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and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots'
houses. They were as fed horses in the morning : every
one neighed after his neighbour's wife." ' ^

Erasnms Griininger says at the same date : ' It is
no new or imcommon thing among our people to boast
to others at pubhc meals or banquets of all their villain-
ous practices, their whoredoms, murders, bloodshed,
fraud, usury, trickery, and other such sinister doings,
as if they had done something very fine and praise-
worthy.' ' Adultery is now a common transgression.
People are not ashamed of it, they talk and even laugh
about it openly.' ' Some amongst us think it an
impossibihty that these vices can ever be abolished,
because they have gained ground so terribly and have
grown into fixed and general habits.' ' In our duchy
of Wiirtemberg w^horedom was formerly something
rare and unusual, but now it is so common that people
are no longer ashamed of it, and this sort wears finer
clothes, jewels, and ornaments than other folic.' ~

* We all undeniably serve the fiesh and its lusts,' said,
in 1607, the North German educationahst and preacher
Otto Casmann, ' and most of us take the Evangel as a
cloak, in order to sin all the more shamelessly. Insati-
able gluttony, and unparalleled sensuahty, fierce passions
and excesses of all sorts rage everywhere nowadays.
Meanwhile we see the evangehcal theologians^ and

' Alardus, Panacea Sacra, B. 3. Complaints of growing immorality
in Nuremberg occur in v. Soden, Kriegs- und Sittengesch. i. 302.
- Griininger, 10, 17, 29, 35-36.


preachers either wasting tlieir energies over unworthy
and absurd trifles, in fierce strife and disgraceful conten-
tion among each other, or else sunk in voluptuous living,
lounging idly about and joining company with the worst
set in immorality, drunkenness, and so forth. Oh what
sins of bhnd, carnal lust does one not see nowadays!
Whoredom is no longer regarded as a sin, and people
do not scruple to defend it openly. Adultery has
become a joke and an entertainment, and adulterers
stand up before the pubhc in law-courts, in council-
houses, in theological chairs. If only the Hue might
be drawn at letting people tainted with the awful sin of
sodomy be presidents of Christian churches and supreme
lords over religion and faith ! ' ^

Amid the general prevalence of immorality, thieving,
robbery, murder, and incendiarism, suicide and ruthless
attacks on the common welfare gained ground in an
appalhng manner, and so, especially, did crime com-
mitted by youthful evil-doers.'^ Just as the superstitious

' Bollinger, ii. 620.

- Ludwig Gilhausen in his pamphlet Arbor iudiciaria criminalis
(Frankfort, 1614) speaks in a very noteworthy manner concerning the
increase of criminal cases. ' For two reasons,' he says in the preface,
' I have taken on myself the burden of editing this work, although my
shoulders are not fitted to it. First, because in our corrupt century,
close to the end of time, crime of all sorts has so gained the upper hand
and become so common, that one cannot sufficiently bewail it. For what
shall I say of the crime against the divine Majesty, blasphemy against
God ? All god-fearing people must confess that this crime is now so
common that even the children in the street who can scarcely speak,
utter fearful oaths, imprecations, and blasphemies. Of the more adult
transgressors I cannot bring myself to speak. Were the punishments
which the righteous God ordained in the old covenant against this sin
still in use, all the stones of the town would not suffice to inflict on llicso
blasphemers the pelting that they deserve. And what of crime against
the earthly majesty ? Is not this also as frequent and widespread ?
To om- prince [the Landgrave of Hesse, to whom the preface is addressed]

15:^ nisi'oin' of tiik c;erman rKOPLE

character of the period gave petty tliieves opportunity
and pretext for the grossest extortion, so, too, it stamped
on crime in general the cliaracter of the demoniacal.
Seldom had the art of mixing poisons, coupled with the
wildest superstitious fonnula?, flourished as it did in
those days. Magic drinks, magic spells, incantations,
imprecations, invocations of the devil, contracts with
the devil play an enormous part in the criminal deeds
undertaken against the bodies and lives of others. Like
voluptuousness, the cruelty closely related to it appears
in more and more brutal and abhorrent forms. The
popular imagination, inflamed with tales, pictures of
hobgoblins and devils, did not stop at the mere con-
templation of these horrors, but took them into their
lives, and, at the same time, invested sin and vice with
the character of the diabohcal and the brutish. The
criminal statistics of those times produce often an

