HIGH STAKES / was once the witch-burning capital of the world. Here’s why

Wax dolls being given to the devil.
Protection against Satan and his witch-y minions was a hot commodity in early modern Europe.

QUARTZ


By Gwynn Guilford

Published January 24, 2018

In 1572, the killings began. That year, authorities in the tiny settlement of St Maximin, in present-day Germany, charged a woman named Eva with using witchcraft to murder a child. Eva confessed under torture; she, along with two women she implicated, were burned at the stake.

The pace of prosecution picked up from there. By the mid-1590s, the territory had burned 500 people as witches—an astonishing feat, for a place that only had 2,200 residents to begin with.

Why is it that early modern Europe had such a fervor for witch hunting? Between 1400 to 1782, when Switzerland tried and executed Europe’s last supposed witch, between 40,000 and 60,000 people were put to death for witchcraft, according to historical consensus. The epicenter of the witch hunts was Europe’s German-speaking heartland, an area that makes up Germany, Switzerland, and northeastern France.

Conventional wisdom has chalked the killings up to a case of bad weather. Across Europe, weather suddenly got wetter and colder—a phenomenon known as the Little Ice Age that pelted villages with freak frosts, floods, hailstorms, and plagues of mice and caterpillars. Witch hunts tended to correspond with ecological disasters and crop failures, along with the accompanying problems of famine, inflation, and disease. When the going got tough, witches made for a convenient scapegoat.

But a recent economic study (pdf), which will soon be published in the The Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, proposes a different explanation for the witch hunts—one that can help us understand the way fears spread, and take hold, today.

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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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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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15 Of The Most Absurd And Unforgivable Things The Catholic Church Has Ever Done

Ranker

Lea Rose Emery / Updated May 6, 2020

It’s hard out here for a pope. See, when it comes to religious history, the list of Catholic Church transgressions makes for pretty uncomfortable reading. Despite exalting virtue and kindness in its teaching, church leadership has spearheaded a long history of outright unforgivable Catholic actions.

You might remember some of these improprieties from school – the Inquisition, Joan of Arc, and the trial of Galileo should all ring a bell. But not everything here is medieval. Though Vatican violence goes way back, a number of disturbing episodes are from recent history. Some of this repugnant behavior comes from popes, some was church-endorsed, and some, most unsettlingly, was just straight-up regular church practice.

Dark church history contains scandal after scandal rife with every vice and taboo you can imagine. When the church was at the height of its power (at which point it was the most powerful organization in the Western world), it’s safe to say everything went to its head. Combine that with church leaders seeming to stubbornly resist adapting to changing morality and you’ve got a whole lot of unforgivable moments on your hands. 

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‘We WERE complicit in Nazi crimes’, German branch of the Catholic Church admits in ‘confession of guilt’

Mail Online

By CHRIS DYER FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 1 May 2020

  • German branch of the Catholic Church admits it did not denounce Nazi crimes
  • New report states that Catholic bishops ‘made themselves complicit in the war’
  • It states they didn’t share ideology but helped support ‘soldiers and the regime’
  • Vatican defenders say Church used diplomacy and hid Jews during Holocaust

The Catholic Church in Germany has admitted making itself ‘complicit in the war’ by not opposing the Nazi regime, a new report reveals.

For decades the Catholic Church has been accused of staying silent over the crimes of the Nazis and even acting to ‘bolster’ the Third Reich.

In response, the Church has long defended World War II’s Pope Pius XII and avoided saying the ecclesiastical institutions failed.

But a new report from the council of Catholic bishops in Germany describes how bishops ‘made themselves complicit in the war’ by not clearly opposing Adolf Hitler.

It also says that bishops did not share the Fuhrer’s racial ideology, but they still helped support ‘both soldiers and the regime’.

The report into the role of bishops between 1939 and 1945 states hundreds of priests accompanied the Wehrmacht on the front-lines to offer spiritual guidance, according to The Times

Adolf Hitler talking with the apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Cesare Orsenigo (left) during a reception in Berlin in December 1939+7

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In ‘confession of guilt,’ German Catholic Church admits ‘complicity’ with Nazis / BISHOPS ‘GAVE SUCCOR TO THE REGIME PROSECUTING THE WAR’

THE TIMES OF ISRAEL / By TOI STAFF 2 May 2020

After decades of ambivalence, document prepared by clergy says hundreds of priests gave spiritual guidance to Hitler’s soldiers on front, ‘lent war an additional sense of purpose’

Pope Pius XII blesses faithful at the Vatican, March 4, 1949. (INTERCONTINENTALE / AFP)
Pope Pius XII blesses faithful at the Vatican, March 4, 1949. (INTERCONTINENTALE / AFP)

In a new report after decades of ambivalence, Germany’s council of Catholic bishops has finally admitted to the church’s complicity in the actions of the Nazi regime during World War II, The Times reported Friday.

The 23-page document by the council reportedly states, “Inasmuch as the bishops did not oppose the war with a clear ‘no,’ and most of them bolstered the [German nation’s] will to endure, they made themselves complicit in the war.”

Continue reading “In ‘confession of guilt,’ German Catholic Church admits ‘complicity’ with Nazis / BISHOPS ‘GAVE SUCCOR TO THE REGIME PROSECUTING THE WAR’”

German Catholic bishops admit they were ‘complicit’ in Nazi crimes

NEW YORK POST

By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon / May 3, 2020 | 

Adolf Hitler with the Vatican ambassador in 1935
Adolf Hitler with the Vatican ambassador in 1935

Germany’s Catholic bishops have acknowledged that they were “complicit” in allowing the Nazis to rise to power and stood by while they launched World War II, according to new reports.

In a 23-page report made public this weekend, Germany’s Council of Catholic Bishops said it didn’t do enough to oppose the rise of Nazi power and even cooperated with Adolf Hitler’s regime during the Second World War, according to a report originally published in the UK’s Sunday Times.

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Newly Unsealed Vatican Archives Lay Out Evidence of Pope Pius XII’s Knowledge of the Holocaust

The Catholic Church’s actions during World War II have long been a matter of historical debate

By Theresa Machemer SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
MAY 5, 2020

Pope Pius XII
New research from the Vatican Archives sheds light on Pope Pius XII’s decisions during World War II. (Photo by Fred Ramage / Keystone / Getty Images)

Pope Pius XII led the Catholic Church during the tumult of World War II, but his silence on the fate of the millions of Jews killed during the Holocaust has clouded his legacy with controversy.

To critics, the pontiff’s refusal to publicly condemn the Nazis represents a shameful moral failing with devastating consequences. In his polarizing 1999 biography of Pius, British journalist John Cornwell argued that the religious leader placed the papacy’s supremacy above the plight of Europe’s Jews, winning a modicum of power—and protection from the rising threat of communism—by becoming “Hitler’s pope” and pawn. Supporters, however, say that Pius’ silence was calculated to prevent German retaliation and ensure the continued success of the Catholic Church’s behind-the-scenes efforts to aid victims of Nazi persecution.

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