Johannes Janssen.

History of the German people at the close of the middle ages (Volume 16) online

. (page 34 of 45)
Online LibraryJohannes JanssenHistory of the German people at the close of the middle ages (Volume 16) → online text (page 34 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

brain.' ** The clause, ' Under no circumstances,' and the statement,
' For his heresy \vith regard to witchcraft Godelmann is justly pitched into
by Delrio,' are repeated by Binz in the 2nd edition, p. 79. The passage,
' Against Lerchheimer also he inveighs here,' I am glad to find omitted in
the 2nd edition.

' Quoted by Herzog in his article ' Hexen ' in the Enzyklopddie of
Ersch and Gruber.

- It is difficult to understand how Fischer {Easier Hexenprozesse. p. 4)
can assert that, ' The judicial persecution of sorcery, which raged so
terribly at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth
century, underwent in the second half of the sixteenth century a beneficial
interruption owing to the religious movements with wliich the age was
abundantly occupied.'

'' Wachter, 100.


ketzerischen und Teufelsweibern/ who had suffered
death by fire in Schlettstadt ' on account of their
scandalous allegiance to the devil/ In 1576 the people
were presented with ' a true history of the events of this
year in the Breisgau, how in several towns and hamlets
about 136 evil spirits have been caught and burnt/
Then followed a ' Veritable and terrible new broadsheet
concerning the great rainstorms at Horb, and how
afterwards several witches were burnt/ From Stras-
burg in 1583 another broadsheet made known how on
October 15, 19, 24 and 28 of the past year 1582, in
different places in South-west Germany, no less than 134
witches had been put in prison and burnt to death.
Another newspaper announced from Osnabriick how
in that to^vn in 1588 ' 133 witches had actually been
burnt on one day/ ^ An Erfurt printer, in 1591, reissued
a rhymed version of this report, and added, ' another
wonderful and amusing new song about the events
of the present day/ ~

' WeUer, Zeitungen, Nos. 376, 461, 499 ; cf. 520, 572, 663. Weller,
Annalen I., Abt. ii. Nos. 231, 308.
- Weller, Zeitungen, No. 739.




Although the Carolina passed as law for the whole
empire, King Ferdinand I. had nevertheless in 1544
issued for his Austrian hereditary lands a poHce ordi-
nance in which he declared sorcery to be an iniquitous
proceeding and a fraud ; in 1552 he had again declared
still more strongly that sorcery and fortune-telling were
wickednesses which ought everywhere to be stopped,
and that those who practised such things must be
suitably punished. Of witch-persecution and pimish-
ment by death, however, there was no mention in these
ordinances.! Ferdinand j oyfuUy welcomed Weyer's attack
on the witch-superstition. ' The praiseworthy action of
this man,' he said, ' deserves not only that I should
give it my approval, but that I should promote and
encourage it with the whole weight of my imperial
prestige.' ~ The Emperor Maximihan II., also, in this
respect, an exemplary ruler, abstained from persecution
of witches and handed over those guilty of it to public
scorn and execration ; he decreed in 1568 that they

' Soldan-Heppe, i. 408. - See above, p. SU.


were to be made to show off their arts before the whole
people, to make themselves invisible or ' stiff/ and at
the third offence they were to be banished from the

From Vienna we have only isolated accounts of
witch-trials in the years 1583, 1588, 1601 and 1603.-
The first accounts of w^holesale burning of witches are
from Hainburg below the Enns in 1617 and 1618. As
many as eighty wutch-women, says a ' Warhafftige newe
Zeitung' of 1618, were burnt there and a much larger
number were confined in prison ; amongst the confessions
of the condemned was one to the effect that by witchery
they had sent ' forty-five bowls full of fleas into Vienna.' =^
As from Austria, so also from the Tyrol, only a few cases
of witch-trials are reported in the sixteenth century. *• In

' A. Silberstein, Denksdulen im Gebiete der Kultur und Literatur (Wien,
1879), p. 212.

- Schlager, Wiener Skizzen aus dem Mittelalter, ii. 48 ff. Roskoff, ii.
305. ** Concerning a witch-trial at Marburg in Styria in 1546 see R.
Reichel in the Mitteilungen des Hisior. Vereins fiir Steiermark, 1879, Heft
27, p. 122 ff. See also A. v. Jaksch, 'Uber steirische Hexen- und Zauber-
prozesse seit 1591 (to 1653)' in the Karinihia, Jahrg. 84 (1894), Nos. 1
and 2.

