the thirteenth century, contains the same proposition. In the sixteenth century the practice was almost universally established. As to the underlying idea, König says:
"There are opposite views applied to the ordeal of water. According to the one, the question was how long the accused could remain under water; according to the other the innocence of the accused was proved by sinking, the guilt by swimming. In both cases, the view prevailed that witches possessed a specific levity, and the rule was adopted that 'The water refused to receive in its depths those who had shaken off the baptismal water through a renunciation of their faith.'" (Ausgeb. d. Menschenwahns, pp. 100 ff.)
Who can contemplate without indignation and holy wrath the instruments of torture used by inquisitors in their infamous vocation? There are thumbscrews, there are blacksmith's tongs and pincers to tear out the fingernails or to be used red-hot for pinching; there is the rack, Spanish boots, collars, chains, etc., there are boards and rollers covered with sharp spikes; there is the "Scavenger' s Daughter," also the "Iron Virgin," a hollow instrument the size and figure of a woman, with knives inside which are so arranged that, when closing, the victim would be lacerated in its deadly embrace.
Incredible ingenuity was displayed in the invention of these instruments of torture; and one of the executioner's swords, which still hangs in the Torturers' Vault at Nuremberg on the left side of the entrance, exhibits
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THE TORTURE ROOM AT NUREMBERG. (After C. Rau. Reproduced from B. E. König.)
in bad Latin the blasphemous inscription, "Solo Deo Gloria!" 1
The hangmen took pride in their profession and regarded themselves as disgraced if they could not make their victims confess whatever the inquisitors wanted. Their usual threat, when a heretic, a wizard, or a witch was handed over to them, was: "You will be tortured until you are so thin that the sun will shine through you." The instruments look horrible enough, but the practice was more horrible than the wildest imagination can depict.
Before the torture began, the accused were forced to drink the witch-broth, a disgusting concoction mixed with the ashes of burnt witches, and supposed to protect the torturers against the evil influence of witchcraft. The filth 2 of the dungeons was a very effective means of making the prisoner despondent and preparing him for any confession upon which he could be condemned. He was frequently secured by iron manacles fixed in the wall or placed under heavy timbers which prevented the free use of his limbs, rendering him a helpless prey to rats, mice, and vermin of all sorts.
Consider only the fiendish details of the torture applied to a woman in the year 1631 on the first day of her trial: 3
"(1) The hangman binds the woman, who was pregnant, and places her on the rack. Then he racked her till her heart would fain
break, but had no compassion. (2) When she did not confess, the torture was repeated, the hangman tied her hands, cut off her hair, poured brandy over her head and burned it. (3) He placed sulphur in her armpits and burned it. (4) Her hands were tied behind her, and she was hauled up to the ceiling and suddenly dropped down. (5) This hauling up and dropping down was repeated for some hours, until the hangman and his helpers went to dinner. (6) When they returned, the master-hangman tied her feet and hands upon her back; brandy was poured on her back and burned. (8) Then heavy weights were placed on her back and she was pulled up. (9) After this she was again stretched on the rack. (10) A spiked board is placed on her back, and she is again hauled up to the ceiling. (11) The master again ties her feet and hangs on them a block of fifty pounds, which makes her think that her heart will burst. (12) This proved insufficient; therefore the master unties her feet and fixes her legs in a vise, tightening the jaws until the blood oozes out at the toes. (13) Nor was this sufficient; therefore she was stretched and pinched again in various ways. (14) Now the hangman of Dreissigacker began the third grade of torture. When he placed her on the bench and put the I shirt' on her, he said: 'I do not take you for one, two, three, not for eight days, nor for a few weeks, but for half a year or a year, for your whole life, until you confess: and if you will not confess, I shall torture you to death, and you shall be burned after all. (15) The hangman's son-in-law hauled her up to the ceiling by her hands. (16) The hangman of Dreissigacker whipped her with a horsewhip. (17) She was placed in a vise where she remained for six hours. (18) After that she was again mercilessly horsewhipped. This was all that was done on the first day."
This is not barbarous, this is not bestial, it is satanic. And such deeds could be done in the name of God, for the sake of the religion of Jesus, and by the command of the highest authorities of the Christian Church!
From the great number of prosecutions for witchcraft we select one instance only, which, however, is neither typical nor extraordinary in its horrors.
We read in Konig's popular exposition of human superstitions, 1 p. 240:
"There was a farmer by the name of Veit, living in a village of Southern Bohemia. He was famous for his wit and unusual humor. At the same time he was physically strong, and whenever there was a quarrel at the inn he came off victor. The rumor spread that he was inviolable, as sometimes hunters are supposed to be bullet-proof, and Veit never denied it. By and by he was regarded as a wizard, and as his cattle prospered best and his fields yielded the richest crops, he was soon supposed to be in league with the Evil One. Now it happened that the village was troubled with mice, and Veit was suspected of having caused the plague. When questioned about it, he granted in a moment of humor that he had sent the mice but would soon drive them away again, and he promised to prove at the next church-fair that he could actually make mice. When the day appointed came, the inn was overcrowded, and farmer Veit appeared with a big bag under his arm, into which he requested the company to throw twenty pebbles. They did so without noticing that the bag was double. And while one part was empty the other contained twenty mice. When the pebbles were put in the bag, Veit murmured a magic formula and let the mice loose in the presence of his frightened audience.
