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Timeline of Witches and Witchcraft

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Below is a timeline of events in Europe and America involving the persecution of witches and alleged witches. There are three different color codings:

  • Trials and Mobs
  • Proclamations, Laws, etc.
  • Other

Persecution of Witches & Witchcraft
383 Priscillian of Avila was executed. He was accused of Manichaeism, but the official reason for burning him was witchcraft.
906 Canon Eposcopi, a collection of church laws, appeared. It declared that belief in witchcraft was heretical.
1022 A group of pious and ascetic mystics who denied key tenets of Christianity were burned as witches in Orleans. Contemporary Christian writers branded them as Devil worshippers who indulged in sex orgies and the murder of children - standard accusations for all dissident groups at the time.
1141 Hugh of St. Victor wrote Didascalicon, which included a strong denunciation of using or studying magic:
Magic was not accepted as part of philosophy, but stands with a false claim outside it; the mistress of every form of iniquity and malice, lying about the truth and truly infecting men's minds, it seduces them from divine religion, prompts them from the cult of demons, fosters corruption of morals, and impels the minds of its devotees to every wicked and criminal indulgence. ... Sorcerers were those who, with demonic incantations or amulets or any other execrable types of remedies, by the cooperation of the devils or by evil instinct, perform wicked things.
1231 Conrad of Marburg was appointed as the first Inquisitor of Germany, setting a pattern of persecution. In his reign of terror, he claimed to have uncovered many nests of "Devil worshippers" and adopted the motto of:
We would gladly burn a hundred if just one of them was guilty.
1233 Pope Gregory IX proclaimed Conrad of Marburg a champion of Christendom and promoted his findings in the Papal Bull Vox in Rama.
1258 Pope Alexander IV declared that Inquisitors should not concern themselves with divination, but only those which "manifestly savored of heresy."
1280 First appearance of images of a witch riding a broom.
1320 Pope John XXII authorized the Inquisition to began persecuting sorcery and witchcraft.
1324 - 1325 Lady Alice Kyteler, her son and associates in Kilkenny, Ireland, were tried for witchcraft. For the first time, stories of mating with demons were linked with stories of pacts with Satan. Lady Alice escaped to England, but others were burned.
1398 The theology faculty at the University of Paris declared that all forms of magic or divination involved some sort of pact with the devil and were thus heresy, justifying the persecution of every possible sort of witchcraft.
1428 Witch trials of Brianqon took place in the Dauphine. About 167 local people were burned as witches between 1428 and 1450.
1431 Trial of Joan of Arc took place and included allegations of witchcraft.
1440 Notorious trial of Gilles de Rais, who was accused of witchcraft and debaucheries.
1484 Papal Bull Summis desiderantes was issued by Pope Innocent VIII, authorizing Jakob Sprenger, Dean of Cologne University, and Prior Heinrich Kramer, both Dominican monks, to systematize and categorize the persecution of witches.
1486 Publication of Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) by Sprenger and Kramer. Based upon their experiences in Germany, this manual for witch hunters ran to 40 editions. In their opinion, witchcraft was based upon sexual lust:
All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which was in women insatiable.


In an interesting twist, it was now declared that not believing in witches was heresy:
A belief that there were such things as witches was so essential a part of Catholic faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion savours of heresy.
1488 Papal Bull was issued, calling upon European nations to rescue the church because it was "imperiled by the arts of Satan."
1490 King Charles VIII issued an edict against fortunetellers, enchanters, necromancers and others engaging in any sort of witchcraft.
1508 Mass witch trials in Biarn occurred.
1529 Inquisitorial witchcraft trials took place at Luxeuil.
1532 Declaration of the Carolina Code in Germany which imposed the penalties of torture and death for witchcraft. This code was technically adopted by the 300-odd small independent states which comprise the Holy Roman Empire.
1542 Henry VIII issued a statute against witchcraft.
1547 Repeal of statute of 1542 during the reign of Edward VI.
1557 Toulouse witch trials took place, during which forty witches were condemned and burned.
1563 Queen Elizabeth issued a statute against witchcraft.