this is only too well known, and assuredly he complains not a httlo about
it. How frequently insurrection and rebellion of the subjects against
their nilers occur, Ijooks of lustory show plainly in many passages. To
give many details al)Out robbery and plunder is not necessary, for such
numerous and inhumanly cruel cases of depredation, murder, plunder, &c.
occur everywhere (except in Hesse), that evidence in superfluity will be
furnished to posterity. Cases of robbery are very numerous nowadays.
It not seldom happens in towns where there are great commercial depots
that whole bands of thieves are caught and hanged. The proof of this
lies in personal experience, and can be obtained in our immediate
neighboiu-hood. Suits against defamation of character flood the
law-courts. Scoundrels from the dregs of the populace revile and
slander others without shame or scruple, not only such people as
formerly had enjoyed a good name and reputation, but they defame
and mangle with the blackest lies and vilifications those who are
perfectly innocent. Other transgressions, for brevity's sake, I
prefer to pass over in silence.' Cyr. Spangenberg, Historia von
der flechtenden Kranclcheit der Pestilentz (without locahty, 1552), says :
' Murder and bloodshed, together with robbery and plundering,
have increased so enormously that it would be too much even for
the Turks.'


impression of horror and disgust : the contrast with
the earher CathoUc period stands out in a starthng

In Stralsund the overthrow of the old church system
and the introduction of the new doctrine was accom-
panied with unspeakable horrors. The preachers
appointed by the council, in their sermons against
the Pope, branded the bishops and all the clergy,
the monks and the nuns, as wolves, deceivers, and
criminals, and called on the people to rid the town
wholesale of all the clergy, and to wash their hands
in their blood. In a pubhc carnival play, not the
Pope only, but the Emperor, and even the Saviour,
were made objects of ridicule. When a priest
(October 10, 1524) in St. Nicholas's church exhorted
the people to obedience towards the clerical and lay
authorities, they tore him down from the pulpit,
dragged him to the market, and there gave him such a
thrashing * that he bled hke a slaughtered pig.' This
happened in the presence of most of the council. There
were also many members of the council present when
another clergyman in the church of St. Nicholas was
so badly wounded by the town-beadle and the hangman
that ' he bled a whole kettleful of blood in the church.'
A reading-master in the convent of St. Catherine was
almost strangled. The women in the nunneries were
exposed to the vilest persecutions. The nuns of St.
Bridget were pelted with mud and stones during divine
service, called ' whores of heaven ' by the preachers,
and at last forcibly ejected. At the instigation of
the preachers the populace forced its way into the
churches and convents, pillaged them, defiled the altars,
smashed the images of saints and the crucifixes, and

151 iiisroRv OK I'lii': cki^max PKorLK

trampled under foot the sacred liosts. The whole body
of clergy and monks, robbed of their goods, were obliged
to leave the town, and the town syndicus actually tried
to make out that it showed great generosity on the
part of the council that the plundered and maltreated
victims had been allowed to seek homes elsewhere.^
* Those of Stralsund,' said a contemporary, ' have
so^vn the wind and they will reap the whirlwind ! Their
uniDunished crimes and bloody deeds will produce a
whole generation of criminals and bloodshedders.'-
And so it fell out. Within the years from 1554-1587,
167 cases of murder occurred in Stralsund. During
this period twenty-one persons were publicly scourged
for different crimes ; eighty-nine were banished from
the town ; twenty-seven, most of them guilty of adultery
and incest, were first scourged and then banished ;
forty-six were hanged ; three thieves were hanged on
the same day, and another day five robbers were
beheaded. Capital punishment was inflicted on thirty-
eight people for robbery, mm^der, incendiarism, adultery,
incest, &c. Eighteen people, mostly murderers, were
punished by the wheel, seven were condemned to be
burnt for witchcraft, murder, and false coining, two
were buried alive, another was drowned.-'^ The Stralsund
town scribe, Joachim Lindemann, tells of a family, in
1554, of whom the father was killed by one of the sons,
and the son torn with pincers ; two other sons were
killed by peasants, and the fourth son, who had had to
sue his brother on account of the murder of the father,
afterwards beat the mother. The mother learnt at

^ See present work, vol. v. 119, n. 1.

- Merhvurdige Eechtsfcille, d-c. (1739), p. 32 ff.

