Six Great Heresies of the Middle Ages

WORLD HISTORY ENCYCLOPEDIA

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 01 July 2019

The medieval Church established its monopoly over the spiritual life of Europeans in the Early Middle Ages (c. 476-1000 CE) and consolidated that power throughout the High Middle Ages (1000-1300 CE) and Late Middle Ages (1300-1500 CE). Along the way, the Church became increasingly corrupt as clergy ignored the most basic tenets of Christianity to live lavishly on the tithes of the people. Parish priests became so synonymous with hypocrisy and sin that anti-clericalism was common throughout Europe well before the High Middle Ages and contributed to the development of alternative belief systems that the Church condemned as heresies.

Jan Hus Being Burnt at the Stake

There was little else the common people – or even the nobility – could do about clerical corruption because the Church held the keys to one’s eternal destination. One could only attain salvation and eternal life by following the precepts of the Church, and one’s alternative was an eternity in the torments of hell or a limited, but almost equally unpleasant, stay in the fires of purgatory where one’s sins were burnt away. Heaven, hell, and purgatory were regarded as absolute certainties after death and, since the Church made all the rules regarding where a soul would wind up, people were forced to accept the clergy’s atrocious behavior.

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The Trials of Giordano Bruno (1592-1600)

Famous Trials By Professor Douglas O. Linder

In the early morning light, on the day after Ash Wednesday, the primary day in the Church calendar for Christian penance, Giordano Bruno, one of the most original minds of the sixteenth century, rode into Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori on a mule. Stripped naked and gagged with a leather bridle to prevent him from shouting out heresies to those present in the plaza, Bruno mounted the pile of firewood, charcoal, kindling, and pitch. Tied to the stake, Bruno turned his head away in anger when a crucifix was held up to his face. The pyre was lit and the flames leaped to consume the heretic.

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Remembering the Victims of the Salem Witch Executions

BIOGRAPHY

MEREDITH WORTHEN, UPDATED:JUN 16, 2020ORIGINAL:SEP 21, 2017

Remembering the Victims of the Salem Witch Executions

(Photo: William A. Crafts (Vol. I Boston: Samuel Walker & Company) [Public domain], via Wikimedia

A look back at the victims of the Salem Witch Trials and the mass hysteria that led to their deaths.

On September 22, 1692, eight people were hanged for their alleged crimes as witches. They were among 20 who were killed as a result of the hysteria that took place in the New England village of Salem where fear of demonic possession struck panic among the Puritans and led to more than 200 accusations against anyone suspected of witchcraft.

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Mired in scandal, is the Catholic Church an ‘organized crime’ group?

Pennsylvania Real-Time News

Updated Jan 29, 2019; Posted Sep 04, 2018

David Hickton, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, is confident that federal anti-racketeering laws could be applied to prosecute the Catholic Church and/or dioceses for their role in the clergy sex abuse crisis. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The Catholic Church may be in the business of saving souls, but amid the spiraling clergy sex abuse crisis, one pioneering legal mind thinks of the church as an organized crime organization.

That’s the view held by David Hickton, a former U.S. attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Two years ago, shortly after the state Office of Attorney General released a scathing report on widespread clergy sex abuse in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Hickton sought to prove that the church was criminally responsible for the egregious crimes committed by priests on minors.

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WITCHCRAFT: EIGHT MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

HISTORIES

Detail from the 1508 painting ‘The Witches’

Witchcraft is an area of history that most people feel familiar with. From the Salem Witch Trials to the witches of Macbeth, the figure of the witch is embedded in our culture. The problem is that most of what we think we know is wrong. 

Professor Diane Purkiss debunks eight of the most common myths about witchcraft.A 1655 pamphlet illustration of witches being hangedIn England witches were hanged, not burned. This illustration is taken from a 1655 pamphlet by Ralph Gardiner© Bettmann/Getty

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Was there ever an execution where rain saved someone from being burned at the stake?

The official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed

Answered by Eugene Byrne

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Published: August 16, 2012 

St Thecla of Iconium (died early first century AD) was supposedly saved from burning by a miraculous downpour. Or there’s Lassi Didriksson, sentenced to burning for sorcery in Iceland in 1675, whose fire was put out by rain three times. The most famous rained-off burning wasn’t an execution, but a trial by fire in which the Italian preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98) would demonstrate his divine protection as the rain fell.

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5 facts you didn’t know about being burned at the stake

Author: DANIEL DE LORNE

Within the opening chapters of my book, Burning Blood, the witch Aurelia finds herself about to be burned at the stake.

‘Witch, you have been tried and convicted under the benevolent will of God. You are a consort of Satan and shall burn at the stake. Repent now and God may have mercy on your soul. Fail to repent and you shall writhe on that stake just as you shall writhe for eternity in the pits of Hell!’

The rough rope grazed her neck as it tightened, ready to take away her breath and leave nothing but an empty shell to cook in the flames. The cross danced in front of her face, with Christ’s tortured body hanging limply on it, the crown of thorns cutting painfully into his forehead.

‘Bring the flames and let that be the end of it,’ she intoned, her voice cutting through the rabble’s clamouring.

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The Vatican & the Holocaust: Pope Pius XII & the Holocaust

Jewish Virtual Library

By Mitchell Barth

Pope Pius XII’s (1876-1958) actions during the Holocaust remain controversial. For much of the war, he maintained a public front of indifference and remained silent while German atrocities were committed. He refused pleas for help on the grounds of neutrality, while making statements condemning injustices in general. Privately, he sheltered a small number of Jews and spoke to a few select officials, encouraging them to help the Jews.

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The Catholic Church and Sexual Abuse, Then and Now

ORIGINS
Current Events in Historical Perspective
Published by the History Departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University

by WIETSE DE BOER 

The Catholic Church and Sexual Abuse, Then and Now

Graffiti in Lisbon, Portugal of a priest chasing two children, from 2011.Editor’s Note:

For more than two decades, the Catholic Church has been reeling from sexual abuse scandals. Stories of predatory priests have emerged around the world. While some have attributed the abuses to problems in contemporary society, this month historian Wietse de Boer takes a much deeper look. He argues that the way the Church has responded to these outrages has its roots 500 years ago when the Catholic Church faced its first major crisis of sexual abuse.

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