Delrio himself confesses that Franciscus Balduinus gives an account of the pretended punishment, but real persecution, of these "Waldenses, in similar terms with Monstrelet, whose suspicions are distinctly spoken out, and adds, that the Parliament of Paris, having heard the affair by appeal, had declared the sentence illegal, and the judges iniquitous, by an arret, dated 20th May, 1491. The Jesuit Delrio quotes the passage, but adheres with lingering reluctance to the truth of the accusation.—" The Waldenses (of whom the Albi-genses are a species) were," he says, " never free from the most wretched excess of fascination ;" and finally, though he allows the conduct of the judges to have been most odious, he cannot prevail on himself to acquit the parties charged, by such interested accusers, with horrors which should hardly have been found proved even upon the most distinct evidence. He appeals on this occasion to Florimond's work on Antichrist. The introduction of that work deserves to be quoted, as strongly illustrative of the condition to which the country was reduced, and calculated to make an impression the very reverse, probably, of that which the writer would have desired.
" All those who have afforded us some signs of the approach of Antichrist, agree that the increase of sorcery and witchcraft is to distinguish the melancholy period of his advent; and was ever age so afflicted with them as ours ? The seats destined for criminals before our judicatories are blackened with persons accused of this guilt. There are not judges enough to try them. Our dungeons are gorged with them. No day passes that we do not render our tribunals bloody by the dooms which we pronounce, or in which we do not return to our homes discountenanced and terrified at the horrible contents of the confessions which it has been our duty to hear. And the devil is accounted so good a master that we cannot commit so great a number of his slaves to the flames but what there shall arise from their ashes a number sufficient to supply their place."*
This last statement, by which it appears that the most active and unsparing inquisition was taking place, corresponds with the historical notices of repeated persecutions upon this dreadful charge of sorcery. A bull of Pope Innocent the VIII. rang the tocsin against this formidable crime, and set forth in the most dismal colours the guilt, while it stimulated the inquisitors to the unsparing discharge of their duty in searching out and punishing the guilty. " It is come to our ears," says the bull, " that numbers of both sexes do not avoid to have intercourse with the infernal fiends, and that by their sorceries they afflict both man and beast; that they blight the marriage-bed, destroy the births of women, and the increase of cattle ; they blast the corn on the ground, the grapes of the vineyard, the fruits of the trees, the grass and herbs of the field." For which reasons the inquisitors were armed with the Apostolic power, and called upon to " convict, imprison, and punish," and so forth.
* Florimond concerning the Antichrist, cap. 7, n. 5, quoted by Delrio, de Magia, p. 820.
Dreadful were the consequences of this bull all over the continent, especially in Italy, Germany, and France.* About 1485, Cumanus burnt as witches forty-one poor women in one year, in the County of Burlia. In the ensuing years he continued the prosecution with such unremitting zeal that many fled from the country.
Alciatus states that an inquisitor, about the same period, burnt an hundred sorcerers in Piedmont, and persevered in his enquiries till human patience was exhausted, and the people arose and drove him out of the country, after which the jurisdiction was deferred to the archbishop. That prelate consulted Alciatus himself, who had just then obtained his doctor's degree in civil law, to which he was afterwards an honour. A number of unfortunate wretches were brought for judgment, fitter, according to the civilian's opinion, for a course of hellebore than for the stake. Some were accused of having dishonoured the crucifix and denied their salvation; others of having absconded to keep the Devil's Sabbath, in spite of bolts and bars ; others of having merely joined in the choral dances around the witches' tree of rendezvous. Several of their husbands and relatives swore that they were in bed and asleep during these pretended excursions. Alciatus recommended gentle and temperate measures ; and the minds of the country became at length composed.*
* Dr. Hutchison quotes H. Institor, 105,161.
In 1488, the country four leagues around Constance was laid waste by lightning and tempest; and two women being, by fair means or foul, made to confess themselves guilty as the cause of the devastation, suffered death.
About 1515, five hundred persons were executed at Geneva, under the character of " Protestant witches ;" from which we may suppose many suffered for heresy. Forty-eight witches were burnt at Ravensburgh within four years, as Hutchison reports, on the authority of Mengho, the author of the Malleus Maleficarum. In Lorraine, the learned inquisitor, Remigius, boasts that he put to death nine hundred people in fifteen years. As many were banished from that country ; so that whole towns were on the point of becoming desolate. In 1524, a thousand persons were put to death in one year at Como, in Italy, and about one hundred every year for several years.**
In the beginning of the next century, the persecution of witches broke out in France with a fury which was hardly conceivable, and multitudes were burnt amid that gay and lively people. Some notion of the extreme prejudice of their judges may be drawn from the words of one of the inquisitors themselves, Pierre de Lancre, royal councillor in the Parliament of Bourdeaux, with whom the President Espaignel was joined in a commission to enquire into certain acts of sorcery, reported to have been committed in Labourt and its neighbourhood, at the foot of the Pyrenees, about the month of May, 1619. A few extracts from the preface will best evince the state of mind in which he proceeded to the discharge of his commission.