Johan Weyer wrote De Praestigiis Daemonum. This book described his belief that witches were just mentally disturbed old women and that it was the belief in witches which was caused by Satan. He was forced to leave the Netherlands and his book was denounced by Jean Bodin.
1563 Council of Trent resolved to win back Germany from Protestantism to the Catholic Church; intensification of religious struggles and persecutions results.
1566 The first Chelmsford witch trials. This trial was the first to appear in a secular court in England and resulted in the first woman being hanged for witchcraft, Agnes Waterhouse. This trial also produced the first chapbook, or tabloid newspaper, relating to witchcraft.
1579 The Windsor witch trials; also the second Chelmsford trials.
1580 Jean Bodin, a French judge, published Daemonomanie des Sorciers condemning witches. According to Bodin, those denying the existence of witches were actually witches themselves.
1582 St. Osyth Witches of Essex (case tried at Chelmsford).
1584 Publication of Discovery of Witchcraft by the skeptic Reginald Scot who argued that witches might not exist after all.
1589 Third Chelmsford witch trials.
1589 Fourteen convicted witches at Tours appealed to King Henry III, who was in turn accused of protecting witches.
1590 William V began a witch hunt in Bavaria.

The North Berwick witch trials began when an alleged coven of witches was exposed in 1590-91, resulting in Scotland's most celebrated witch trials and executions. King James VI (who became James I of England), a devout believer in witches, even took part in the proceedings. The torture applied to the victims was among the most brutal in Scotland's entire history of witchcraft prosecution.
1592 Father Cornelius Loos wrote of those arrested and accused of witchcraft:
Wretched creatures were compelled by the severity of the torture to confess things they have never done... and so by the cruel butchery innocent lives were taken; and, by a new alchemy, gold and silver are coined from human blood.
1593 Warboys witches of Huntingdon were put on trial.
1597 Publication of Demonology by James VI of Scotland (later James I of England).
1597 Case of the Burton Boy (Thomas Darling) in Staffordshire.
1604 James I released his statute against witchcraft, in which he wrote that they were "loathe to confess without torture."
1604 Case of the Northwich Boy.
1605 Abingdon witches and Anne Gunter.
1612 Lancashire witch trials.
1616 Case of the Leicester Boy (John Smith).
1618 Start of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) during which the witch hunt throughout Germany was at its height.
1620 Case of the Bilson Boy (William Perry).
1625 Start of general decline of witch trials in France.
1628 Trial of Johannes Junius, mayor of Bamberg, for witchcraft.
1631 Publication of Cautio Criminalis by Friedrich von Spee, opposing the witch hunt.
1632 Death of the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg marked the end of the persecutions in this principality (1609-1632).
1645 Case of the Faversham witches, Kent Witchfinder-general Matthew Hopkins and the Chelmsford (or Manningtree) witch trials.
1646 Death of Matthew Hopkins from tuberculosis.
1647 Publication of Discovery of Witches by Matthew Hopkins.
1649 Case of the St. Albans witches, Hertfordshire.
1652 "Dr. Lamb's Darling": the trial of Anne Bodenham and the trial of the Wapping Witch (Joan Peterson) near London.
1655 Last execution for witchcraft in Cologne (where persecution was already less severe).
1662 The Bury St. Edmunds witch trials.
1670 Rouen witch trials.
1674 Trial of Anne Foster in Northampton.
1679 - 1682 The notorious Chanibre d'ardente affair: Louis XIV's star chamber investigated poison plots and heared evidence of widespread corruption and witchcraft. More than 300 people were arrested and 36 executed. The affair ended with a royal edict which denied the reality of witchcraft and sorcery.
1684 Last execution for witchcraft in England (Alice Molland at Exeter).
1712 Jane Wenham of Walkern in Herefordshire was last person convicted of witchcraft in England.
1722 Last execution for witchcraft in Scotland.
1736 Repeal of Statute of James 1 (1604).
1745 Last execution for witchcraft in France (of Father Louis Debaraz at Lyons).
1775 Last official execution for witchcraft in Germany (of Anna Maria Schwiigel at Kempten in Bavaria).
1787 All witchcraft laws in Austria were repealed.
1928 A family of Hungarian peasants were acquitted of beating an old woman to death whom they thought was a witch. The court used as an excuse the argument that the family acted out of "irresistible compulsion."
1976 A poor woman in Germany was suspect of keeping dogs as familiars (devil's agents). Neighbors ostracized her, threw rocks at her, threatened to beat her to death, and finally burned down her house, badly burning her and killing all the animals.
1977 In France, a mob killed an old man suspected of sorcery.
1981 A mob in Mexico stoned to death a woman suspected of witchcraft.


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