Martyred by the Catholics: George Wagner of Emmerich

GunpowderSackAt P. 363, the Martyrs Mirror crosses the threshold from accounts of ancient martyrdom to the fresher outrages committed against the Anabaptist sects in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The book briefly recounts the first persecution mounted specifically against the Anabaptists in 1524 in Zurich by Protestants, no less. And it recounts the sermon delivered by Anabaptist father Felix Mantz before he was drowned. However, it appears that Mantz got it easy, because the favored form of judicial execution, burning at the stake, was still very much in vogue.

The case of George Wagner of Emmerich caught my eye. Wagner was an obstinate, but apparently well-liked fellow, who was snatched up and imprisoned for rejecting the usual Papist nonsense of indulgences and transubstantiation. I say he was well-liked, because the Mirror recounts the many soft efforts the authorities used to try to change Wagner’s mind. The Prince pleaded with him. His family was brought to the prison to try to change his mind. There is no account of torture.

But Wagner was a German man, and, thus, hard-headed as hell. …So he went to the stake.

But, even here, the authorities took it easy on him. Wagner was bound to a ladder and a bag of gunpowder was tied around his neck, presumably to blow his head off before the roasting got too painful. This was apparently one of the many techniques that was devised to make death by fire less arduous for the victim and the executioner. I wouldn’t consider this site to be authoritative, given its complete lack of sourcing, but the techniques described there are believable.

Despite the Emmerich authorities’ best intentions, the Mirror holds that God was not pleased. After returning from the execution, Sheriff Eienreich von Landsberg mysteriously died in his bed that night, “having been thus removed through the wrath of God.” …or a relative of Wagner’s.

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One Response to “Martyred by the Catholics: George Wagner of Emmerich”

  1. […] When the Inquisition began killing Anabaptists in the 16th Century, burning was the main method, so, obviously, mercy wasn’t high on the priority list. But, as the Martyrs Mirror progresses, drowning and beheading have become more common and so have mentions of mercies at the stake, as I’ve previously written. […]

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