DARK HISTORY OF THE POPES
A German chronicler left a graphic account of the ghastly suffering caused by an instrument of torture known as The Wheel, which, he wrote, turned its victims into:
a sort of huge screaming puppet writhing in rivulets of blood, a puppet with four tentacles, like a sea monster, of raw, slimy and shapeless flesh mixed up with splinters of smashed bones.
This was a no-holds-barred
expedition and the inquisitors
used lies, maltreatment and
psychological pressure, along with
physical torture, to get the
convictions they wanted.
One woman, whose name remains unrecorded by history, showed remarkable endurance, which must have proved extremely frustrating for Kramer and Sprenger. She was tortured no fewer than 56 times, but failed to confess. This was very unusual because most people would say anything, do anything, admit anything or betray anyone in order to make the torture stop. They owned up to midnight pacts with the Devil where they sold him their souls for gold, to poisoning wells with a glance of their evil Eye, to laying spells on others. They admitted to having sex with the Devil, bearing monsters as a result and feeding this offspring with newborn babies. They told how in the dead of night, they had attended witches' sabbaths where they worshipped the Devil, performed the Black Mass and afterwards indulged in wild sex orgies until dawn. Some said they had collected male organs, 20 or 30 of them at a time, and placed them in birds' nests where they moved around on their own and were fed on oats and corn.
A 17th-century woodcut showing witches being hanged while others, behind the tower grille, await their turn.
Sometimes, Kramer and Sprenger were able to achieve mass confessions in which an entire convent of nuns revealed that they had been regularly visited by the Devil and all of them had fornicated with him. But the inquisitors soon found that despite torture and the burnings, the numbers of witches they encountered did not decrease. On the contrary, the numbers kept rising and the crimes to which the heretics and witches confessed became more and more bizarre and obscene as time went on. A change of strategy was required and the inquisitors knew where to find it.
FALSE OFFERS OF CLEMENCY
Their own book, The Witches' Hammer., which outlawed nothing as long as it could produce a confession, suggested that better inroads might be made into the ranks of evil through offers of milder punishment. But in many cases, the new strategy prompted even more 'witches' to confess in exchange for minor punishments. They could even earn themselves a pardon - or so they were told - if they gave away other witches. Many of them eagerly grasped the opportunity to name names. But where this strategy fell down was
The inquisitors soon found that
despite torture and the burnings the
numbers of witches they
encountered did not decrease.
on the principle, also enshrined in The Witches' Hammer, that inquisitors could lie to witches, deceive them, mistreat them, do anything they liked to and with them and do so with impunity. Many women who admitted to being witches went to the stake complaining loudly that they had been promised their freedom and were ensured they would avoid the fearful fate that now awaited them.
There was also a mystery here. Witches were deeply feared, and were considered formidable foes capable of terrible retaliation. People believed that witches could cast spells, vanish into thin air and perform other supernatural acts to confound their enemies. Why, then, were they so easy to discover? Why were they unable to resist torture? Why did they make such copious confessions and, above all, never hit back at their tormentors? It was firmly believed that witches could curse their inquisitors, strike their torturers blind and emerge from the flames of the stake unscathed. Yet not once had any of these things happened.
Neither Heinrich Kramer nor James Sprenger, nor even the pope himself had an answer to this puzzle. All
One woman showed
remarkable endurance ... She was
tortured no fewer than 56 times but
failed to confess.
Jean Bodin, the Inquisitor-General of Besancon, France, hounded a woman called Desle la Mansenee on flimsy evidence and had her burned as a heretic and sorceress in 1529.
Guillemette Babin, with wrists bound, stands before Jean Bodin and another inquisitor being questioned about her relationship with the Devil, whose marks have been found on her body.
they could do was accuse, torture, condemn and burn in ever-greater numbers in the hope that the evil they were fighting would somehow be overcome. Tragically, many hundreds, including scores of small children, died in mass burnings, yet the evil remained. One bishop in Geneva, Switzerland, apparently burnt 500 victims within three months. In Bamburg in northern Bavaria another bishop disposed of 600 people, and inWurzburg, also in Bavaria, 900 perished at the stake. And so it went on. In 1586, a century after The Witches' Hammer was first published, 118 women - and two men were burned to death for casting a magic spell that made the winter last longer.