•'' Baltische Studien, 7, Heft ii. 13-21.


the clerk^s office at what place in the to^vll her son was
to be tortured with pincers, and did not show the least
sign of grief or horror on account of her son or her
husband. 1

In the Pomeranian chronicle of Joachim von Wedel-


Wedel (June 17, 1581), there is an accoimt of the
execution of a murderer and highway robber, who,
on his own confession, had killed his six children
and 964 other people. Another criminal was executed
on September 16 of the same year who had killed
544 people." At Thorn, after the new doctrine
had gained the upper hand, injuries and criminal
cases multiplied endlessly ; from 1540-1650 over
90 criminals were punished with death : thieving,
church-robbery, highway robbery, murder (above all
child-murder), poisoning, sodomy, bigamy, adultery,
incest, witchcraft, suicide, became *tlie order of the
day.^ 3

In Mecklenburg, as early as 1566, Duke John
Albrecht had complained of 'the frightful increase of
murder even among relations.'''^

Two years later the ducal fiscal officer, Dr. Belim,
said in October 1568 at a 'Rechtstag' at Wismar:
'Murder is almost becoming an unpunishable habit.
Murder and adultery go unpunished owing to bribes
and to the intervention of private persons.' At
Rostock, in August 1567, there were three execu-
tions; that of a son brought to justice by his own

' Baltische Sludien, 7, Heft ii. lG-17.

- Wedel, Hausbuch, 283 ; of. 354, down to the year 1594 : a widow
murdered her son and her daughter-in-law; a five-fold cliild murder
at Klein-Mullingen.

•' Dollinger, ii. 657. ' Schirrmacher, i. 500,


father, Gercl Schmidt, a wool- weaver, for having
hrokon opoi\ liis cliost, stolen money from it, and
beaten his stepmother. On August 17 a man was
put to death by the sword who confessed to having
seduced liis master's betrothed ; and at the same
time a servant was executed for giving counters for
gold gulden.^ At Malchin and Neubrandenburg within
a short period after 1568 six murders were committed.
At the provincial Diets the protection to be granted
to murderers on their way to the courts of justice
was repeatedly a subject of discussion.-

Interesting matter for criminal statistics of the two
towns of Zeitz and Naumburg is contained in the
chronicle of the Naumburg cathedral preacher Zader.
As regards Zeitz, only one murder is recorded in the
fifteenth century. Since 1549, however, crimes are
mentioned in continually increasing numbers. In 1549
a rich farmer was executed for having out of sheer
spite poisoned the beer drunk at a wedding ; ' in 1579
a female incendiary; in 1585 one Michael Schulze,
who on Maundy Thursday had set six farms on fire ;
in 1587 a tailor, something over the age of sixteen, who
had killed the children with poison ; in 1588 a peasant
woman who had had immoral relations with 175 men ;
in 1603 a peasant lad of eighteen for theft ; in 1618
a boy of thirteen ; in 1620 a schoolboy, aged eighteen,
who had killed a woman with a hatchet.^ A similar
list of atrocious crimes, incendiarism, incest, poisoning,

> Lisch, viii. 99, 191.

- Ibid. viii. 100 note. Cf. Spalding, Mecldenhurger Landesverhand-
lungen, 43, 58. In 1606 Duke Charles of Mecklenburg complained,
' numbers of cases of killing and other acts of highly punishable violence
occurred day and night, so much so that even among barbarous nations
the like had not been knowTi' (Boll i. 280).


murder of children, husbands, and wives is given as
regards Naumburg — eighty-eight cases in the years
1532-1638 ; many youthful misdeeds occur also on
this hst, and also numerous cases of suicide. Most of
these crimes, fifty-seven that is, belong to the period
between 1579 and 1618. On the whole, in the two
towns in question, 141 gross crimes were perpetrated
between 1552 and 1664. ^

The tale of bloody deeds and crimes told by the
historian of the town of Halle as having occurred at
the close of the sixteenth and the beginning of the
seventeenth century produces a ghastly impression
on the reader, especially when it is remembered that
the town even then, when still materially flourishing,
had not above 14,000 inhabitants, amongst whom there
was not yet any so-called fluctuating population worth

Some of these crimes caused the greatest and most
widespread consternation, as, for instance, in June
1572, the murder of the unfortunate third son of Hans
von Schonitz, ' who had been married to Katharina
Botticher since 1562 and had lived in his palace in the
market-place.' He was murdered there and robbed
by his secretary Christopher Wind, from Zangern near
Salzburg, to whom he had given a box on the ears.
' But it was quite an unheard-of thing that a wealthy
landed proprietor, Frederick Kersten, the mortgagee
of the knight's property of Seeben and feudal lord
at Groitzsch, the son of a prince's treasurer and for
eight years the son-in-law of the veteran Alt-Ratsmeister
John Tentzer, should actually have been guilty of

' Ztitschr. fur deulscht Kidlurgesch. Jahrg. 1859, pp. 584 ft'., 637 ft'.,
774 ft.