"This performance, however, had unexpected and tragic results. The people were convinced that it was the work of hell, and Veit escaped with difficulty from the inn. Veit was arrested the next night and delivered to the criminal court. A mole on his body was thought to be a stigma of the Devil, and all the witnesses agreed that he was a genuine wizard. His case was thoroughly investigated, and even the University of Prague was consulted; the verdict signed by the Rector Magnificus with his own hand was
against him, and Veit, who stoutly maintained his innocence, had to endure all the tortures of the inquisition. At last he was burned alive and the ashes of his body were thrown to the winds. We read in the records of the law-suit that Veit mounted the stake 'without showing repentance or doing penance.' And when chains were put on his neck, around his body, and around his feet, he cried with a loud voice, 'My God, I die innocently.' judges, professors, physicians, and theologians agreed unanimously in the conviction of this innocent man."
Volumes might be filled with accounts of the many thousand various instances of witch-prosecutions, and every single case is so soul-harrowing that we prefer to pass them by in silence. The accusations are almost always very circumstantial and definite, mostly of brutal indecency and ridiculously impossible.
The Angel of Augsburg.
Witch-prosecution was a convenient weapon in the bands of unscrupulous men for accomplishing crooked ends or satisfying some private vengeance. One of the most tragic and pathetic cases is the sad death of Agnes Bernauer, a beautiful woman, the daughter of a barber and the sweetheart of Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria.
Agnes was born about 1410 in Biberach, and it appears that she was a mere servant girl in Augsburg at the time Duke Albrecht of Würtemberg, the son of Duke Ernest, made her acquaintance. The story that Agnes was of patrician birth and that the lovers met at the great tournament is mere legend, but this much is sure that Agnes was extraordinarily beautiful, with golden hair, and delicate, noble features. Even her enemies could not help praising the nobility of her appearance. We
know little or nothing about the relations between Duke Albrecht and Agnes, except that he courted her and took her with him to his residence in the County Vohnburg.
Duke Ernest, Albrecht's father, knew about Agnes's presence at Vohnburg but he cared little, until he became anxious about having a legal heir to his duchy. Then he requested his soil to marry the daughter of Duke Erik of Brunswick, but Albrecht refused on account of the love he bore to Agnes.
When persuasion appeared to be without avail, Duke Ernest thought of other means to separate his son from the lowly-born maiden. At a public tournament, he ordered the judges to refuse admittance to Albrecht on the ground that for the sake of a concubine he neglected his filial duties. Albrecht was greatly exasperated and as soon as he returned to Vohnburg he recognised Agnes as his wife. With the consent of his uncle, Duke William, he moved to the castle Straubing, which he donated to her and surrounding her with a ducal court, called her henceforth Duchess Agnes.
The poor woman did not enjoy the splendor of the court. She feared the wrath of the old Duke, and built, in a melancholy presentiment of her sad fate, her own burial chapel, in the monastery of the Carmelites at Straubing. Her happiness was of short duration.
In Albrecht's absence, Duke Ernest seized Agnes, had her imprisoned and denounced her as a witch. Her condemnation had been decided upon before the trial began, and the verdict pronounced her guilty of having bewitched Duke Albrecht and thus committed a criminal offence against Duke Ernest. The judgment ordered her
to be drowned in the river, and Duke Ernest signed the verdict.
The hangmen carried the young woman to the bridge at Straubing and thrust her, in the presence of a multitude
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AGNES BERNAUER DROWNED AS A WITCH AT THE REQUEST OF ERNEST, DUKE OF BAVARIA.
Shows how the unscrupulous availed themselves of the extraordinary power of witch tribunals. (Woodcut by G. Dietrich. Reproduced from B. E. König.)
of spectators, into the water. But the current drifted her ashore and she held up her white arms appealing to
the people for help. The people were moved and she might have been saved, had not one of the hangmen, fearing the wrath of the old duke, seized a pole and catching her long golden hair held her under water until she expired. This happened in the year 1435.
She was buried in St. Peter's cemetery of Straubing.
When the young Duke on his return was informed of the terrible death of his beloved Agnes he swore vengeance, and in alliance with his cousin Duke Ludwig of Bavaria-Ingolstadt, began to wage a vigorous war against his own father. Through the mediation of the Emperor, however, he was reconciled with his father at the council of Basel.
Duke Ernest built a chapel over the grave of his innocent victim and had an annual mass read over her for the welfare of her soul. Duke Albrecht thereupon agreed to marry Anna, Princess of Brunswick, by whom he had ten children, although it cannot be said that his married life was a happy one.
