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Self-Styled Inquisitors: Heresy, Mobility, and Anti-Waldensian Persecutions in Germany, 1390–1404

  • Author(s): Smelyansky, Eugene
  • Advisor(s): Given, James B
  • et al.
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Abstract

In the last decade of the fourteenth century, German Waldensian communities became targets of a wave of inquisitorial campaigns. A significant part of these campaigns, unmatched by any other waves of anti-heretical persecution during the century, was perpetrated by mobile inquisitors—professional itinerant “heresy-hunters”—who served as catalysts for anti-heretical actions throughout the German lands. Analyzing and reconstructing the “careers” and motivations of these agents of persecution, this dissertation aims to outline a constellation of factors—social, political, cultural, and religious—that enabled itinerant inquisitors to intensify anti-Waldensian persecution in Germany during one decade.

Three itinerant inquisitors—Martin of Amberg, Peter Zwicker, and Heinrich Angermeier—reacted, among other factors, to the internal fissures and problems within Waldensian communities across the German-speaking lands, as well as to the relative absence of stable institutions charged with repression of heterodoxy in Central Europe. Rise of city-centric ideology in German towns, as well as significant Waldensian communities there provided inquisitors with a particularly powerful way of establishing their authority in urban environments fraught with conflict. Motivated in part by the reformist ideology and religious developments in Prague, the Empire’s cultural and intellectual center, itinerant “heresy hunters” sought to strengthen Christian faith and Western Christendom as a whole by re-routing illicit spirituality into Catholic venues by promoting persuasion and conversion as methods of combating Waldensianism. Relying on networks of prestige, diplomacy, and influence that united the fragmented Holy Roman Empire, inquisitors also formed their own long-distance networks of persecutors, informers, and recent converts, which allowed them to pursue heresy more effectively and across all of the German territories.

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This item is under embargo until June 3, 2021.