Did you know that Alsace and Lorraine were particularly affected by the witch hunt?

Episode of Monday, December 19, 2022 at 09:45

Hi there,

Today we are going to look at a dark subject and not so far from our time. Did you know that Alsace and Lorraine were particularly affected by the Witch Hunt?

While the witch hunt is often portrayed as a Renaissance event, its origins date back to the Middle Ages. Faced with a proliferation of heresies from the year 1000, the Church stiffened its position, sending its preachers into the countryside, particularly in Alsace, in order to prevent believers from straying from the right path. The struggle became politicized in the 13th century, when the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire had heresies declared a crime against majesty… punishable by burning at the stake. Thus, the radicalization of the fight against heretics took a new turn under Pope John XXII, because the latter, following an assassination attempt, brought under the Inquisition a whole series of rites considered magical still tolerated at that time. era.

In the 15th century, witchcraft trials became more and more common in the southern Rhine region, and began to rise towards the Lower Rhine. It was in 1486 that the witch hunt took a new turn, with the publication of the Hammer of the Witches, written by an Alsatian, Heinrich Kramer, from Selestat. The book further asserted that women, through their weakness, threw themselves into the arms of Satan and offered a list of techniques for extracting information from the defendants, such as the ordeal by water. With many anecdotes about cases of witches, the book reassured the Inquisitors and the populations living at that time that witchcraft had to be fought in a violent way. Local tensions, jealousies, climatic vagaries and rivalries between those in power played on many occasions the role of the spark leading to the lawsuits.

The great witch hunt took place between 1560 and 1650, almost a century after the publication of Kramer’s manifesto, the time that ideas infused the dominant political and religious classes. For more than a century, the pattern was similar: mostly women, often midwives, bonesetters or widows, were the priority target of the Inquisition after denunciation within their community. After the arrest, the testimonies of the informers were heard by counsel. The culprit underwent torture in order to extract a summary confession, then a council of 7 people decided on the guilt of the defendant. The person, recognized as a witch and heretic, serving the demon, was then burned at the stake.

The last burnings took place shortly before the annexation of Alsace to France in 1648, although the Thirty Years War had already reduced arrests and convictions. Thus, the number of deaths caused by the Inquisition in Alsace varies from 1,600 to 5,000 according to estimates, not counting those condemned to exile. However, if the witch was hunted down in Alsace, her memory lives on: didn’t the Batsberg above Bouxwiller host the Sabbath? Whether ! And it is to exorcise this place that a gigantic cross was planted there.

Chronicle produced by Antoine.

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Did you know that Alsace and Lorraine were particularly affected by the witch hunt?

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