And it remains true that the one family for whom early surviving tarot cards are known to have been made, the Visconti-Sforza (including also Alessandro Sforza, with a different set), happens to have had representatives of two cards, Popess and Hanged Man, in their extended family. Besides Pope Joan, she was the only other Popess around, an extremely rare circumstance for any family--who, to the world, was a heretic.
I've been doing some reading. n this post I will avoid speculative comments as much as possible and concentrate on citing documents and document-based sources recently available in English, notably The Inquisitor's Guide: a medieval manual on Heretics, 2006, a translation of part V of the c. 1323-1325 Pratica Inquisitionis heretice privitatis, autore Bernado Guidonis O.F.P., and Michael M. Tavuzzi's 2007 Renaissance inquisitors : Dominican inquisitors and inquisitorial districts in Northern Italy, 1474-1527.
Here is the translator's summary of the work (p. 18):
There is no evidence that this handbook was used in Lombardy. The writer had worked in Toulouse, It merely reflects the time it was written in, and is, as agreed by all, a harbinger of what was to come. (On this see Bailey, “From sorcery to witchcraft : clerical conceptions of magic in the Later Middle Ages," Speculum, Vol. 76, no. 4 (Oct. 2001), pp. 960-990).Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Gui's text consist of formulae connected with the arrest, sentencing of forgiveness of heretics, and section 4 with the legal powers of inquisitors. Section 5 describes the beliefs and rituals of Cathars, Waldensians, False Apostles and Beguins, together with suggested interrogatories to be used against them and the devious answers they will probably give. The more apparently innocent these are, the less they are to be trusted, as 'they do not really mean' what they say. Apostate Jews and schismatic Greeks, together with sorcerers, fortune-tellers and summoners of demons are also covered.
Newman suggests that the group around Guglielma were similar to the Beguins on the other side of the Alps. So we should probably know what the inquisitors conception of Beguins was. Here are some passages from Gui I think are relevant, starting p. 92:
Just so, the Inquisition record of Manfreda's trial quotes Saramita as saying that "Guglielma led a 'common life,' that is, she avoided idiosyncrasies in food and dress, and wore a simple brown habit that they too adopted." (quoted in Newman pp. 10-11). This description of the brown habit is from the trial record found in Pavia in the 17th century. It could well have been Bianca Maria’s source.From the year of Our Lord 1317 onwards today's Beguins and Beguines - the men and women commonly so called, though they call themselves the Little Brothers of the penitential Third Order of St. Francis, and they wear a coarsely woven brown habit and cloak, some without the cloak - these people have been clearly detected in error in different parts of the provinces of Narbonne and Toulouse. Under trial they have confessed the many errors and opinions they hold, raising themselves up against the Roman Church and apostolic seat, against the primacy of that seat and against the apostolic authority of the lord pope and the prelates of the Roman Church.
Gui goes on to describe how they gather on Sundays in their houses:
The great heresy is not letting the priests of the Church do the thinking for them, and also doing it away from those persons. And what do they teach? That these are the End Times of which the Apocalypse speaks, with its Antichrist, whom the Beguines expect to arise within the Roman Church itself (p. 111):There they read or listen to readings from these tracts and writings from which they suck poison, not only their own tracts but also from the commandments, from the articles of faith, legends of the saints and from the Summary of Vices and Virtues, as if in the devil's school this supposed virtue were showing forth the school of Christ. Like monkeys they act in imitation, although the teaching and preaching of Christ's commandments and the articles of faith must be exercised within holy Church by her rectors and pastors, by learned men and preachers of the word of God, not by uneducated lay persons, and must be public, not private.
Thus they themselves are not the agent's of the great harlot's destruction, but the kings who are gathering to oppose the Pope. At the time Gui was writing, the Aragonese Federick in Sicily was resisting papal enfringement. But it could also be the Visconti.They teach that before the proclamation of Antichrist the carnal Church, this the Roman Church, must be destroyed by the war to be waged against it by Frederick, the king now reigning in Sicily. and his accomplices whom they call the ten kings, signified by the ten horns of the beast referred to in the Apocalypse...
