Basics about Legal Systems Every country has its own laws or rules People in the country have to follow those or they have to face disciplinary measures There are different kind of laws, for example: Adjective Law Civil law Criminal law Depending on which law sombody breaks, the measures can be to impose a fine or maybe jail.
Some time ago, in the Dark Ages, some of the today known laws already existed and some are already forgotten or changed. Even the punishment if somebody broke those laws was very different and in some cases the punishment was much harder than today (torture!). Very interesting is the fact, that some cities in the Middle Ages had their own, special laws and could decide what to do with somebody who broke a rule. For example Nuremberg!
City law of Nuremberg In the Dark Ages, Nuremberg was an imperial city, which means Nuremberg could decide everything on its own. Those laws weren‘t codified, which means the laws weren‘t written in books to refer to – they were passed verbally from juryman to juryman. That means there is no exact information about this jurisdiction. All information is interpreted by found bylaws, orders and reconstructed from individual cases (public records, courtbooks, files). Between 1285 and 1335 the first penal books were published with the citybanbooks. After that feudbooks and others followed. The oldest adjective and civil law are only known from found documents, which were found in 1240 used and by the church – they acquired property with it.
City law of Nuremberg The History about the City Law of Nuremberg is very interesting with all its laws and everything. However now we come to an, even more interesting part. The Criminal law! The criminal law changed extremly in the late medieval times. The oldest book about the criminal law is from 1294. What was written in there, about how to convict somebody f.ex., was still used about 1335. From that time on, new punishments for convicts were on the occured daily. Still some people had to pay a fine for what they did – but many people not, were not that lucky. They were adjuged to torture or death penalty. The following are just some examples: Beheadding* Iron Maiden of Nuremberg Hanging Racking
City law of Nuremberg - Cases - In 1515 a very cruel holdup murder close to Regensburg happened one night. A nobleman was not home that day and his wife was home alone in their castle. His brother‘s vasall asked for accomodation. At night the vasall creeped to the sleepingroom of the noblewoman and killed her with an axe. After that he killed her son and the maidservant, who was pregnant with two children. After the murder he was looking for things to steal – like silver dishes, jewelery and other things. When he had everything, he lit the castle on fire and ran to the village and screamed for fire alarm at the castle and all people living in the village came to help. In this crowd of people the vasall was able to escape. Not very long after this happened, the vasall was caught in Nuremberg and he got convicted – The Rack!
City law of Nuremberg - Cases - Beheadding: In the year 1532 many clothiers were beheadded because it came to the light, that they sold to short textil-roles which were too short. Something very brutal happened in 1504 to three young servants who killed their lord. Two of these teens were not yet 15 years old and in Nuremberg people younger than 15 were not allowed to get executed. The council sent two deputies to King Maximilian to get an exceptional permission, which they received. On Janurary 17th 1505 the open execution took place. First the 12 year old boy was to be beheadded with the sword. The boy ran to the council to ask for mercy, but the deathsman executed him right in front of the council while the boy was still standing and waiting for the council‘s answer. The other two girls weren‘t beheadded - they were buried alive!
City law of Nuremberg - Cases - Burning : In the medieval times women who knew a lot about herbs or the human body (like midwives) were called witches and were burned by law. In 1505 three priests escorted the witch Barbara to Schwabach, where she had to be burned on the stake. Before she walked up to the stake the priests told her to scream „Jesus Nazarenus rex Judeorum, lord give me mercy“, because everybody believed then that she was no witch and the lord would forgive her. Barbara agreed and while the fire around her was burning she screamed the words until she asphyxiated. Burning of witches: The tracing of witches started in the 13th century and about 50.000 women died. Most of them were burned and some got tortured to their death. The “top-burning-time“ was not in the middleages, it was in the 30-Year-War from 1618-1648. It happend almost everywhere in Europecountries: Italy France Spain Germany Great Britain (In some other countries too, but those are the top 5!)
City law of Nuremberg Of course death penalty and torture was not only a something one did in Germany Germany. All european punishments were very similar (drowning, amputation) and some invented new ways of “torturing“ somebody. For example Spain. They invented the „Spanish Spider“. An instrument of torture where the crawl ripped out womans breasts. A saying says, that Nuremberg invented the first “Iron Maiden“ and the other countries copied it. Fact is, that Nuremberg has a Maiden – and how it works… I think everybody knows!
Witch-Hunting in France The witch-hunt in France already started very early in history. In 500 AD the first wizards were sentenced to death because of using witchcraft. In those cases the “wizards” mostly poisoned others. In the Dark Ages the South of France was a scene of crime against people who were suspected of heresy by the inquisition. Because the inquisition already destroyed heretical sects like the Katharer and Waldenser and eliminated the Order of the Temple, they were looking for some ‘new’ victims. So they were looking for a connection between wizardry/witchcraft and heresy. This process took a few centuries but at the end everybody accepted that everything connected with magic (like knowing something about herbs) is in contact with the devil. So the Catholic Church had something new and witchcraft was accepted as hesery! The first processes against witches were characterized as heresy. The evidence for heresy in at court have always been the same, like worshipping of the devil and, to be in contact with demons. In 1275 Angele de la Barthe was sentenced to death because she allegedly ate babies, for fortune-telling and necromancy.
