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The history of witch trials on the border of Nysa - Jeseník

2Those trials were perceived in a slightly different way by the then Bishop of Wroclaw, Charles Ferdinand Vasa, who decided to convene a committee, which aim was to investigate the sentences, because the trials began to be surprisingly profitable venture for the judicial committee. Evidence of which is the government of Nysa, at one point, earned 425 Thalers by execution of 11 people from Zlaté Hory. According to the preserved original recipe from Zlaté Hory, the sum was divided in the following way: Mayor – 9 Thalers 6 Groschen, council in Nysa – 9 Thalers 6 Groschen, council in Zlaté Hory – 18 Thalers 12 Groschen, Village Mayor – 18 Thalers 12 Groschen, the judges – 18 Thalers 12 Groschen, city chronicler – 9 Thalers 6 Groschen. The rest was to be accrued to the bishop.

Interestingly, executioner was not on this idiosyncratic "payroll". The contract with him was signed only a year later. According to it, for one convicted person he was to get 6 Thalers, weekly meals and 2 bushels of oats. Whereas his lackey, for one victim received 2 Thalers and a skin of wine.

We will probably never be able to really know how many victims was taken by the second wave of trials in the years 1634-1648. Protocols with vague information say about 26 victims, which is likely to be only a small part, since only in 1641, during four trials in Nysa, 16 "witches" were sentenced.

Preserved trial documents shed some light on the increasing of that spiral of violence and cruelty. The years 1651-1684 were the most terrible period of witch trials in the Duchy of Nysa. A lot of interesting documents concerning the third period of witch trials have preserved in the Opava Land Archives. That is 21 convictions, from which 15 preserved in the original and 6 copies.

Again, at the beginning, there was an unfounded accusation. This time it was a boy from Široký Brod near Mikulovice, who was accused of the participation in Sabbath with a local witch. At that point, probably the first capital punishment was pronounced in Nysa on 23th May, 1651, when a twenty-year-old Urszula Schnurzel from Široký Brod. The ruling says that "she heavily sinned against God's commandments, turned away from God, his Mother and all nice saints, and gave her body and soul to the infernal spitfire, Roland with whom she had intercourse, libelled venerable holiness and harmed many people by her witchcraft. The execution took place in Jesenik, although the date of the execution was not specified in documents, executions usually were carried out after three days. Another five women quickly shared the fate of Schnurzel and were burnt on 19th of June in Jasenik. Two of them also came from Široký Brod, one from Jasenik, the provenance of the other two is unknown. An interesting fact about the sentence in that case is the lack of giving any example of damage caused to people or their possessions. Indicated is only a religious nature of committed crime without specifying it. Trials has grown to such extent that again mass executions occurred. On 19th of June, another seven women were burnt (three from Jesenik, two from Mikulovice, and one from Dolní Lipová and one from Adolfovice).

10 days later, another eight were sentenced to death, practically from the same places. Only in July, in total, 20 people were burnt. In August, in two trials, 13 people were sentenced. However, September turned out to be the most tragic, when after four trials, 32 people lost their lives. In the In September trials we see for the first time a record, which says that 24 people were first beheaded, and then their bodies were burnt at the stakes. Apparently, "sincere repentance" was to be the reason. On 12th of December in Jesenik, in one execution, 9 people were burnt alive. It was the largest, and last execution of such type, at least there. From then on, the stakes were erected only for individual victims, who, in the act of grace, were beforehand beheaded. Despite the fact that the sentences were executed in Jesenik, all judgements were given in Nysa.

During this period, we encounter for the first time the name of Jindřich František Boblig from Edelstadt (Zlaté Hor), the inquisitor of Velké Losiny and Šumperk. He was a member of tribunal, but also a diligent and active student of inquisitor of Nysa, Ferdinand Zacher. However, he had his most bloody stage of his career not in the Duchy of Nysa, but on the other side of Jesenik, at prince Žerotin, at the moment when trials in the Duchy of Nysa were virtually discontinued. During the most intense witch-hunts, like years before, Bishop Charles Ferdinand Vasa returned to the stage. He warned in writing the Count George of Hodice about "too thorough and dangerous trial conducting", "it seems to us... that too much happened to one or more persons, as if they were only too frightened and tormented". Unfortunately, the Bishop did not managed to stop anything with his warning, and the trials continued unchanged.
Among the death sentences between November 1651 and February 1652, we will find several cases that differed from previous ones. It comes to the executions of sentenced children, what was described in the literature on the subject years ago. However, as later researches have shown, the sentences with given records at their sequence, like it was for example on the pronounced sentence in Nysa in 13th of December, 1651, where we read: Barbara Kronasser from Velké Kunětice two years, Urszula Jones from Písečná a year and a half, etc., thankfully, do not say about the age of the convicted, but about the period during which given person was supposed to be "in the service of the devil". The explanation of this phenomenon can be found in the efforts of the inquisitors to prove to the bishop that it is necessary to persevere in conducting the trials against the long-standing allies of the devil. Therefore, during the visit of the bishop in Jesenik in 1651, the inquisitors came to the conclusion that although all citizens of the town are Catholics, half of them probably indulges in illicit practices. In the European press of the time Silesia has been described as a country crowded with witches and evil spirits. Only in Zlaté Hory reportedly 8 executioners "had their hands full with beheading and burning, and they were able to burn 6 - 8 witch chaffs at a time". Only when in Nysa during confession, tortured women gave the name of bishop's confessor, many people figured out what meant confessions forced by torture. Immediately after this event, the emperor issued a ban on carrying out the witch trials. Most of the information about that tragic year literature cites after John Felix Padewitz, who in 1698 described it in "The history of St. James' Church". He mentions there, by the way of the trial of 42 women from Nysa, about special oven built near the gallows. Although we do not have any further information about how it looked like, we also do not have any of its remains, and therefore, functioning of the oven can be questioned, however, it remains today the most drastic symbol of witch trials in the area of the Duchy. However, it should be emphasized that nearly half century after the tragic year 1651, priest Padewitz, in his work, said publically and unequivocally, that the greatest sin is to force confessions through torture.


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