Letter of Approbation

Official Letter of Approbation of the Malleus Maleficarum from The Faculty of Theology of the Honourable University of Cologne

The official Document of Approbation of the treatise Malleus Maleficarum, and the subscription of the Doctors of the most honourable University of Cologne, duly set forth and recorded as a public documents and deposition.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Know all men by these presents, whosoever shall read, see or hear the tenor of this official and public document, that in the year of our Lord, 1487, upon a Saturday, being the nineteenth day of the month of May, at the fifth hour after noon, or thereabouts, in the third year of the Pontificate of our most Holy Father and Lord, the lord Innocent, by divine providence Pope, the eighth of that name, in the very and actual presence of me Arnold Kolich, public notary, and in the presence of the witnesses whose names are hereunder written and who were convened and especially summoned for this purpose, the Venerable and Very Reverend Father Henry Kramer, Professor of Sacred Theology, of the Order of Preachers, Inquisitor of heretical depravity, directly delegated thereto by the Holy See together with the Venerable and Very Reverend Father James Sprenger, Professor of Sacred Theology and Prior of the Dominican Convent at Cologne, being especially appointed as colleague of the said Father Henry Kramer, hath on behalf both of himself and his said colleague made known unto us and declared that the Supreme Pontiff now happily reigning, lord Innocent, Pope, as hath been set out above, hath committed and granted by a bull duly signed and sealed unto the aforesaid Inquisitors Henry and James, members of the Order of Preachers and Professors of Sacred Theology, by His Supreme Apostolic Authority, the power of making search and inquiry into all heresies, and most especially into the heresy of witches, an abomination that thrives and waxes strong in these our unhappy days, and he has bidden them diligently to perform this duty throughout the five Archdioceses of the five Metropolitan Churches, that is to say, Mainz, Cologne, Trèves, Salzburg and Bremen, granting them every faculty of judging and proceeding against such even with the power of putting malefactors to death, according to the tenor of the Apostolic bull, which they hold and possess and have exhibited unto us, a document which is whole, entire, untouched, and in no way lacerated or impaired, in fine whose integrity is above any suspicion. And the tenor of the said bull commences thus: “Innocent, Bishop, Servant of the servants of God, for an eternal remembrance. Desiring with the most heartfelt anxiety, even as Our Apostleship requires, that the Catholic Faith should be especially in this Our day increase and flourish everywhere, … ” and it concludes thus: “Given at Rome, at S. Peter’s, on the 9 December of the Year of the Incarnation of Our Lord one thousand, four hundred and eighty-four, in the first Year of Our Pontificate.”

Whereas some who have the charge of souls and are preachers of the word of God, have been so bold as to assert and declare publicly in discourses from the pulpit, yea, in sermons to the people, that there are no witches, or that these wretches cannot in any way whatsoever molest or harm either mankind or beasts, and it has happened that as a result of such sermons, which are much to be reprobated and condemned, the power of the secular arm has been let and hindered in the punishment of such offenders, and this has proved to be a great source of encouragement to those who follow the horrid heresy of witchcraft and has very notably increased and augmented their ranks, therefore the aforesaid Inquisitors, wishing with their whole hearts and strength to put a check unto such abominations and to counteract such dangers, have with much study, much research, and much labour, indited and composed a certain Treatise in which they have used their best endeavours on behalf of the integrity of the Catholic Faith to rebuke and rebut the ignorance of those who dare to preach so gross errors, and they have also been at great pains to set forth the lawful and proper way whereby these pestilent witches may be brought to trial, may be sentenced and condemned, according to the tenor of the aforesaid bull and the regulations of Canon Law. But since it is very right and altogether reasonable that this good work which they have wrought for the common benefit of us all should be sanctioned and confirmed by the unanimous approval of the reverend Doctors of the University, lest by some evil chance ignorant and ill-intentioned men should suppose that the aforesaid Rectors of the faculty and the Professors of the Order of Preachers are not wholly at one in their view of these matters, the authors of the aforesaid Treatise, exactly written out as it is to be printed in fair characters, in order that when it is so printed it may be recommended and honourably approved by the recorded good opinions and mature judgement of many learned Doctors, handed to, and laid before, the most honourable University of Cologne, that is to say, before certain Professors of Sacred Theology, who are commissioned and required to act as representatives of the most honourable University, the aforesaid Treatise in order that by them it might be perused, examined, and discussed, so that should there be found any points which may seem in any way doubtful or hardly in agreement with the teachings of the Catholic Faith, such points might be corrected and emended by the judgement of the said learned Doctors, who shall, moreover, officially approve and commend whatsoever the Treatise contains which is agreeable to the teachings of the Catholic Faith. This accordingly was done as hath been set forth above.