THE INQUISITOR GENERAL
Although the hunting and burning of witches was most zealously pursued in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Bavaria in southern Germany, other regions came close to matching these activities. One of them centred around Besancon in the province of Franche-Comte. At the time, Franche-Comte was a fief of the Holy Roman Empire where, in 1532, the Carolina Penal Code was enacted
One bishop in Geneva
burnt 500 victims within
decreeing that sorcery was a criminal offence punishable by death at the stake. Whereas the Parlement of Paris was able to put brakes on hunting and burning witches in the more truncated France of the time, it had no jurisdiction over Franche-Comte. Here, in 1529, Jean Boin, the Inquisitor-General of Besancon, began eavesdropping on local gossip at the village of Anjeux. What he heard convinced him that Anjeux was a hotbed of witches, at the centre of which was a married woman named Desle la Mansenee.
There was no evidence against her at this early stage, but Bodin made the most of what he could get. The sheer number of her accusers convinced him that la Mansenee had a case to answer. The deposition of one accuser, Antoine Godin, was typical of the hearsay 'evidence' considered conclusive for the purpose of witch trials. Godin, who was aged around 40 reached back some 30 years to his boyhood to recall talk that labelled la Mansenee a witch and a sorceress. Her son, Mazelin, had told how his mother attended the witch's sabbath, flying there backwards on a twisted willow stick. Godin also testified that he had heard villagers say that Desle la Mansenee had stolen threads from a spinning staff, which she intended to use for the purposes of witchcraft. When around two-dozen other villagers of Anjeux backed up Godin's 'proof' Boin made ready to act.
CONDEMNED BY GOSSIP AND RUMOUR
Desle la Mansenee protested her innocence, but even so, she was imprisoned and tortured and before long began to confess. It was much the same story as before - copulation and making a pact with the Devil, flying to the sabbath, participating in orgies, renouncing her Catholic faith and for good measure, making destructive hailstorms and poisoning cattle with a mysterious black powder. The inquisition made a surprise decision, though. Desle la Mansenee was sentenced to death for murder, heresy and apostasy, but not for witchcraft. This dubious mercy meant that she was hanged rather than burned, although her body was consigned to the flames after her execution on 18 December 1529, just to make sure her evil had been eliminated.
By this time, the more scientific ideas of the Renaissance were beginning to seep into concepts of how the law should operate. Judgements were no longer to be based on gossip, hearsay, mass hysteria and the excesses of zeal, but in a cooler intellectual climate founded on a logical, legalistic approach. The new thinking promised a fundamental transformation in the workings of justice and introduced the idea that reason was a far better guide than fear or fantasy. It was a lack of reasoned argument and intelligent proof
Desle la Mansenee was sentenced to death for murder heresy and apostasy but not for witchcraft. This dubious mercy meant that she was hanged rather than burned although her body was consigned to the flames after her execution.
that had raised concerns in the Parlement of Paris nearly 70 years before. But this rational approach, with its intimations of mercy and fair play, counted for nothing with the likes of Jean Bodin, a French jurist, economist and philosopher whose book, La Demonomanie des Sorciers (On Witchcraft) was published in Paris in 1580.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE MADONNA ORIENTE
The Madonna Oriente, also known as La Signora del Gioco (The Lady of the Game) was a strange religious personality described by two Italian women, Sibilla Zanni and Pierina de Bugatis, who stood trial for witchcraft before the Roman Inquisition in 1384. The inquisitors heard tales about occult rituals practised by the Madonna at the houses of wealthy Milanese families, which included using magic to bring dead animals back to life and other similar 'miracles'. Zanni and de Bugatis confessed that they had performed white magic for healing wounds or disease or ensuring fertility. Nevertheless, the Roman Inquisition came to the conclusion that the two women were deluded and their stories were nothing but fantasy. They were punished with only a minor penance and released. But the word 'magic' whether black or white was lethal in the context of the Inquisition, even if it was used in a religious context. Six years later the two women were re-arrested. They were put on trial again on the much more serious charge of consorting with the Devil. Both, inevitably, were found guilty and were executed in 1390.
