The suppression of witchcraft, 1484 style….

from Britannica.com

On 5th December 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull known as Summis desiderantes affectibus (“desiring with supreme ardour”). Its purpose was to suppress the practice of witchcraft by any necessary means.

The following paragraph is taken from the 1928 English translation of it:-

“….Many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals; these wretches furthermore afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, …they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of Mankind they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses to the deadly peril of their own souls, …the abominations and enormities in question remain unpunished not without open danger to the souls of many and peril of eternal damnation.…”

Pretty strong stuff. The bull was prompted originally by a request from the Dominican Inquisitor in Germany concerning witchcraft in the Rhine Valley. The number of people thought to be practicing witchcraft was increasing throughout western Europe, but especially in Germany. Innocent issued the bull and despatched inquisitors there to deal with the matter, but the ultimate intention was the destruction of witchcraft in whatever country it appeared.

To read more, go to this article.

Innocent VIII, commemorative medallion by Niccolò Fiorentino.Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Samuel H. Kress Collection

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