robbery and iiuirder. On the 4tli (o.s.) or 14th (n.s.)
of June 1605 he enticed the Frankfort jeweller James
►Spohr from Antwerp, who had taken up quarters in
the " Blue Pike " at Halle, under plausible pretexts
into his house, struck him dead with a heavy hammer,
robbed him of jewels to the value of 8000 gulden, and
afterwards cut up his corpse and hid the different
parts of it in several places a long way out of the
town.' ^

* Under these circumstances the executioner and
the baihft" of Halle were extremely busy people. The
burghers had only too frequent opportunities of seeing
how those punishments, which did not take away hfe,
were carried out. Besides pubHc exhibitions in an
iron collar, or standing at the pillory, or being led
through the town with clang of cymbals and trumpets,
it had lately become the custom (since 1550) to intimidate
the swarms of impudent fellows and wenches who
carried on all sorts of rowdyism and thieving in the
neighbom-hood of the town, by a punishment which
was comical enough for the onlookers, but might
often become very dangerous for the victims. In
front of the Moritzpforte, on the dam which lay between
the Saale and the muddy town moat and led to
Glaucha, a beam was erected wdth a swinging basket.
In this basket the dehnquents were placed in order,
as the case might be, to give them a dip in the water
of the moat, or simply to let them fall into the
mud. Repeatedly, also, the burghers were entertained
with the spectacle of the j)ubhc scourging of men and
bad women for manifold offences, sometimes for

• Olearius, 349 ff. Dreyhaupt, ii. 515 S., 958, and Gen, Beilage, 176.
Hertzberg, ii. 330-331.


insolent libels, which performance began at the
whipping post/ ^

About Whitsuntide 1582, extraordinary events
happened at Leipzig and in its neighbourhood. The
sextons there had (as it was then beheved) caused a
great number of deaths by sorcery and a poisonous
powder made of toads, salamanders, and snakes.
They laid one corpse on top of the other ; broke
the thumbs of the dead, closed their hands; on the
roads they buried, in huge pots, skulls and poisonous
mixtures in order to give diseases to those who passed
over them ; they robbed the houses of the dead. At
length a peasant girl, whose mother they had strangled,
betrayed their wicked deeds, and the sextons were
apprehended by the pohce. At the trial they told
how their wives and sisters-in-law, as old witches, had
caused many a disastrous storm and had been in alliance
with the devil. The Leipzig master who had prepared
the poison owned to having poisoned his first wife,
his manservant, and many more. The four accused
were torn to pieces with red-hot pincers and broken
on the wheel. The women, sentenced as witches, were
burnt to ashes. In the following year, 1583, at Leipzig
a female poison-mixer who killed her husband, her
sister and her maid, who had helped her in killing her
husband, were beheaded and put on the wheel. In
1584, in the same town, a butcher murdered his father.
On February 2, 1585, on one day seven people were
hanged and one beheaded.-

In the years 1610 1611 and respectively, at Koltidz

' Hcrtzberg, ii. 332-333.

- Richard, 15. Heydenreich, 177, 178. See also Vogel, Leipziger
Geschichtbuch, 245 ff.


ill the Saxon Eloctorate, one woman was executed for
athiltery with the pastor and another for the same
offence with the schoohnaster. '

In Torgau after the beginning of the seventeenth
century the general demorahsation showed itself in a
startling number of the grossest crimes and most un-
natural deeds of infamy ; the culprits were punished
by loss of arms and legs.-

All enormous number of murderous deeds were com-
mitted during gambling. The author of the ' Spiel-
teiifel ' says, for instance : ' I have often heard say that in
gambhng rooms people stab each other for a mere noth-
ing, and I myself once saw at Dahme a mason murder a
carpenter over the gambhng table, and a few days after
the murderer had to forfeit his head. The same kind
of thing happened at Wittenberg, when a journeyman
butcher, over a game at cards, stabbed another man, and
he too, on the third day after, was put to death and laid
in the same grave.' '^

The docmiients of the Saxon chief state archives of
the years 1604-1606 show that immorality and adultery
were frequent, but murderous deeds still more so.^

Similar conditions had arisen in the principality
of Ansbach-Bayreuth. In spite of all earher penal
ordinances, says a Margravian Mandate of 1562, blas-
phemy becomes more and more common with young
and old, and especially among official persons, whose
duty it is to put a stop to the practice ; the people all
hve in open immorahty and drunkenness.'^ In 1583

' Zeit-schr. fiir deutsche KuUurgesch. Jahrg. 1856, p. 413.

- Grulich, 128-129.