■' Warhafftige neive Zeihmg, &c., Vienna, at Gregor Gelhaar's. 1618. In
a MS. of the Vienna court hbrary, No. 13, 562, Fol. 5, the number of
witches burnt at Hamburg in 1617 is given as seventeen.

* Rapp, 16 ff. ; ** 2nd ed, 58 ff. Not till the end of the sixteenth
centurj' did judicial proceedings against sorcerers and witches in the Tyrol
begin to be more frequent and more severe. The Kitzbiihel witch-burning
of 1594 has been described by Ol^rist in the Tyroler Bote, 1892, Nos. 219 and
220 (September 26 and 27), from the confessions in the original at the
Innsbruck Ferdinandeum in the Bihl. Dipauliana, No. 292. Concerning
witch-trials in Vorarlberg, in 1597, see Beck in the Anzeiger fur Kunde
deutscher Vorzeit, 1879, No. 12, p. 345 ff. Very interesting here is tlie
' Auszug der Ambts-Raittung' (Rechnung: account) of tlie years 1596-1597,
'Ausgaben auf Malcfitz,' on which the editor remarks : ' Wlien reading
this entirely trust wort liy calculation of inquisition costs, one cannot
refrain from the horrible, ghastly thought, that possibly all these human


1568 a witch was executed in defiance of the express
order of the Archduke Ferdinand II. that the case
was to be first tried at Innsbruck. In 1573 a pohce
ordinance, without mention of witch-trials, set a mere
money fine on sorcery ; later on there followed sterner
enact nients.* In the archdiocese of Salzburg a witch
was burnt on May 24, 1594.-

From the Turmbiicher (castle-books) of the town
of Lucerne it has become known that there, in the years
1562 to 1572, no less than 491 persons w^ere tried on the
charge of wdtchcraft, but that most of them were let off ;
sixty-two were executed. Further witch-trials took
place in the years 1575, 1576, 1577, 1578, 1579, 1580,
1584, 1587, 1588, 1594. Two of these witches ' confessed '
that they had changed themselves into wolves and
that the devil in the shape of a wolf had ridden wath a
witch over mountain and valley ; another wdtch had
' for the third time assumed the form of a hare and
had trotted about in the village of Hochdorf.' They
said that the devils appeared now as black birds, now
as black men with long beards and hoofs hke a horse
or goat ; even in prison they appeared before the
witches ; a sorcerer in WilHsau carried on witchcraft
with five evil spirits ; one was ' Klaffer,' another
' Jocker,' another ' Uffrure,' another ' Hurlipusch/
and the last was known as the murderer.^

In Bavaria the earhest accounts of witch-trials
belong to the last quarter of the sixteenth century.-*
In 1590 the government issued a mandate to the

victims were not merely put to death to satisfy the frenzy of an erring,
superstitious populace, but also to feed the avarice and cupidity of the
magisterial personages.'

' Hirn, i. 514-516. Soldan-Heppe, i. 497.

^ Schneller, .351 ff. » Riezler, 164.


theological faculty at Ingolstadt, enjoining them, in con-
junction with the lawyers, to draw up a learned memo-
randum on the nature and doings of witches, and at the
same time to compose in the German language an
instructional treatise which might be used in the pulpit
and the confessional, and which should serve for the
eradication of the outrageous, preposterous sin of sorcery
and witchcraft.! Still, in 1590, witches were burnt

• Prantl, Universitdt Miinchen, i. 402. ** The memorandum of the
two faculties (in the acts of the Munich imperial archives on witchcraft)
is dated AprU28, 1590, and according to Riezler, p. 188, contains the follow-
ing : The Bavarian judges must be admonished to study the witch-trials
of the bishoprics of Augsburg and Eichstatt, and the literature on the
subject, above all, the Malleus Maleficarum and the book of Binsfeld.
Taking their stand on the Witches' Hammer, ' the professors urge that
persecution of witches be carried on with zeal and severity, for it is not
credible that Bavaria should be exempt from this evil, which indeed is
knoAvn to be strongly prevalent in the neighbom-hood. By a ducal man-
date, it should be enacted, on pain of punishment, that every suspicion of
witchcraft be made known by accusation or denunciation. As to the way
in which witchcraft was to be recognised, information is especially given
by Bodin, Bartholomew Spina, and Binsfeld. Among the indications were
included the witch marks which are generally found on their bodies, or
the fact that a woman had threatened some one else with evil which had
come to pass. In these trials the rack might be more speedily resorted to
than in others ; hesitating or contradictory evidence was sufficient warrant
for its use.' The memorandum is signed by four theologians and four
lawyers, among the former being the renowned Spanish theologian Gregory
of Valencia, Professor at Ingolstadt till 1598, ' from whom we have further
utterances on witch-trials which do not redound to his honour ' (Duhr,
Stellung der Jesuiten, p. 36 £f.). The fact that among the theologians who
signed the memorandum there were two Jesuits is sufficient warrant for
Riezler to give expression to the surmise, based not on facts but on his own
subjective notions (p. 189), that ' Jesuit influence was very probably
exercised from another quarter also, both on William V., and, later on, on
his successors, though from the nature of the case it may never be possible
to establish this definitely. Both princes had Jesuits for their confessors.'
On the other hand Dulir, Stellung der Jesuiten, p. 35 ff. : ' Witch-trials did
not by a long way reach the same height of ferocity in Bavaria as in other
places, although Bavaria was ruled by the most pious prince of his time,
WiUiam V.,over whom the Jesuits exercised immense influence. Besides