They teach too that at the end of the sixth age of the Church which began with St. Francis and in which we now live, this carnal Church, the great harlot of Babylon, must be rejected by Christ, just as the synagogue of the Jews was rejected because it crucified Christ. So too the carnal Church crucifies and persecutes the life of Christ to those they call the poor and spiritual brothers of the order of St. Francis. By this they mean members of the first as well as the third order persecuted int eh provinces of Provence and of Narbonne as was mentioned above.
Here is another part (p. 112):
I mention this in connection with the emphasis on the Holy Spirit we see in the Visconti and Savoy among other noble houses. It is also noteworthy because the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the topics on which the peasant women of the pre-Alpine valleys in Lombardy were questioned in the early 16th century. I wonder if the Inquisition was projecting onto them the Gui version of the Beguins (who also had been brought into the fold by then, by Eugenius IV, according, without citation, to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beguines_and_Beghards).Some of them also say that the Holy Spirit will be poured out more abundantly or at least just as richly upon these chosen men, spiritual and evangelical, who are to establish the benevolent and spiritual Church int he last and seventh age, than it was poured out upon the apostles, Christ's disciples.
So Gui is saying that these Beguines see the end of the present church, the great harlot, and its replacement by something higher. They themselves are not the agents of the Church's defeat; that will be accomplished by temporal princes. They merely prepare the way spiritually.
The main difference between this critique of the Church, as described by Gui, and that of Boccaccio/Petrarch, is that the latter see the change as a matter of reform, whereas the former, according to Gui, see it as engendering the Antichrist and counsel overthrow. Hence for Gui they are enemies to be dealt with as such. Of course we do not hear from the other side.
In this context, Manfreda/Maifreda would represent something extremely threatening and dangerous, as recounted in the trial document: as part of the seventh age, half of a joint spiritual-but-embodied Pope/Popess corresponding to the Christ/Bride of the upper world.
The text against the Beguins goes on for many more pages (91-137 of the translation). But I will move on to the sorcerers and fortune tellers; this section is very short ( 149-151).
I had not known that fortune-tellers were lumped in with sorcerers. That is something that the secondary sources do not mention, except for saying that Saint Bernardino of Siena combined them. On the whole, Gui is relatively easy on all of them. There is nothing about night-time journeys on broomsticks to remote sabbats, no sex orgies with demons, no pacts with the devil, no eating of babies, or the other cliches to come. All we see is the Good People who come by night. In part, this is a memory of the Cathars, called "Bonhommes" (Gui is writing only a few years after the burning of their last parfait in Languedoc), who came at night to administer their sacraments and healings, and to give their message around a shared meal. In part this is a memory of pagan spirits from Diana or Hecate. Gui had been at Toulouse, where apparently he did not have witch trials. His fellow inquisitors at Carcassonne did see them, and righteously condemned the ones they caught to the flames.Here follows discussion of sorcerers, fortune-tellers and those who summon demons.
The error and pestilence of sorcery, fortune-telling and the summoning of demons occur in many forms in many countries and regions, depending on the various inventions and false and worthless assertions of superstitious persons who pay no heed to the spirits of error and to demoniac doctrines.
Interrogation of sorcerers, fortune-tellers and those who summon demons.
The sorcerer, fortune-teller or summoner of demons who is to be examined must be asked what and how many forms of sorcery, fortune-telling or conjuration he knows, and from whom he learned them.
Coming down to details, care must be taken as to the quality and condition of the persons, for not all must be examined in the same way and by just one method or interrogation; men must be questioned in one way and women in another. Interrogations can be formed from what follows:
What do they know, did they know or have they done in connection with children or infants put under a spell or released from one lost or damned souls, thieves who should be imprisoned, quarrels or reconciliation between spouses; making barren women fertile; things given to eat, hairs, nails and so on; the condition of the souls of the dead; foretelling future events; female spirits whom they call Good People who go about, they say, by night; enchantments and conjurations using songs, fruit, plants, straps and other things; whom have they taught to sing or conjure with songs, from whom did they learn or hear these songs or incantations? What do they know of curing diseases by conjuration of the words of songs? Of kneeling to gather plants while facing east and reciting the Lord's Prayer? Of the pilgrimages, masses, offering of candles and generous almsgiving commanded? Of discovering thefts and secret matters?
They must be rigorously questioned as to what they know about any superstition, irreverence or offence connected with the sacraments of the Church, especially the body of Christ and also divine worship and consecrated places. Also about keeping the eucharist, the chrism or the holy oil stolen from a church, about waxen or other images which are baptised, and how is this done and for what purposes?