Bodin was one of the most outstanding political theorists of the sixteenth century and ranked high among its greatest scholars. Yet he shared with illiterate and uneducated peasants the common fears and prejudices of his time. For a start, he believed that the ordinary rules of prosecution could not apply to witchcraft. He wrote:
Proof of such evil is so obscure and difficult that not one out of a million witches would be accused or punished if regular legal procedures were followed.
Instead, Bodin advocated the use of torture, even on children and the disabled, as the way to agonize confessions out of suspects. In this way, Bodin believed, it was impossible for any witch to escape punishment. From his point of view, suspicion of witchcraft was as good as proof and rumours were also valid because, as far as he was concerned, gossip about witches was invariably true.
Bodin advocated the use of torture, even on children and the disabled, as the way to agonize confessions out of suspects. In this way, Bodin believed, it was impossible for any witch to escape punishment.
In Bodin's world, anything - absolutely anything - was justified as long as it uncovered witches and witchcraft. Children could be forced to betray their parents, and once a charge of witchcraft had been laid, the accused must always be found guilty. Bodin suspected anyone who did not believe in sorcery of being a sorcerer, and he believed that judges who failed to execute convicted witches must themselves be executed.
As a judge, Jean Bodin recommended that witches be branded with hot irons, but he was not too happy about burning them alive. In his view, burning was too quick, for it was all over within a mere 30 minutes. Bodin, however, had a dark secret that could have made him a victim of his own advice. Since 1567, when he was 37 years of age, he had been possessed by a demon. Fortunately, it was a friendly demon and it touched him on the right ear if he was doing wrong and on the left if he contemplated doing what was right. Luckily for Bodin, the Inquisition never caught up with him.
The efforts of inquisitors in Toulouse and Narbonne were encouraged by such popes as John XXII, who issued a series of papal bulls exhorting them to increase their witch hunts and treat witchcraft as heresy
A SUPERSTITIOUS POPE
France, of course, had been the original stamping ground of the Inquisition when the hunt was on for the Templar and Cathar heretics in the fourteenth century. The persecutions did not stop there. The efforts of inquisitors in Toulouse and Narbonne were encouraged by such popes as John XXII, who issued a series of papal bulls exhorting them to increase their witch hunts, treat witchcraft as heresy and condemn suspects accordingly. Pope John was one of the most superstitious of pontiffs. He believed his enemies were using sorcery to kill him, and in 1317, he ordered them to be tortured into confessing. Three years later, John told the inquisitor at Carcassonne, which lay in Cathar country, to pursue sorcerers and magicians and anyone who tried to raise demons or made wax images for the purpose of inducing sickness or death. As a result of John XXII's encouragement, 1000 suspects were arrested in Toulouse and Carcassonne by l350 and 600 of them were burnt at the stake.
Activities like these, and the fervour that drove them, were still going strong in Jean Bodin's time more than two centuries later. Bodin died in 1596, but even after that, there was plenty of mileage left in the pursuit of suspects in both the Catholic and the Protestant countries of Europe.
This was the case even though, in 1623, Pope Gregory had spoken the last word on the subject from the Vatican in an ordinance entitled Omnipotentis Dei (The Omnipotence of God).
Gregory, a reformer by nature, ordered that sadistic punishments should be reduced, if not abandoned altogether, and that the death penalty be limited to those who were 'proved to have entered into a compact with the Devil and to have committed murder with his assistance'.
It took a very long time for the witch hunters to get the message. It was as if witch hunting and burning had taken on a ghastly life all its own that even papal injunctions could not halt. If anything, the parameters of guilt had been extended beyond witches and sorcerers to a new class of heretics, including fortune tellers, necromancers, enchanters and most lurid of all, werewolves.
MORE WITCH-HUNTING IN GERMANY
Nevertheless, witches still accounted for the majority of victims burnt at the stake or imprisoned. In Germany, where King Maximilian I became an enthusiastic witch hunter after succeeding to the throne of Bavaria in 1597, up to 2000 witches were burnt in the small town of Riezler, and as many again in Augsburg and Freising. In the German state of Bamburg, 600 witches perished in the flames in the ten years up to 1633, and more than 900 in the nearby town of Wurzburg. Among this last number, a total of 157 people died in 29 mass executions in Wurzburg, including boys aged 10 and 12.
