Members Online: 345

Heinrich Kramer's Biography (Books)

Heinrich Kramer was born at Schlettstadt, a town of Lower Alsace, situated some twenty?six miles southwest of Strasburg. At an early age he entered the Order of S. Dominic, and so remarkable was his genius that whilst still a young man he was appointed to the position of Prior of the Dominican House at his native town, Schlettstadt. He was a Preacher?General and a Master of Sacred Theology. P.G. and S.T.M., two distinctions in the Dominican Order. At some date before 1474 he was appointed an Inquisitor for the Tyrol, Salzburg, Bohemia, and Moravia. His eloquence in the pulpit and tireless activity received due recognition at Roma, and for many years he was Spiritual Director of the great Dominican church at Salzburg, and the right?hand of the Archbishop of Salzburg, a munificent prelat who praises him highly in a letter which is still extant. In the late autumn or winter of 1485 Kramer had already drawn up a learned instruction or treatise on the subject of witchcraft. This circulated in manuscript, and is (almost in its entirety) incorporated in the Malleus. By the Bull of Innocent VIII in December, 1484, he had already been associated with James Sprenger to make inquisition for and try witches and sorcerers. In 1495, the Master General of the Order, Fr. Joaquin de Torres, O.P., summoned Kramer to Venice in order that he might give public lectures, disputations which attracted crowded audiences, and which were honoured by the presence and patronage of the Patriarch of Venice. He also strenuously defended the Papal supremacy, confuting the De Monarchia of the Paduan jurisconsult, Antonio degli Roselli. At Venice he resided at the priory of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (S. Zanipolo). During the summer of 1497, he had returned to Germany, and was living at the convent of Rohr, near Regensburg. On 31 January, 1500, Alexander VI appointed him as Nuncio and Inquisitor of Bohemia and Moravia, in which provinces he was deputed and empowered to proceed against the Waldenses and Picards, as well as against the adherents of the witch?society. He wrote and preached with great fervour until the end. He died in Bohemia in 1505.

His chief works, in addition to the Malleus, are: Several Discourses and Various Sermons upon the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; Nuremberg, 1496; A Tract Confuting the Errors of Master Antonio degli Roselli; Venice, 1499; and The Shield of Defence of the Holy Roman Church Against the Picards and Waldenses ; an incunabulum, without date, but almost certainly 1499?1500. Many learned authors quote and refer to these treatises in terms of highest praise.