The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

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Based on the rare and until now overlooked journal of a Renaissance-era executioner, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington's The Faithful Executioner takes us deep inside the alien world and thinking of Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg, who, during forty-five years as a professional executioner, personally put to death 394 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured many hundreds more. But the picture that emerges of Schmidt from his personal papers is not that of a monster. Could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate—even progressive?
In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice's rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz's juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but testimony of one man's lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith.
The biography of an ordinary man struggling for his soul, this groundbreaking book also offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Europe on the cusp of modernity, a society riven by violent conflict at all levels and encumbered by paranoia, superstition, and abuses of power. Thanks to an extraordinary historical source and its gifted interpreter, we recognize far more of ourselves than we might have expected in this intimate portrait of a professional killer from a faraway world.
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About the author

Joel F. Harrington is a professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of The Unwanted Child, winner of the 2010 Roland H. Bainton Prize for History, as well as Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany and A Cloud of Witnesses. He lives with his wife and two children in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Mar 19, 2013
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780809049936
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Germany
History / Modern / 16th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Joel F. Harrington
Joel F. Harrington
A biography of the 14th century German theologian Meister Eckhart, whose theory of a personal path to the divine inspired thinkers from Jean Paul Sartre to Thomas Merton, and most recently, Eckhart Tolle

Meister Eckhart was a medieval Christian mystic whose wisdom powerfully appeals to seekers seven centuries after his death. In the modern era, Eckhart's writings have struck a chord with thinkers as diverse as Heidegger, Merton, Sartre, John Paul II, and the current Dalai Lama. He is the inspiration for the bestselling New Age author Eckhart Tolle's pen name, and his fourteenth-century quotes have become an online sensation. Today a variety of Christians, as well as many Zen Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Jewish Cabbalists, and various spiritual seekers, all claim Eckhart as their own. Meister Eckhart preached a personal, internal path to God at a time when the Church could not have been more hierarchical and ritualistic. Then and now, Eckhart's revolutionary method of direct access to ultimate reality offers a profoundly subjective approach that is at once intuitive and pragmatic, philosophical yet non-rational, and, above all, universally accessible. Then and now, this "dangerous mystic's" teachings challenge the very nature of religion in the individual's search for spiritual fulfillment.

Eckhart was one of the most learned theologians of his day, but he was also a man of the world who had worked as an administrator for his religious order and taught for years at the University of Paris. His personal path from conventional friar to "master of learning" to "master of living" culminated in a spiritual philosophy that combined the teachings of an array of pagan and Christian writers, as well as Muslim and Jewish philosophers. His revolutionary decision to take his approach to the common people garnered him many enthusiastic followers as well as some powerful enemies. After Eckhart's death and papal censure, many religious women and clerical supporters, known as the Friends of God, kept his legacy alive, albeit underground until the master's dramatic rediscovery by modern Protestants and Catholics.

Dangerous Mystic grounds Meister Eckhart in a world that is simultaneously familiar and alien. In the midst of this medieval society, a few decades before the Black Death, Eckhart boldly preached to captivated crowds a timeless method, a "wayless way," of directly experiencing the divine.
Franz Schmidt
From 1573 to 1617, Master Franz Schmidt was the executioner for the towns of Bamberg and Nuremberg. During that span, he personally executed more than 350 people while keeping a journal throughout his career.

A Hangman’s Diary is not only a collection of detailed writings by Schmidt about his work, but also an account of criminal procedure in Germany during the Middle Ages. With analysis and explanation, editor Albrecht Keller and translators C. Calvert and A. W. Gruner have put together a masterful tome that sets the scene of execution day and puts you in Master Franz Schmidt’s shoes as he does his duty for his country.

Originally published more than eighty years ago, A Hangman’s Diary gives a year-by-year breakdown on all of Master Schmidt’s executions, which include hangings, beheadings, and other methods of murder, as well as explanations of each crime and the reason for the punishment. An incredible classic, A Hangman’s Diary is more than a history lesson; it shows the true anarchy that inhabited our world only a few hundred years ago.

Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade imprint, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in history--books about World War II, the Third Reich, Hitler and his henchmen, the JFK assassination, conspiracies, the American Civil War, the American Revolution, gladiators, Vikings, ancient Rome, medieval times, the old West, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
Kim MacQuarrie
The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.

In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.
Joel F. Harrington
A biography of the 14th century German theologian Meister Eckhart, whose theory of a personal path to the divine inspired thinkers from Jean Paul Sartre to Thomas Merton, and most recently, Eckhart Tolle

Meister Eckhart was a medieval Christian mystic whose wisdom powerfully appeals to seekers seven centuries after his death. In the modern era, Eckhart's writings have struck a chord with thinkers as diverse as Heidegger, Merton, Sartre, John Paul II, and the current Dalai Lama. He is the inspiration for the bestselling New Age author Eckhart Tolle's pen name, and his fourteenth-century quotes have become an online sensation. Today a variety of Christians, as well as many Zen Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Jewish Cabbalists, and various spiritual seekers, all claim Eckhart as their own. Meister Eckhart preached a personal, internal path to God at a time when the Church could not have been more hierarchical and ritualistic. Then and now, Eckhart's revolutionary method of direct access to ultimate reality offers a profoundly subjective approach that is at once intuitive and pragmatic, philosophical yet non-rational, and, above all, universally accessible. Then and now, this "dangerous mystic's" teachings challenge the very nature of religion in the individual's search for spiritual fulfillment.

Eckhart was one of the most learned theologians of his day, but he was also a man of the world who had worked as an administrator for his religious order and taught for years at the University of Paris. His personal path from conventional friar to "master of learning" to "master of living" culminated in a spiritual philosophy that combined the teachings of an array of pagan and Christian writers, as well as Muslim and Jewish philosophers. His revolutionary decision to take his approach to the common people garnered him many enthusiastic followers as well as some powerful enemies. After Eckhart's death and papal censure, many religious women and clerical supporters, known as the Friends of God, kept his legacy alive, albeit underground until the master's dramatic rediscovery by modern Protestants and Catholics.

Dangerous Mystic grounds Meister Eckhart in a world that is simultaneously familiar and alien. In the midst of this medieval society, a few decades before the Black Death, Eckhart boldly preached to captivated crowds a timeless method, a "wayless way," of directly experiencing the divine.
Joel F. Harrington
Joel F. Harrington
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