ill luiijolstadt after having first been strangled^ In the
s:\ine year in Munich three widows and one spinster
were burnt ; one of the condemned deposed that, in
contirniation of her promise, she had given the devil
not only lier left liaiid but a piece out of the left side
of her body, which he had cut out himself.- From
Aufkirchen in 1583 there had been circulated a ' Kliig-
liche neue Zeitung,' with an account of ' how a rich
burgher named Wolf Breymiiller had given himself
up to the evil one and had killed twenty-seven people
by poison.' -'

When in 1589, in the lordship of Schongau, where
devastating cattle-plagues had raged, a general complaint
arose that the * monstrous sin of sorcery was spreading
more and more to the ruin of the inhabitants, measures

which, the worst witch-trials raged in districts whore the Jesuits had no
settlements, as in the Schongau and in Werdenfels.' See further in Duhr,
I.e., the chapter ' Hofbeichtvater und Hofprediger,' pp. 66-74. Among the
court clergy also and the Jesuits, who officiated as such, there were differ-
ences of opinion, and many of them come undoubtedly under the reproach
of Spec that, at any rate, they kept silence concerning the horrors of the
witch-trials instead of protesting against them ; some of them also advo-
cated persecution. But in view of the large number of Jesuits who took
the opposite standpoint, it is not permissible to make the Society responsible
for the attitude of the few who held different views. Duhr, I.e. p. 78.
Though Riezler says that the Jesuits began the witch-trials so late in
Bavaria only because they did not dare to show their hand before, and
because it would have been unwise to add witch-trials to the many innova-
tions (Riezler, 148), there are no credible historical facts to support this
assertion. In the second half of the reign of Albert V., for instance, there
was not the slightest reason why the Jesuits should not have ' shown their
hand,' for they had no reason to dread either the sovereign or the populace,
and as regards ' innovations,' heretics had been burnt in Bavaria before the
coming of the Jesuits, but not after it. As to whether the Jesuits were
unpopular in the first decades, this can indeed easily be stated, but not
easily proved.

1 ** Riezler, 192. 2 Qberbayerisches Archiv, 13, 69.

•' Weller, Annalen I. 253, No. 288.


were at once instituted against witches.' Each witch
always pointed out fresh ones — one fortune-teller indeed
mentioned seventeen other people — by whom she
had been accompanied to the devil's dance and the
devil's banquet. The Schongau executioner was so
experienced in the matter that he could ' detect a
witch or a sorcerer in an instant without the help of
torture.' ^ Torture, however, afforded still stronger
indications. Hans Friedrich Horwarth von Hohenburg,
to■w^l and provincial inquisitor of witchcraft, was
spurred on in his official zeal by the following injunction
of the Bavarian privy council in Munich : ' We fear
that there may be other and far graver misdeeds than
those they have confessed, which the devil would not
Hke to have disclosed ; it is therefore our desire that
you should show more earnestness and severity in your
proceedings.' Duke Ferdinand, the feudal lord of the
to^\^l and the court of justice of Scliongau, had enjoined on
the judge to dispatch by messenger a copy of the report
on each case to the jurists of Ingolstadt, that they
might advise and help to draw up the sentence, for which
they were to receive their due stipend. This was to
be done that no injustice might be suffered by the
women, and that the Duke himself might be rid of the
responsibility. But Horwarth does not appear to have
needed any advice, for there were all too many serious
grounds known to him for condemning the witches. For
instance, one of them was under suspicion of having pro-
duced the hail of the previous year ; for * in the place

^ ** Concerning the role played in the Bavarian witch-trials by the
Schongau executioner Jorg Abriel as an authority for detecting the marks
of witches, see the information given by Riezler (p. 172 ff.) from tho Acts
of the Royal Bavarian Archives.


