Overkilled by the Catholics – The Fraticelli of Italy

The accounts of the 13th and 14th Centuries in the Martyr’s Mirror are a numbing parade of sweeping persecutions and executions. Just skimming the titles of the articles, I counted nearly 1,900 men, women and children burned alive by secular or church authorities for heresy in the two centuries. These killings often happened en masse – 100 or more at a time.

But there was one story in this swift deluge of 200 years of religious cleansing that managed to make me crack a smile.

In 1299, a sect of the Waldenses in Italy, known as the Fraticelli or “Little Brothers” (which share a heritage with the Franciscan monks) drew the jaundiced eye of Pope Boniface VIII. So incensed was the Pope by these poverty-loving, Jesus-preaching hippies, he went after them with the usual bloodthirsty ferocity that was in vogue at the time. But he was not content to slaughter the living members of the sect.

Said Pope caused these Fraticelli to be persecuted with so much violence that he not only spared not the living, but not even the dead; for he caused one Herman, who had been on of their principal teachers, to be exhumed 20 years after his death, and hisĀ  bones burnt to ashes… Thus they did also with the dead bodies of one Andrew and his wife Guillemette…

And I thought the martyrs were fanatical.


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