In the first place, the honoured lord Lambertus de Monte with his own hand subscribed his judgement and opinion as here followeth: “I, Lambertus de Monte, Professor (albeit unworthy) of Sacred Theology, and at this time Dean of the faculty of Sacred Theology in the University of Cologne, do here solemnly declare, and I confirm this my declaration with my own hand, that I have read and diligently perused and considered this Treatise, which is divided into three parts, and that, in my humble judgement at any rate, the first two parts contain nothing at all which is in any way contrary to the opinions of those doctors whose writings are approved and allowed by Holy Church. Moreover, in my opinion, the third part is to be entirely approved, and is to be put into actual practice, so far as in the trials and punishment of these heretics, of which matters it treats, nothing is done that may infringe the Canon Law. And again on account of the most weighty and salutary matters, which are contained in this Treatise, which, even if it were only because of the honourable estate, learning, and good report of these most worthy and honoured Inquisitors, might well be held to be useful and necessary, all diligent care should be taken that this Treatise be widely distributed to learned men and men full of zeal, who thence may very profitably have the advantage of so many and so well-considered directions for the extermination of witches, and it should also be out into the hands of all rectors of churches, particularly those who are honest, active, and God-fearing men, who may by reading therein be encouraged to arouse hatred in every heart against the pestilent heresy of witches and their foul craft, so that all good men may be warned and safeguarded and evil-doers may be discovered and punished, so that in the full light of day mercy and blessing shall fall upon the righteous and justice shall be meted out to those who do evil, and thus in all things God shall be glorified, to Whom all honour, praise, and glory.”

Next the Venerable Master Jacobus de Stralen with his own hand subscribed his judgement and considered opinion thus: “I, Jacobus de Stralen, Professor of Sacred Theology, after having diligently read the aforesaid Treatise, declared that my opinion entirely and altogether is in agreement with the judgement which hath been set forth by our Venerable Master Lambertus de Monte, Dean of Sacred Theology, as he hath written above, and this I attest and witness by my own signature to the glory of God.”

In like manner, the honourable Master Andreas de Ochsenfurt wrote with his own hand as follows: “In the same way I, Andreas de Ochsenfurt, Junior Professor of Sacred Theology, record that my considered opinion of the matters contained in the said Treatise entirely and wholly agrees with the judgement written above, and to the truth of this I bear witness by the subscription of my signature.”

And next, in like manner, the honoured Master Thomas de Scotia subscribed with his own hand as followeth: “I, Thomas de Scotia, Doctor of Sacred Theology (unworthy though I be), am fully in agreement with all that our Venerable Masters have written above with regard to the matters contained in the said Treatise, which I also have carefully examined and perused, and to the truth of this I bear witness by subscribing my signature with my own hand.”

Here followeth the second subscription with regard to those discourses which have been pronounced from the pulpit by ignorant and blameworthy preachers. And in the first place it seems good to set forth the following articles:

First Article: The Masters of Sacred Theology, who have subscribed their names below, do much commend the Inquisitors of heretical pravity, who, according to the Canons, have been sent as deputies by the supreme authority of the Apostolic See, and they would humbly exhort them to fulfil their exalted office with all zeal and industry.

Second Article: The doctrine that witchcraft may be wrought by the Divine Permission owing to the co-operation of the devil with wizards or witches is not contrary to the Catholic Faith, but is in every way agreeable to the teaching of Holy Scripture; nay more, according to the opinions of the Doctors of the Church it is a belief which must surely be held and steadfastly maintained.

Third Article: Therefore it is a grave error to preach that witchcraft cannot be, and those who publicly preach this vile error notably hinder the holy work of the Inquisitors to the sore prejudice of the safety of many souls. It is not convenient that the secrets of magic which are often revealed to the Inquisitors should indiscriminately be made known to everybody.

Last Article: All princes and all pious Catholics are to be exhorted that they should use their best endeavours always to assist the Inquisitors in their good work of the defence of the Catholic Faith.