Reports of the sadistic excesses committed by inquisitors in Spain (this was before Tomas de Torquemada
Pope John XXII, was a controversial pope in the early 14th century. His papal seat was at Avignon in modern France, rather than in the Vatican.
became Inquisitor General) caused Pope Sixtus to undergo a change of heart about allowing inquisitions. In 1482, he issued a papal bull putting a stop to the inquisition in Spain. The attempt was short-lived, though. King Ferdinand re-applied the pressure, Sixtus resisted briefly and made conditions, but ultimately, in 1483, he caved in and withdrew both his conditions and the bull.
Sixtus died in the following year, but Ferdinand made sure that the next pope, Innocent VIII, received and understood the same message. As Innocent had already proved, he was sufficiently hard-line in dealing with heresy and witchcraft in Germany, but Ferdinand wanted to put his own mark on his inquisition, not take his orders from Rome. Once Pope Innocent had backed off, the Spanish Inquisition moved on, later expanding its field of operations to ensure that the false converses, and other heretics who escaped to Mexico, Peru and other Spanish colonies in America were eliminated in their turn.
In the event, another 350 years went by before a Royal Decree finally abolished the Spanish Inquisition in 1834. By that time, more than 15 generations of inquisitors had handled some 150,000 cases of heresy. Up to 5000 cases incurred the death penalty in trials held between 1560 and 1700 alone. But the records were fragmentary and incomplete, covering some periods but not others, so that final figure for victims murdered may never be known.
THE SPANISH INQUISITION
During the Spanish Inquisition, a latecomer to the scene in 1478, the mass burning of heretics at the auto dafe (act of faith), became a public entertainment complete with the Mass, processions, the full pageantry of the religious and civic authorities and hundreds, sometimes thousands of spectators. The authorities of the Spanish Inquisition were always pleased to see a large crowd. In their estimation, there was nothing like an auto dafe to instil the fear of God and dread of the Devil into the faithful. Unlike its papal predecessor, though, the Spanish Inquisition did not operate under the aegis of the pope, but on the authority of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. This came about after King Ferdinand
This painting by Francisco Rizi (1608-1685) shows the burning of heretics at an auto dafe in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid in the presence of King Charles II of Spain in the late 17th century.
blackmailed Pope Sixtus IV into allowing him to create an inquisition by threatening to withdraw Spanish military support at a time when the Muslim Turks were endangering Rome.
This arrangement challenged the spiritual power of the papacy and Sixtus was never happy about it, especially after it became clear that the methods of the inquisition in Spain were even more barbaric than almost anywhere else.
TOMAS DE TORQUEMADA, A NAME TO FEAR
The Spanish use of torture and terror took inhumanity to previously unimagined heights. At the centre of the horror was Tomas de Torquemada, Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition. Torquemada, born in 1420, was a sadist whose name is still a byword for excessive harshness and fanaticism more than five centuries after his death. Torquemada was willing to use any means, however bestial or dishonest, if it meant rooting out heresy and exposing the false converses, the Jews and Muslims whose pretended conversion to Christianity had been designed to deflect persecution.
Torquemada was instrumental in the burning of Jewish and Muslim books and was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which pronounced the mass expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Yet, ironically, Torquemada himself had Jewish ancestry: his
The Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition, Tomas de Torquemada, is pictured here with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.
grandmother was said to be a converso and there was another convert from Judaism further back in his family. However that may be, the young Torquemada displayed nothing but vile hatred for Jews and Judaism and did everything he could to separate himself from his inconvenient ancestry.
As a youth, Torquemada became a Dominican monk and was known to be devout, ascetic and zealous. Little else is known about his life until, at the age of 54 in 1474, he became prior of the convent of Santa Cruz in Segovia in northern Spain. Soon afterwards, he was appointed confessor to the young Queen Isabella of Castile and eventually became advisor to both the Queen and her husband., King Ferdinand of Aragon. The royal couple were so impressed with Torquemada that in 1483, they appointed him Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition.
Torquemada was nothing if not thorough. He introduced the policy that every Christian in Spain, including girls over the age of 12 and boys over age 14, had to be accountable to the Inquisition for the purity of their faith. Under cover of anonymity, people were encouraged to tell tales on their neighbours, colleagues and even members of their own families if they were suspected of committing acts of heresy.