wliriv sho \vm\ lived bofoiv, everybody was delighted
at her coins awav.' Furtlier, ' slie liad bewitched a
horse so that it had died ; this had been deposed
by a soothsayer.' Further, she used to pick up the
dung of liorses in order ' as was said ' to bewitch the
horse's owner with it. What need was there then
for seeking a further opinion from the Ingolstadt
jurists ? A second witch was condemned on equally
weighty grounds. * She had been seen during a heavy
thunderstorm standing out in her courtyard.' In
towns where she had formerly hved, * she had often
passed through the clock-tower ; the pastor himself
was said to have drawn her husband's attention to
her wicked vocation.' i * About sixty-three witches,'
the judges finally announced triumphantly to the
Duke in 1592, ' in about two years, had been executed
at Schongau, to the great glory of the Duke at
home and abroad — many of them, he declared, amid
loud thanks to God for a magistracy which had so
diligently hunted out secret vices and transgressions.'
Nowhere had ' such justices been seen as at Schongau.'
Although Ferdinand's brother, Duke Wilham of Bavaria,
had also instituted similar witch-trials at Abensberg,
Munich, Tolz, and Weilheim, these were soon over and
could not compare with the Schongau trials, which
were ' the work of a righteous tribunal. In order
that future generations should retain the memory of
these " righteous " proceedings " the administrator of
divine justice " requested that for the honour of the
magistracy a lasting monument of the trials should
be erected in some public place in Schongau.' The

' Her, 370-373. Concerning the diabolical ' stigma ' the following
resolution was passed at the assembly of the princely councillors at Munich :
' Stigmata, optimum indicium, ad torturam satis.' Her, 358.


proposal, however, was not listened to by Ferdinand.^
The sui'vivors of the victims executed were obhged to
pay the costs of the protracted trials. For thirty of
these the sum amounted to 3400 gulden, at a time
when a cultivated field could be had for 10 gulden and
as much land as a man could plough in a day for 6
gulden. In the case of one witch who died in prison
her confessor, the Dean of Schongau, and the hospital
chaplain begged that her corpse might not be burnt, as
she had recanted. The clerical petitioners, however,
received from the privy council at Munich a sharp
reprimand with the threat that in case of a repetition
of their request they would be reported to their Ordi-
nary, * because, even if recantation had been made,
it was not for them to judge what force it would have
in this crime.' Even the dead body of a peasant who
had died six months before, whom his tortured and
executed daughter had denounced as equal to herself
in crime, had to be removed from consecrated ground
at the request of the inhabitants of the village. ^
A frightful case occurred at Munich in 1600. From
a married couple and two sons torture had wrung the
confession that they had * bewitched and killed 400
children, made 58 persons crooked and lame, and
perpetrated many other atrocities.' In punishment
the father was stuck on a red-hot spear, the mother

> Her, 379-380.

" Her, 356-380. In Westenrieder (Beitrdge, iii. 105, 106-107) occur
the brief notices : ' In 1590 a few witches were burnt at Schongau, much
wept over and lamented but sentenced according to their deserts. In 1591
two witches were burnt at Weilheim as they well deserved.' ** Con-
cerning the contemporaneous witch-trials in Freising see Riezler,
p. 174 ff. The corpse of a woman who died in prison was burnt.
How many executions took place in Freising at that period cannot be
ascertained from the Acts.



l>iirnt oil II ivd-hot iron cliair ; the sons were pinched
six times with reil-liot tongs, their arms were crushed
under the wheel, and they were burnt to death. The
youngest son, who was found to be innocent, was com-
pelled to witness the execution of his parents and
brothers, ' in order that he might be warned to keep
out of such doings/ ^

In the lordship of Werdenfels, comprising only a
few villages and hamlets, forty-nine women died at
the stake between February 1590 and November 1591.
' If all those who are denounced,' wrote the warder
Caspar Poysl on January 18, 1592, to the government,
' were to be hunted down and tortured, I doubt not
but the greater number of women in the county of
Werdenfels would come under a Uke suspicion of
witchcraft and would have to be put on the rack, a
course which according to my poor understanding
would scarcely be pohtic and would be highly ruinous
to the country.' A bundle of acts relating to the
trials which lasted from 1589 to 1592 is labelled as
follows : ' Herein is the bill of costs of all that was
eaten and drunk whilst the women were imprisoned
in the castle at Werdenfels, and afterwards burnt as
witches.' 2

^ Sauter, 37. ** For numerous other cases of witch-trials in Bavaria
at that time see Riezler, 197 flf. Riezler's assertion (pp. 144, 203 ff.) of a
connexion between the witch-trials and the Catholic restoration is denied
by Duhr {Stellung der Jesiiiten, p. 77). In the Histor. Zeiischr. 1900, 84,
247 ff., Riezler said subsequently that ' he only spoke of an indefinite con-
nexion ' and did not intend to insinuate that the trials had been used ' as
means towards the ends of the Catholic restoration,' nor did he entertain
the idea ' of a general or sj'stematic connexion between the Catholic
restoration and witch-persecution.'