Where, these Doctors of the aforesaid faculty of Theology who have already signed above and who have also signed below, have affixed their signatures to these articles, as I, Arnold Kolich, public notary, who have signed my name below, have learnt from the sworn information of John Vörde of Mechlin, good man and true, sworn Bedel of the most honourable University of Cologne, who declared this upon oath unto me, and as (for their hands as signed above and below are well known unto me) I myself have seen set forth as here followeth: “I, Lambertus de Monte, Professor of Sacred Theology, Dean of the faculty, stoutly maintain and entirely approve of the articles here rehearsed, and to the truth of this I bear witness by my signature subscribed with my own hand. I, Jacobus de Stralen, Professor of Sacred Theology, similarly maintain and entirely approve of the articles as rehearsed above, and to the truth of this I bear witness by affixing my signature with my own hand. I, Udalricus Kridwiss von Esslingen, Junior Professor of Sacred Theology, likewise maintain and entirely approve of the articles as set forth above, and to the truth of this I bear witness by affixing my signature with my own hand. I, Conradus von Campen, Professor in ordinary of Sacred Theology, declare that I assent to and am in entire agreement with the judgement of the Senior Professors. I, Cornelius de Breda, Junior Professor, maintain and entirely approve of the articles as set forth above, and to the truth of this I bear witness by affixing my signature with my own hand. I, Thomas de Scotia, Professor of Sacred Theology (albeit unworthy), entirely agree to, maintain, and approve of the opinion of the Venerable Professors who have signed above, and to the truth of this I set my name with my own hand. I, Theoderich de Bummel, Junior Professor of Sacred Theology, entirely agree with what has been written above by the honoured Masters who have signed their names above, and to the truth of this I bear witness by my signature written with my own hand. In confirmation of the above articles I declared that I am wholly and entirely of the same opinion of the above honoured Masters and Professors, I, Andreas de Ochsenfurt, Professor of the faculty of Sacred Theology, a junior member of the Board of Theologians of the most honourable University of Cologne.”

Finally, and last of all, the aforesaid Venerable and Very Reverend Father Henry Kramer, Inquisitor, was in possession of and showed us another letter, written out fair on virgin parchment, bestowed upon and granted unto him by the most Serene and Noble monarch the King of the Romans, which parchment bore his own royal red official seal, impressed upon a ground of blue wax, which seal was suspended from and hanging at the bottom of said parchment, and this was whole and entire, untouched, not cancelled or suspect, in no wise lacerated or impaired, and by tenor of these presents the most Exalted Lord, the aforesaid Noble King of the Romans, in order that for the benefit of our Holy Faith these businesses might be dispatched with the greater ease and expedition, in his royal office as the Most Christian King, wished and wishes that the same Apostolic bull, whereof we have spoken above, should be in every way respected, honoured, and defended, and the provisions thereof enforced, and he takes the Inquisitors wholly under his own august protection, commanding and requiring all and everyone who are subjects of the Roman Empire that they shall show the said Inquisitors all favour and grant them every assistance of which they may stand in need in the discharge of their office, and they shall afford the Inquisitors every help according to the provisions which are more fully contained and rehearsed in this said letter. And this said letter issued by the King commences thus, and concludes thus, as is set forth in order here below: “Maximilian, by the Divine Favour and the Grace of God, most August King of the Romans, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, of Lorraine, of Brabant, of Limburg, or Luxemburg and Guelderland, Count of Flanders . . .”; and it concludeth thus: “Given in our good city of Brussels, under our own hand and seal, on the sixth day of November, in the year or our Lord one thousand, fourteen hundred and eighty-six, in the first year of our reign.” Wherefore, with regard to all that hath been rehearsed and set forth above, each and every, the aforesaid Venerable and Very Reverend Father Henry, Inquisitor, on behalf of himself and his aforesaid colleague, sought from me, the public notary, whose name is written above and is subscribed below, that each document and all these documents should be officially drawn up and relegated in the form of a public instrument or public instruments, and this was done at Cologne in the house and the dwelling of the aforesaid Venerable Master Lambertus de Monte, which house is situate within the immunities of the Church of S. Andrew at Cologne, in the room where this same Master Lambertus pursueth his studies and dispatcheth his businesses, in the year of our Lord, in the month, on the day, at the hour, and during the Pontificate, all which have been set forth above, there being present there at that very time the aforesaid Master Lambertus, and the Bedel John, as also Nicolas Cuper von Venroid, sworn notary of the Venerable Curia of Cologne, and Christian Wintzen von Eusskirchen, a cleric of the diocese of Cologne, both good men and true, who bear witness that this request was formally made and formally granted.

And I, Arnold Kolich von Eusskirchen, a cleric of the diocese of Cologne, sworn notary, was also present whilst the above businesses each and all were being performed and were carried out, and to this I give my evidence with the aforenamed witnesses; and in accordance with what I saw and with what, as I have stated above, I heard upon the sworn testimony of the said Bedel, good man and true, I have written out fair with my own hand and engrossed the present public instrument, which I have subscribed, and have caused to be published since I have drawn it up in this official form for publication, and being requested and required so to do I have signed it and sealed it according to the wonted manner with my own name and my own seal, that it may be officially approved and may be a sufficient and legal testimony and probation of all and single that are herein set forth, rehearsed, and contained.

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