Sinners could be fined, imprisoned, tortured, burnt at the stake or subjected to all four of these punishments. When it came to the ultimate penalty, the stake and the fire, Torquemada offered his victims a choice of how they were to be burned. By kissing a crucifix they could be strangled, and therefore die, before being set alight. An apology for wrongs purportedly committed allowed for a speedy death by fast-burning logs. But those who maintained their innocence or retracted their forced confessions were made to suffer a prolonged death by slow-burning green wood.
Tomas de Torquemada remained Inquisitor General for nine years, until 1492, when the last of the Jews and Muslim Moors were expelled from Spain. This, he considered, completed his work and he retired to the monastery of St Thomas at Avila. By that time, though, Torquemada had built up a fearful reputation for excessive cruelty and fanaticism, a reputation that made him both feared and detested in Spain. The feeling against him was so intense that he refused to travel anywhere without the protection of his 50 mounted guards and 250 armed soldiers. Convinced that his numerous enemies were out to poison him, Torquemada kept an antidote, the powdered horn of a unicorn, close by on the dining table whenever he ate a meal. These precautions were unnecessary, for when Torquemada died in 1498, aged 78, it was from natural causes.
Nevertheless, the hatred he inspired lived on and as late as 1832, more than 330 years after his death, and two years before the Spanish Inquisition was finally abolished, desecrators broke into Torquemada's tomb, removed his bones and burnt them.
LOOKING BACK AT THE PAST
It has been reckoned by scholars that overall, between 40,000-100,000 men, women and children, to say nothing of thousands of black cats and several dogs, were tortured and killed in the five centuries and more when the fear of the Devil and all his works
By 1834 more than 15 generations of inquisitors had handled some 150,000 cases of heresy. Up to 5000 cases incurred the death penalty between 1560 and 1700 alone.
held Europe in thrall and popes and inquisitions struggled to prise Christendom from his wicked grasp. Of all the witch trials in Europe, some 12,000 are known to have ended in executions.
Long after Europe had finally emerged from this appalling phase, historians, scholars and psychiatrists looked back at this terrible period in the continent's history and saw it as a gigantic delusion. More than that, the hunting of witches, with its tortures and forced confessions, was an ongoing nightmare brought on by fear, ignorance, fanaticism, suppressed sexuality and rampant hysteria. The shame and disgrace of this chapter of history clung to Europe for a long time.
TO BE CONTINUED WITH "THE BORGIAS"
THE OLD ROMAN EMPIRE WAS PROPHESIED IN GOD'S WORD THE BIBLE, TO HAVE 7 RESURRECTIONS UNDER A WOMAN WHORE CHURCH. OLD PROTESTANT BIBLE COMMENTARIES PULL NO PUNCHES IN TELLING YOU THAT BABYLON THE GREAT, OF THE LAST CHAPTERS OF REVELATION - THE WOMAN DRUNK WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS, WAS THE ROMAN PAPACY!!
HISTORY SHOWS CLEARLY NO OTHER "CHRISTIAN" CHURCH HAS EVER COMMITTED SO MANY THOUSANDS OF UNSPEAKABLE CRIMES OF TORTURE AND DEATH, TO OTHERS SUSPECTED OF NOT BEING FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLICS, AND ALSO KILLING PEOPLES OF OTHER RACES AND RELIGIONS, LIKE THE MUSLIMS, WITH CRUSADER WARS, THAN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
IT IS SHE WHO HAS BEEN DRUNK ON THE BLOOD OF OTHERS, AS WELL AS TRUE SAINTS OF GOD, DOWN THROUGH HISTORY.
AGAIN, WITH SUCH A RECORD, WITH HISTORY DOCUMENTING ALL THIS HORRIBLE BLOOD-THIRSTY MINDEDNESS; IT BLOWS ME AWAY THAT THIS CHURCH CAN STILL TODAY HAVE OVER ONE BILLION FOLLOWERS AROUND THE WORLD.
THERE IS YET TO COME THE 7TH AND FINAL RESURRECTION OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, THAT WILL BRING ON THE EARTH THE GREATEST TRIBULATION THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN SINCE THE BEGINNING OF HUMAN HISTORY.