2 V. HormajT, Taschenbuch fur 1831, p. 333. ** Fuller and more
accurate information concerning the Werdenfels watch-trials is given by


Ghastly indeed were the witch-immolations in the
dioceses of Wiirzbm-g and Bamberg after the second
decade of the seventeenth century.^ In Gerolzhofen
in the Wiirzburg district the number of executions
amounted in 1616 to ninety-nine, in the following
year to eighty-eight.- A ' Hexenzeitung ' (witch broad-
sheet) of the year 1616 gives fuller details. Four
women, who had found their way into the cellar of a
day-labourer (probably in a very natural manner) and
had drunk up his wine, were quickly turned into witches
on the rack and deposed that ' in the Gerolzhofen district
there were not sixty persons above the age of seven
who were unversed in sorcery. First three, then
five, then ten women, then three men and eleven women
were arrested and all of them burnt. Then twenty-six
more were likewise imprisoned, and first strangled
and then sent to the stake.' As the statements of the
earher lot were always confirmed by the later ones,

Riezler, pp. 175-185, from the Acts now belonging to the collections of the
Histor. Vereins fiir Oberbayern. A Kelheim formulary for the questioning
of witches is in the Zeitschr. fiir deutsche Kulturgeschicht, (Jahrg. 1858),
pp. 521-528.

' ** Concerning numbers of witch-trials followed by executions in the
diocese of Eichstatt, see Riezler, p. 221 £f. For the trials in the princi-
paUty of Pfaiz-Neuburg see Riezler, p. 228 ff. ' This little land,' he says,
' was probably, comparatively speaking, more severely visited than was
Bavaria.' He adds also the supposition that, ' As the persecutions were
carried on with special zeal under the son-in-law of Maximilian I., the
Count Palatine Wolfgang William, who had gone over to Catholicism and
then mth the help of the Jesuits carried out the counter-reformation in his
territory, perhaps here, too, they may stand in connexion with the Catholic
reformation.' With this supposition, however, the facts brought forward
do not agree. The cases cited by Riezler belong mostly to the second half
of the seventeenth century and to the eighteenth century,

- Jager, 5-6. Very instructive as regards the whole question of witch-
craft and the ' confessions ' of witches are the extracts from the Franconian
Acts contributed by Jager, 10-72.

£ £ 2


it btH-amo known liow great was the multitude of
tlio guilt\' ones and an ordinance was issued by the
territorial lord to the ciiect that : * Henceforth the
ollit'ials shall every week, on Tuesday, except when
high festivals occur on that day, light a fire for the
witches, and burn each time twenty-five or twenty,
but certainly not less than fifteen.' * And this plan
their princely graces desire to see carried out and con-
tinued through the whole diocese/ To this end,
Counts of the hundreds (Centgrafen) were dispatched
to Gerolzhofen with strict orders to start the witch-
burning, the list of the persons suspected being placed
in their hands.

These people then confessed so many extraordinary
things, things that cannot be written and are not fit
for the ears of the young to hear. The hostess at the
' Swan ' confessed that she had disposed of numbers
of people and that she had habitually given the musicians
cats to eat instead of codfish, and mice and rats instead
of birds. A midwife confessed that she had killed
as many as 170 children, 22 of which were related
to her. An old man confessed to having said that
if he had not been arrested three days before he would
have destroyed everything for twenty-five leagues
round wdth hail and gravel-stones. ' They had gone
to such lengths that the devil himself had at last appeared
among them and forbidden their proceedings because,
he said, his kingdom was diminishing, for people who
were haughty in the midst of happiness turned to
God in sorrows As, however, they had not left off,
he had almost thrashed to death some of them and
treated them in such a way that for a considerable
time they had not dared show themselves, and thus


it came about that several were revealed and their
names written on the witches' register.' ^

In Franconia, as elsewhere, every witch at the
so-called ' gentle ' trial, or while on the rack, was asked

Online LibraryJohannes JanssenHistory of the German people at the close of the middle ages (Volume 16) → online text (page 34 of 45)