Thursday, July 31, 2008
Between 1626 and 1633, by conservative estimates, 600 to 900 witches were killed in Bamberg as part of a particularly intense outbreak of catholic persecution during the thirty years war.
Though this was happening all over Europe, as far as I know, Bamberg was unique in having a special building in which suspects were detained, examined – usually under torture – and finally send to death by burning. That was the ‘Malefizhaus’ or ‘Drudenhaus’ or ‘Hexenhaus’ (witch house) erected in 1627 by Bishop Johann Georg II Fox of Dornheim and demolished in the year 1635.
This house was nothing but a torture jail in a church. Hundreds of innocent citizens of Bamberg were brutally tortured in this building. Thanks to the detailled plan of Mathew Merian or Peter Isselburg we can see the complex architecture, the rich engravings and the plan.
It was large and massive, with an image of Justice over the entrance and the Vergilian line:
« Discite justitiam moniti et non temnere divos » while tablets on either side of the portal bore the significant text I Chron., ix,8-9, and its translation.
The torture chamber was separate but connected by a walled cout, and a brook ran under it. There was also a chapel building. The number of prisoners that it would accomodate may be guessed from the provision accounts, which show that they were usually thirtysix confined at a time. But it was by no means the total for the province; for Zeil, where cruel persecussion occured, must have had a similar smaller building, and there were such in Hallstadt, Kronach, Eichstätt and other places.
The prisoners or her friends had to furnish all necessaries such as beds and beddings, utensils, and so on. At the time of arrest a minut and comprehensive inventory was made of all possessions of the accused, with valuations of everything, all money and debts dues.
The confiscations which ordinarily ensued became so oppressive that the Emperor Ferninand II, whose attention was called to it by complaints, expressly forbade it to the Bamberg Prince-Bishop.