In 1447 Duke Albrecht had the body of Agnes transferred to the chapel which she had built for herself in the Carmelite monastery; and he had the resting-place of her remains adorned with a beautiful marble image of her in full figure with the simple inscription:
"Obiit Agnes Bernauerin. Requiescat in pace."
Poets who have immortalised her name, 1 and the
people of Bavaria among whom her memory is still cherished, call her "the angel of Augsburg."
* * *
One of the most comical witch-prosecutions took place in 1474 against a diabolical rooster who had been so presumptuous as to lay an egg. The poor creature was solemnly tried, whereupon he was condemned to die at the stake and publicly burned by order of the authorities of the good city of Basel.
We abstain from entering further into the details of the prosecution of witches, which gradually developed into a systematic business involving great emoluments to judges, torturers, hangmen, inquisitors, denouncers, witnesses, and all persons connected with the process. It is a doleful work to go over the mere statistics of the autos-da-fé, and every single story of a trial for witchcraft cannot but rouse our deepest indignation; and even now the belief in witchcraft is not yet extinct among the so-called civilised races of mankind.
308:1 See Epist. xv., ad Turribium.
312:1 Roskoff, Geschichte des Teufels, II., pp. 215-216.
312:2 The illustrations on pages 312-320 are reproduced from Picart.
313:1 See Konrad von Marburg, by Henke (Marburg, 1861), and another work of the same title by Beck (Breslau, 1861).
Conrad was the father confessor of Elizabeth, the widow of the Landgrave of Thuringia. The poor woman submitted to most indecent corporal punishments, and was sainted as a reward. If the same events happened to-day, both the Landgravine p. 314 and her father confessor would probably have been transferred from the Wartburg to an insane asylum. It is scarcely credible, but nevertheless true, that a, book appeared in defense of Conrad as an inquisitor and of his fiendish deeds by Kaltner under the title Konrad von Marburg und die Inquisition in Deutschland. Prague, 1882.
316:1 Lamothe-Langon, III., p. 299, and Soldan, p. 193.
316:2 F. Hoffmann, Geschichte der Inquisition, Bonn, 1878. Llorente, Geschichte der spanischen Inquisition. German, from the Spanish.
317:1 Fr. Joannes Nider, Suevi ordin. praedicat. s. theolog. profess. et hereticae pestis inquisitoris, liber insignis de maleficiis et eorum deceptionibus.
317:2 "Summarie simpliciter et de plano, ac sine strepitu et figura judicii."--Pope Eugene in his circular letter to the Inquisitors of 1437.
318:1 See Raynald ad. ann. 1451.
320:1 The book is frequently appended to the Malleus Maleficarum.
320:2 f Chapter IV. contains the abjuration formula.
321:1 ". . . . ut fides catholica nostris potissime temporibus ubique augeatur et floreat, ac omnis heretica pravitas de finibus fidelium procul pellatur. . . . Sane nuper ad nostrum non sine ingenti molestia pervenit auditum quod . . . . complures utriusque sexus personæ . . . . cum dæmonibus incubis et succubis abuti, ac suis incantationibus . . . . mulierum partus, animatium fœtus, terræ fruges .... periri, suffocari et extingui facere . . . ." (See Soldan, Hexenprocesse, p. 222. Roskoff, I., pp. 226-292.)
322:1 Giovanno Ballista Cibo, when elected pope in 1484, chose the name Innocent, probably in commemoration of Innocent VII. The people of his time, thinking that he did not deserve the name, called him Nocens. He had seven natural children, perhaps more. A humorous distich castigates him as follows:
323:1 Hexenprocesse, p. 222.
323:2 "Ita recepta est in hoc scribendi genere eorum authoritas ut pro lege apud omnes habeatur."--Damhouder's Praxis rerum criminalium.
324:1 "Saecularem curiam affectuose deprecamur quatenus citra sanguinis effusionem et mortis periculum suam sententiam moderatur," was the usual clause when the inquisition handed their victims over to the secular authorities.
325:1 "Simpliciter et de plano, absque advocatorum et judiciorum strepitu et figura,"--a phrase, which, as we saw, was almost literally repeated by Pope Eugenius IV.
330:1 It ought to be Soli Deo Gloria.
330:2 Carceris squalores is the expression used by the author of the Witch-Hammer.
330:3 Translated from König, Ausgeburten des Menschenwahns, p. 130 See also Soldan, Hexenprocesse, pp. 269-270.
332:1 Ausgeburten des Menschenwahns, ein Volksbuch, Rudolstadt.
336:1 Folksong on Agnes die Pernawerin. Count Törring (1780), Böttger (1846), Melchior Meyr (1862), Friedrich Hebbel (1855), Otto Ludwig (a posthumous fragmentary design of a drama begun in 1852). König, Ausgeburten des Menschenwahns recapitulates the story as the legend has it. For a critical review and an exposition of the historical facts see Dr. Christian Meyer's article on Agnes Bernauer in Die Gartenlaube, 1873, p. 454.