About making leaden images, how this is done and why. From what persons did he learn or hear of these things?
How long is it since he began to use such things? What persons, how many have approached him asking for advice, especially in the last year?
Has he ever been forbidden to do these things, by whom, and did he renounce them and promise never to use these practices again? Did he subsequently return to them? Did he believe in the truth of what he learned form others? What goods, gifts or rewards did he receive for what he did?
Gui's warnings went unheeded in the face of the Black Death and the schisms in the Church. According to Bailey, Tavuzzi, and many others, the vast majority of the Dominican Inquisitors themselves, at this time, saw those who thought they invoked demons, and sometimes the Lord, to serve their healings or love-charms--people they'd known all their lives--as merely victims of superstition. But others saw it differently. In the Alpine valleys that Nider wrote about, 1437-1438, witches, of both sexes but primarily women, were gaining ground. Nider wrote it down, summarizing the main lessons from there. It fit the agenda of a different kind of Dominican, those who called for "reform," a return to the old zeal. The Papacy was preoccupied with other things until the Peace of Lodi. Then they could turn their attention to the menace they had ignored. In 1458 the offensive began. The reformers were gathered together into a new organization called the Congregation.
A few within the "consensuals", the members of the unreformed Dominican convents, saw the danger of witches. In Lombardy they worked the environs of Como. The district, was that of Vercelli, Ivrea, Novara, and Como, starting from briefly before 1460 to well past 1500 (Tavuzzi p. 149). A successor inquisitor in 1586 wrote of them: "friar Niccolo Constantini da Biella ... an inquisitor who was extremely severe with the witches and by whom over 300 were consigned to the secular arm, ...friar Lorenzo Soleri, equally terrifying to the witches." Tavuzzi adds: "Analogous remarks could well be made on the four inquisitors drawn from the Congregation of Lombardy" who worked from the 1470s to the mid 1520s (p.p 149-150).
It was in this very countryside that Filippo Visconti had provided for the foundation stones of a new convent in 1443, and Bianca Maria provided money and support (Newman p. 31). Brunate overlooks Como. As Newman relates, church there still has the painting, c. 1450, of the nun with two rings on her right hand and one on her left.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xyu9gJtTXao/U ... 10.tif.jpg
I speculate, after reading both Newman and Ross, that it is the portraits of the 1450 donors [kneeling] enacting their favorite people, Guglielma and her disciples Manfredi and Saramita. It is like the Visconti in the role of Anna and Joachim. Newman analyzes the rings: she says the one on the left represents the Holy Spirit, being passed to the woman she is putting hands on. That makes sense to me. In the same footnote Newman tells the story of the three knots: they magically appeared on Sister Manfreda's girdle--another trinitarian sign, Newman says (note p 5). This again is from the trial record, which presumably would be Bianca Maria’s source. Fortunately, the same three knots are on the Poor Clare uniform, so there is nothing to get burned at the stake for in the PMB card.
But back to Como. The inquisitor Constantini was preceded by another inquisitor there, Batolomeo da Omate, "himself a renowned prosecutor of witches," whose hunting ground had been in Vendrisio, to the north of Como, in the 1450's (p. 156). In Cremona briefly in 1460, he wrote Francesco Sforza that the people there disliked their bishop. Then back to Como. I will quote an entire paragraph:
There is a trial record for one victim in 1470, an extremely rare example anywhere in this period. A woman had been named in another trial in a nearby village, the woman there saying she had been seen at sabbats. (These gatherings were well away from human habitations; fortunately witches could fly.) First several villagers testified that she was a witch. Tavuzzi (p. 159):Constantini soon made his mark as an insistent inquisitor. So much so, that in 1463, while conducting trials in Como, the populace there reacted violently, insulting him and threatening him and severely beating some of his assistants. Constantini must have complained about this to Francesco Sforza, because the Duke wrote to Constantini expressing his regrets about the events and then wrote to the podesta of Como, whom he severely reprimanded and commanded that he discover and punish those responsible. (Fumi, “L’Inquizione Romana e lo Stato di Milano” 1910, partially reproduces the letters of Francesco Sforza to Constantini and to the podesta of Como.) A further letter, that might be the response of the podesta of Como to Francesco Sforza, accused Constantini of having proceeded in an entirely arbitrary manner: he acted with great cruelty and without sufficient reason, sentencing several unfortunates to be burned and others to be banished. The writer concluded that if he were to know the truth of the matter, the duke would realize the inquisitors like Constantini deserved to be punished themselves even more harshly than the manner in which they treated their ill-fated victims. (footnote: the letter is in Motta, “Inquisitori in Como...” 1888, p. 126).
