Heinrich Kramer

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Heinrich Institoris OP (actually Heinrich Kramer or Krämer or Henryk Instytor , Latin (frater) Henricus Institoris ; * around 1430 in Schlettstadt , Alsace , † around 1505 in Kremsier , Moravia ) was the author of the witch's hammer and, as an inquisitor, one of the pioneers of the witch hunt of early modern times . He became known as a witch theorist .

Malleus Maleficarum (1669 edition)


The usual Latin form of the name, for example in many library directories, is Institoris . The to of the surname corresponded to a time established practice, the genitive latinisieren . In the contemporary sources Heinrich Kramer was latinized to Henricus Institoris . The abbreviation Institor initially appears in German-language sources.


Opusculum in errores Monarchiae Antonii de Rosellis , 1499

Heinrich Kramer, who later Latinized his name, came from a poor background. He entered the Dominican order around 1445 in his birthplace .


Kramer attended the city's Latin school and completed a basic course in philosophy, which he completed in 1474. In 1479 he was appointed inquisitor of the order province of Alemannia at his own initiative. At that time, however, this title had hardly any practical significance. In the same year he received his doctorate in theology.

Witch trials

After a trial against Jews in Trento , which he attended, he began his work as a persecutor of alleged witch sects . In 1482 he became prior of the Dominican monastery in Schlettstadt. In the first witch trial in Ravensburg , for which he was requested by the local city council, he brought two women to the stake. He drafted the text of the bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (so-called witch bull ), which Pope Innocent VIII published in 1484 at his instigation.

With the bull he initiated numerous witch trials, including one in Innsbruck . There, however, representatives of all social classes protested against him, whereupon Bishop Georg (II.) Golser set up a commission to examine Kramer's work. When that came to a devastating result, the bishop ordered the persecution to cease, released the women accused, and overturned the Inquisition's verdicts . Kramer was asked to leave the country.

The book Hexenhammer

Around December 1486, Kramer wrote the Hexenhammer , which found widespread use due to the emerging art of printing . One research hypothesis is that Kramer named his brother Jakob Sprenger as a co-author in order to give the work more authority. In reality, however, Sprenger was not involved. This hypothesis is very controversial in recent research. In his critical edition of The Witch's Hammer, Christopher Mackay made a number of arguments for Sprenger's involvement. Kramer was the driving force, but Sprenger probably contributed the theoretical material in the first part of the work.

Kramer added the papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus and the false approvals of several Cologne theological professors to his remarks . This gave the work, which reached the high circulation of 30,000 copies, the appearance of a recommendation for secular judges, who were authorized and commissioned by the Inquisitor to carry out the judgment. In this way, the Hexenhammer assumed the rank of an ecclesiastical "witchcraft code" for criminal judges as a casuistic commentary.

Kramer boasted that he had hunted down 200 witches and also accused those who doubted the existence of witches as heretics .


Kramer's approach to his systematic inquisition was always the same. Just by his appearance he sowed distrust and fear among people. During the so-called witch sermon , he warned of the threat from the devil , intimidated people and urged denunciations at the slightest observation and abnormalities, such as suspected evil looks or unusual illnesses. He offered himself as a point of contact and warned urgently against any concealment. Accusations could practically always be found. He then bundled these at will and inflated them systematically. He relied on a conspiracy theory , according to which the devil leads the witch sects and is about to bring about the end of the world . With the power of the witch bull in his back, using torture , the so-called embarrassing questioning , he sought only the guilty verdict in the following process.

Editions of the "Hexenhammer"

Contemporary prints

  • Malleus maleficarum , [Speyer]: [Peter Drach], [around 1492] ( digitized version )
  • Malleus maleficarum , [Speyer]: [Peter Drach d. M.], [around 1489/94] ( digitized version )
  • Malleus maleficarum , Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1496 ( digitized )

Modern editions, translations and commentaries

  • Christopher S. Mackay (Ed.): Henricus Institoris, OP and Jacobus Sprenger, OP: Malleus maleficarum. 2 volumes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2006, ISBN 0-521-85977-8 (introduction, critical edition of the Latin text and English translation)
  • Günter Jerouschek (Ed.): Nürnberger Hexenhammer 1491. Facsimile of the manuscript from 1491 from the Nuremberg City Archives, No. D 251 by Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) . Olms, Hildesheim 1992, ISBN 3-487-09380-4 [this text, which never appeared in print, is not identical to the 'Hexenhammer'; it is a report by Heinrich Institoris for the attention of the Nuremberg Council]
  • Heinrich Kramer: The witch hammer. Malleus maleficarum . 3rd revised edition. Dtv, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-30780-3 (commented new translation by Günter Jerouschek and Wolfgang Behringer )
  • The witch hammer by Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Institoris. Translator: JWR Schmidt . Berlin 1906, Vol. 1 , Vol . 2 , Vol. 3 , see also s: Der Hexenhammer (1923)


Web links


  1. Petr Hlavacek: Velký Inkvizitor v soukolí české reformace aneb Heinrich Institoris v českých zemích. In: Via media. Study z českých náboženských a intelektuálních dějin. Univerzita Karlova, Praha 2016, p. 71.
  2. ^ Paul Hinschius: The canon law of the Catholics and Protestants in Germany. Volume VI. 1897. Reprinted by Guttentag, 1959.
  3. Defense of the Hexenhammer by the scholars of the University of Cologne Venerabilis & religiosus frater Henricus institoris (The venerable and pious brother Heinrich Institoris) .
  4. E.g. correspondence with the city of Nuremberg: City Archives Nuremberg, 269 fol. 14th
  5. Laura Stokes: In Covenant with the Devil. In: epoc , 05/2010, p. 69
  6. Christopher S. Mackay (ed.): Henricus Institoris, OP and Jacobus Sprenger, OP: Malleus maleficarum. Volume 1, Cambridge 2006, pp. 103-121.