^ Theatrum Diabolorum. Der Spielteufel, 440.

•• Zeitschr. fur deutsche KuUurgesch. Jahrg. 1872, p. 494 ff.

•> Laag, iii. 323. Ki-aussold, 155-156.


the princely councillors reported that ' at all the
church fairs murders and bloodshed occur/ 1 Crimes of
all sorts multiplied to such an extent that in the small
territory of scarcely 90,000-100,000 souls, in the years
from 1575-1603, 1441 men were put to torture, 474
were executed, and about 309 were scourged.^

Moral anarchy and atrocious crimes of all sorts were
also met with in the CathoHc districts.

The picture afforded by the criminal acts of the
Odenwald, a district belonging to Mayence, is a sur-
passingly sad one. Since 1534 church robberies,
murder, and murderous attacks had been the order of
the day ; adultery and incest were of quite common
occurrence. 3

In the Austrian and Bavarian districts also, the
growing rehgious and moral anarchy was everywhere
cognised by an increasing record of crime. The attempts
of the territorial princes to put a check on the prevalent
corruption were without result. The severity with
which Maximilian I. of Bavaria proceeded against sins
of immorality actually gave occasion for still worse
crimes, child-murder and abortion.^'

' Lang, iii. 323.

^ Zweiter Jahresbericht ties Hislor. Vereins des Rezatkreises, 1839,
p. 19 ff. See also present work, vol. v. 450 ff., and Zeitschr. fur deutsche
Kulturgesch. (Jahrg. 1893), iii. 302 ff., where it is said : ' If we put the
population of the then principality of Ansbach in round figures at 100,000,
we have a yearly average of sixteen capital punishments, that is one
execution per year for every 6250 inhabitants ' (p. 304). ' It must not be
passed over in silence that, as other sources also sufficiently prove, the
Lutheran clergy distinguished themselves by the darkest superstition
and fanaticism in these gruesome persecutions and lawsuits, verily a bad
proof of the pretended spiritual elevation and moral improvement effected
by the Reformation ' (p. 305).

^ Zeitschr. fiir deutsche Kulturgesch. (Jahrg. 1859), p. 409 ff.

■■ Sugenheim, 517 ff., 532 ff. ; Wolf, Maximilian I., vol. i. 405.


Tn tlio Tvrol in the time of Ferdinand II., in
addition to tlie iniquities everywhere in evidence, an
entirelv new develo})nient appeared : ' the formation of
whole groups of evildoers, who banded together and
made common cause in deeds of criminality.' Marauding
companies u'wide the neighbourhood of the towns un-

Such companies in the neighbourhood of Vienna are
mentioned in 1584.-

A gang of thieves and robbers had, as early as 1558,
pestered the military road leading from Silesia to Meissen.
The members of this gang did not shrink from the most
horrible deeds of murder. One of this band of criminals,
who was called ' the red king of this chartered company,'
was caught. On examination at his trial he confessed
that ' he had committed forty-nine deeds of murder, and
that amongst his victims was a shingler — a man who had
five httle children and not more than four Bohemian
pfennige in his pocket— whose head he had spht in two
in a forest.' At this trial, also, the names of all the inn-
keepers who had hved on terms of intimacy with this
company of thieves were found out. ' The foremost
associates were the hosts in the taverns at Kohlweese
at the sign of the Wether and at " the Pit." The first
two had murdered their own brother in order to get
possession of his patrimony, amounting to 100 marks.
Afterwards they had put the dead body in a barrel, and
as the corpse was too long for it, the host of Kohlweese
had chopped off the head with an axe, and then bored

• Hlrn, i. 503 ff. ; cf. 507 and 75. Concerning a gang of thieves in the
Oberinntal, 1569.

- See George Eder to the Duke of Bavaria (May 6, 1584) in Milteil. des
Institutes fiir osterreich. Gesch. vi. 448.


holes in tlie barrel and thrown it into a pond.'
On April 30, 1558, 'seven malefactors belonging to
this chartered company were put to death. On
May 7 the brothers were condemned iyi camera,
but as one of them retracted his confession they
were remitted. When, however, at last this hardened
man fully confessed his crime, the justly merited
sentence was carried out ; one of them was speared
ahve and the other was beheaded and his body
impaled.' i

In Silesia in 1606 a gang of poison-mixers was dis-
covered. ' In this year,' so goes the report, ' in Franken-
stein the wicked, murderous crew and their associates,
at the instigation of the hellish spirit of lies and murder,
concocted highly pernicious poison-powders and salves
and put them into bottles, vases, boxes and receptacles

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