1222: An apostate deacon

1 comment April 17th, 2010 Headsman

Thirteenth century England was a dicey place for theological heterodoxy.

On this date in 1222, Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton held at Oxford a provincial council that ordered for immediate execution

an apostate deacon, who for the love of a Jewess had circumcised himself. When he had been degraded he was burnt by the servants of the lord Fawkes.

The story of this nameless and foreskinless deacon — and the link includes several congruent descriptions from primary sources — is sometimes conflated with that of Robert of Reading, another Christian divine who converted in the late 13th century.

Robert’s fate — or Haggai’s, to use the new name he took — seems to be officially unknown, and might have unfolded overseas: Edward I expelled Jews from England in 1290. Nevertheless, the mixed Robert-anonymous deacon story was commemorated with a plaque at Osney Abbey.

Whomever this date’s deacon really was, he wasn’t the only one for whom this council ordained a dreadful end for having the wrong idea about the Almighty.

And there was brought thither into the council an unbelieving youth along with two women, whom the archdeacon of the district accused of the most criminal unbelief, namely that the youth would not enter a church nor be present at the blessed sacraments, nor obey the injunctions of the Catholic Father, but had suffered himself to be crucified, and still bearing in his body the marks of the wounds had been pleased to have himself called Jesus by the aforesaid women. And one of the women, an old woman, was accused of having long been given to incantations and having by her magic arts brought the aforesaid youth to this height of madness. So both being convicted of this gross crime, were condemned to be imprisoned between two walls until they died. But the other woman, who was the youth’s sister, was let go free, for she had revealed the impious deed.

Our source thinks this means life imprisonment rather than being bricked up behind the amontillado. Whatever. It’s not every day we get to use the “immured” tag.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 13th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Disfavored Minorities,England,Execution,God,Heresy,History,Immured,Jews,Known But To God,Martyrs,Notable Participants,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Starved,Women

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1226: Frederick of Isenberg

1 comment November 14th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1226, Count — although he had been stripped of this title — Frederick of Isenberg, a German noble, was broken on the wheel for the murder of his cousin, the Archbishop of Cologne.

The proximate cause of the dispute between the two was said to have been Frederick‘s exploitation for his own benefit of an abbey he administered, to which the Archbishop, Engelbert of Berg, took exception. Underlying the conflict are the the outlines of power politics in fractious medieval Germany.

Engelbert was an aggressive and effective Archbishop, and the power he won for his diocese came at the expense of other claimants. Frederick was not likely the only noble menaced by the inroads of the vigorous bishop. One theory has it that, despite the 47 wounds found on the cleric’s body, the ambush Frederick laid for him aimed only to capture him as a hostage — a not unheard-of negotiating strategem of the period.

No matter Frederick’s intent, what he achieved was excommunication and the loss of all lands, title and wealth — including his castle, razed by the Archbishop’s successor. A year after the murder Frederick was captured returning from Rome, where he had sought to have his excommunication lifted. He suffered one of the more excrutiating forms of execution, his shattered body lingering alive overnight displayed atop a stone pillar.

Engelbert, who in life had been no stranger to worldly politics and himself had been excommunicated in his youth for backing an anti-papal power, was incorporated into the Catholic Church’s martyrology for his death in defense of the abbey and (though never formally canonized) has sometimes been venerated as a saint.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 13th Century,Broken on the Wheel,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,God,Gruesome Methods,History,Murder,Nobility,Pelf,Power,Public Executions

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