Martyred by the Catholics: Francis of Bolsweert

firewood3.285185808_stdIt is not easy to execute someone mercifully and quickly, as many Internet sites can attest. It actually takes a bit of skill to painlessly snap a neck, sever a head or pierce the heart on the first try.

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.

This site has a thorough overview of burning methods and mentions the practice of mercifully strangling the condemned before burning them. In the case of poor Francis of Bolsweert in Friesland, the local hatchet man sucked at his job, so the strangulation was less of a mercy than it was a torture:

Having stripped him of his clothes and fastened him to the stake, [the executioner] was about to strangle him with a rope when the rope broke and [Francis] fell down. This frightened the executioner, and he endeavored quickly to burn [Francis] to ashes with much peat and wood.

Francis didn’t burn to well. His body was not consumed. This caused the executioner some boss trouble:

…The lords became angry with the executioner and said that he had not brought enough wood…

How much wood does it take to burn a body? That’s a hard answer to find on the Internet. The New Scientist had a very recent article on the primative state of body burning science, but the piece did not address judicial burning.


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