Witch-Hunting in France In 1581 the church in France banned all books which allegedly contained magic spells. The worst case happened in 1582 under the direction of the inquisition in Avignon, where 18 women were sentenced to death because of witchcraft and got burned. A very interesting fact is that almost only the folk of France believed the church about existing witchcraft. The leaders of France did not! In 1559 Heinrich III tried to help 14 women who were accused of using magic. After that Heinrich III was known as somebody who protected witches. After 1625 fewer witches were burned. In 1670 Ludwig XIV. complained at parliament of the Normandy because 525 women were sentenced to death because of magic in Rouen. After Ludwig XVI. complained, the women weren’t killed, but they had to leave the country. The last victim was Father Louis Debaraz. He was burned in 1745 in Lyon because he was doing a sacrilege mass to find hidden treasures.
Witch-Hunting in Italy It was the inquisition’s fault, that the witch-hunting had it’s “best-times” very early in history. Already in the old Rome many people were sentenced to death because of witchcraft and wizardry. In those times people were very superstitions. In those cases the alleged magic was mostly preparing poisons or other kind of potions – because of a high knowledge in herbs the “wizards and witches” were crucified or ended as food for the lions. In some cases the witches were sold as slaves to other countries. Memorizing “La Vecchia” (The old Religion), the executed witches are still alive and believe in their heathenish lifestyle and follow gods like Bachhus, Diana Herodias and Venus. A myth says, that followers of Diana Herodias were flying with her in the night sky. It is said, that those meetings are the reason for the esbat later in Europe.
Witch-Hunting in Italy In the first few years of the 15 th century the old women of small villages, outside of the big cities, were the favourite targets of the inquisition because of using “witch-craft”. This “witch-craft” was most of the time in brewing potions out of herbs and fortune-telling. In 1484 Pope Innozenz VIII. approved the hunting of witches and to this year this madness (Hexenwahn?) started all over Europe. The people of Europe started to believe, that the Christian society is threatened by an army of witches using black magic. In this time the smallest hint of using witch-craft or heresy led to convictions and mass- burnings. A few months later there were already 41 alleged witches got burned in Como by the inquisition. Suspicious-looking-women, like very old women or women who lived alone for a long time, were tortured till they confessed a connection to the devil and being a witch. The inquisition also tried to receive information, how to identify a witch more easily, by torturing women. Found information says, that the tortured women mostly confessed murder of children and cannibalism and some more. A very interesting curiosity is, that a very fast dance with jumps existed at this time in Italy – and it says, that it only danced by witches because the devil himself invented it.
Witch-Hunting in Italy There was have been many mass-processes in Italy. The case in Brescia 1510 claimed 140 lives and in 1514 in Como with 300 lives and in Valcanonica with 70 executions and over 5000 suspects of using witch-craft! In 1520 the “council of the ten” in Venecia said that the mass-executions in the north of Italy needed to be reduced and the inquisition was the only one allowed to decide cases like this. The only job of the world-councils was to confirm the judgements, carried out by the inquisition. The most famous case of the witch-hunt in Italy was in 1789 where the count Bagliostro got sentenced to death because he showed (in his own villa on the Piazza Farnese in Rome!) some magic tricks to his guests. Only because of his very good connections he was never executed but had to live in prison till he died. After that the witch-hunt in Italy decreased in numbers but two centuries afterwards witches still were burned! Even today people living in the south of Italy in small villages have a very bad reputation! It is said that they still believe in the old heathendom.
Witch-Hunting in Spain When I made my research for this project, I did not expect to find out, that there was almost no witch-hunting in Spain! In 1536 the Spanish Inquisition said that the “Hammer of the Witches” (germ. Der Hexenhammer) must not be used as a guiding principle. In the beginning of the 17 th century the inquisitor Don Alonso Salazar Frias ended the basque-witch- hunting. Problem was, that the Spanish folk “liked” burning witches, and didn’t listen to the Spanish Inquisition. In the years 1618 and 1619 everybody panicked because of witchcraft – this started because of hailstorms, plague of locusts and drouth. Because of that hundreds of women got hanged. Because the Spanish Inquisition didn’t like the witch-hunting, those women got sentenced to death by local courts. In some villages inquisitors tried to rescue the “witches” – but this was not possible, because the inhabitants took the women outside their villages and killed them on the fields. However, it is very important to say that – the Spanish Inquisition was not “nice”! Although they helped poor women who were alleged witches – they killed heretics and jews!
Witch-Hunting in Poland The witch-hunting in Poland happened between 15 th and 18 th century. First information about used witch-craft in Poland was Stanislaw Kuropatwa – a priest living in Dobrzyn who got sentenced to death on August 27 th 1473. From the 15 th century to the first half of the 16 th about 60 men and women were convicted in front of the canonical court. First hint of death penalty at the stake was found in 1476. Dorota from Zakrzew was sentenced to death but was never executed because she had three securities which proved, that something went wrong and she was set free. The first woman who really died at the stack is not known by name – but she died in Waliszew in 1511. Between 1670 and 1730 the witch-hunting in Poland increased. Due to war between Poland, Russia and Sweden the country got ravaged and hunger and epidemics have been the reason for a decrease of the population. That’s why the people were looking for scapegoats for their “bad luck”, which they found in the alleged witches.
Witch-Hunting in Poland Documents about the witch-hunt in Poland say that the number of women charged because of witchcraft or wizardry lies between 30.000 and 40.000. Surprisingly, only about 10.000 died by the death penalty itself like at the stake or beheadding. The other already died being tortured or in prison. Poland is known as one of the countries with the highest rate of burned men and women in Europe!
Virgin of Nuremberg - CAUTION – (can be frightening!) Virgin of Nuremberg (English Trailer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRbjfDz0Aa c&feature=related Virgin of Nuremberg (Italian Trailer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLf6UrKb8D Q
Recources http://www.medievality.com/torture.html http://www.stadtrecht.nuernberg.de/ E-Book: Peter Schuster – Verbrechen und Strafe
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