. Hearing that she was being charged with witchcraft, she attempted to flee. She was caught and detained. The inquisitor went through a standard list of yes-no questions: sect membership, repudiation of the Christian faith, pact and sexual congress with the devil, abuse of the sacraments, diabolical magic. For two days she steadfastly denied all charges. Then torture was applied, and she began admitting to everything and adding shape-shifting and transvection (i.e. flying through the air; these abilities seem to have failed her in her escape attempt). On the next day she named names, including that of a local priest. Later she retracted the names of people still living. She was burned by the secular arm in 1471. The trial record in Italian translation was most recently published in M. Craveri, 1981, Sante e stregheMost of these witnesses were close relatives; the substance of their combined testimony adds up to little more than that she was probably much given to malicious invective and irreverent cursing when feeling harassed
If I may be allowed some speculative psychology, I can vaguely reconstruct the process, although it is quite irrelevant to what I am doing here. There are the usual garden-variety sins, now seen in a new light. But perhaps the woman remembers saying the lord's prayer while gathering healing herbs. She feels guilty for doing things not condoned by the priests, even though it seemed to help people. Then comes the torture, to help them remember that it was they themselves who made them sick through magic. Under trauma, people identify with the perpetrator, as according to studies in the 20th century of the Stalinist show trials, the bank-robbing Patty Hearst, etc. Perhaps some of these women have been traumatized in the past. Perhaps there has been emotional or sexual abuse by relatives, a pregnancy, the infant's removal, and its being said to have died, another occasion for guilt. Or it is a parent on trial who in fact did kill it; Tavuzzi says that infanticide was common. Although baby-killing is not mentioned in this case, many confessions did include that item, as part of the sabbats, i e. a confession in 1485. Perhaps the victims in Como said it spontaneously, without prompting, to the inquisitor's horror. With leading questions, a kind of catechism of the devil's ways is said by the Inquisitor, and in the dissociation produced by torture, similar to previous dissociation from trauma, results are forthcoming. There is also the possibility of delusions from eating rotten grain, and the need for scapegoats for the ominous turn in the weather (the "little ice age").
The terror went on for 70 years, with Francesco Sforza and his heirs apparently doing nothing. There is little data about witch-hunts elsewhere in his domains. Francesco was on good terms with the chief inquisitor in Milan, a man named Castiglione (p.52), This was an unreformed convent, one that steadfastly refused reform even at the end, when in 1530 its inquisitorial duties were transferred to another Dominican convent. It was briefly in the hands of the Congregation in 1511, but was retaken by the consensuals in 1512 in an armed assault (p. 229). In Milan, chronicles note 1 burning in the 2nd half of the 15th century; it was an old hermit. There was another in the first quarter of 16th century. This is nothing compared to further north. Inquisitors were required to investigate complaints, and it would have been too suspicious to do nothing in a region near legions of documented witches.
Cremona was taken by the reformers in 1486; reports of what happened before then are incomplete. A letter by Francesco Sforza refers to an “enterprising” (Tavuzzi’s phrase) inquisitor for Pavia-Cremona-Piacenza who in 1463 went around guarded by 300 soldiers. Sforza called him “inquisitore di li Guizari” (p. 154). For him two burnings are recorded, in San Nazario 1455 and Casteggio 1463 (p. 253), near Pavia. Later with a different inquisitor there is one in Pavia, 1479. The only Cremona/Piancenza witch-hunt is in 1502-1503. Prierias or Priero, himself an intransigent witch-hunter (50 executions in 3 years in Brescia, but best known for calling Luther a “drunken German”) describes it in his Summa silvestrina (p. 74). The Cremona inquisitor, da Casale, immediately found a whole group of witches near Cremona. I mentioned in an earlier post Lea's report that the witch-hunt was met with strong resistance by clerics and townspeople alike in Cremona. Tavuzzi uses precisely the same language. Prierias adds that one Franciscan superior in Piacenza was particularly outspoken. It was said that he was influenced by the family of one of the burnt witches. By the end of the year he was set upon and strangled by his fellow friars, Prieras says (which seems to be the moral of the story, Tavuzzi comments). Then da Casale moved on to do the same elsewhere. The Congregation was using its firebrands in the most efficacious way (p. 149).
I will survey other cities. Bologna, as the city with leading Italian Thomist university, offered a “studium that might well be considered the principal nursery of would-be inquisitors in the Italian Renaissance" (p. 109). In 1497 a physician was sentenced to be burned for denying the divinity of Christ and saying he died for his own sins; the Bentivoglio intervened and he was released (p. 114). Two witches were not so lucky, one staunchly defended by Ginevra Sforza, wife of first Sante and then Giovanni II Bentivoglio. I give Tavuzzo's account of her end:
The serenity could not be denied. But for others, perhaps, she was filled with the Holy Spirit. I wonder how many other of these victims died with serenity.When she was finally executed she met her end serenely, quite convinced that with the devil's aid no harm could come to her.
In 1481 Ferrara, Ercole d'Este could pick the Inquisitor of his choosing. The one he picked served for 33 years, half of it under Ercole's son Alfonso. Tavuzzi suspects, from the silence about him in the chronicles, that
.Rafanelli was a mild if not totally inactive inquisitor and certainly not one given to any ostentatious, public display of his responsibilities. Certainly Rafanelli’s most conspicuous pubic duties were to his ties with the ducal court.
Modena, under his jurisdiction, is the only place in Northern Italy where the inquisition archives were not totally destroyed (even in 1788 it was a d'Este city), a few years somehow remaining unburnt. Under the jurisdiction of Ercole’s inquisitor, 8 cases of sorcery and 1 of blasphemy were investigated in the 5 years that can be seen, none of them successfully. In the record for the period after 1515, the cases and conviction rate went up dramatically.
In Parma, the Congregation succeeded in driving out the consensuals in 1507. After Cremona and then some years in Bergamo, de Casale came and succeeded in condemning a witch to be burned alive in 1510, but the podesta refused to do so. And the episcopal vicar demanded to see the trial records first. Casale excommunicated both and appealed to the French governor in Milan, who upheld him (p. 68). Casale went to Como in 1513, where he succeeded in having 30 "heretics," presumably witches, burned in one year (p. 68: sources: Smagliati, Cronica, Alberti, De Viris Illustribus).
In Brescia, where the same Congregation inquisitors that terrorized Como operated, starting in 1505, I have quoted in a previous post the letter of complaint in that year from one noble. In 1516 an entire nearby town rose up against the inquisitors, but I forget which. In 1518 the podesta of Brescia complained to the Venetian Council of Ten; I quoted the letter. The Council, after much resistance, was able to review the trial records and hear testimony from the inquisitor, who brought a confessed witch with him. After review, there was “yet another debate on the reality of diabolical witchcraft, on which most of the Council were skeptical” (p. 192). The Pope threatened the Venetians with excommunication for interfering in his domain. The Council withdrew its order but was able to stop the inquisitors the following year, 1521. The main source here is the diarist Sanudo.
There were exceptions to this relatively sane practice (given the times and the lack of understanding of the witch-phenomenon). In Piedmont, the regent, one Duchess Iolanda, in 1476 got inquisitors reluctantly to persecute Waldensian heretics in the western Alpine valleys (p. 125). In Mirandola, Giovan Francesco Pico got inquisitors to burn witches there in 1523, with so much local opposition that he wrote a pamphlet, the Stryx[ in his defense (p. 71). In Lombardy, I notice a few inquisitors with the name "Visconti": Domenico Visconti da Novara (p. 27); Giralomo Visconti da Milan. I think the latter wrote a pamphlet against witches in 1462, but I can’t find the page reference.
Tavuzzi mentions an article by S. Fasoli, 1992, “Tra riforma e nueve fondazioni,” about the political calculations of the Visconti and Sforza regarding the Congregation.
It seems to me that Francesco was making the best of a bad situation. He was compromised by his wife and could only try to confine the persecutions to one area. He succeeded in that.