ANST - FW: Musing on October 11th -- Hairshirts and Heresy

j'lynn yeates jyeates at
Thu Oct 12 10:42:32 PDT 2000

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- -----Original Message-----
From: Ellsworth Weaver [mailto:astroweaver at]
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2000 16:51
To: 2thpix at
Subject: Musing on October 11th -- Hairshirts and Heresy

Dear Folk,

In line with our approach to Samhain, the day of the dead, which is
popularly called Halloween, let us consider that on October 11, 1231
Conrad of Marburg was directed by Pope Gregory IX to uproot Satanism
the region of Thuringia.

Guess we had better talk about Conrad a bit. Not much is known about
Conrad’s early life. He was born near Marburg, Germany sometime in
second half of the twelfth century. We do know that he was addressed
"Magister" which implies that he completed a course of study at some
university. He was probably neither a Franciscan nor a Dominican but
plain-vanilla secular priest.  Well, the Catholic Church liked him
fine. Letters of the time talked about him as being a man of much
ability, large theological learning, great eloquence, ardent zeal in
the defense of the purity of Catholic Faith. Oh yes, he was a SEVERE
ascetic. As you could guess, he was not exactly a bowlful of jelly.
was stern, unsmiling. Hair shirts will do that to you.

The first time anyone really noticed him was in 1213. He was ranting
and spitting fire in favor of a crusade proclaimed by Pope Innocent
III. Pope Innocent III had the bad grace to die before the crusade
could ramp up and so most just kind of let it slide. Not Conrad. He
still hot to serve. Pope Honorius III decided that Conrad would be
the people-person to go smooth things out between the convent of
Nihenburg and the Dukes of Saxony and Askaien. In 1227 Conrad served
a panel to help separate Marburg from the parish of Oberweimar. When
the synod (a convention of sorts) of Mainz in 1225 issued decrees on
how to get the clergy whipped back into shape, guess who was
whip-master? You got it. He also plied some of the strappage to

In the course of all this toiling in the vineyards, Conrad came to
attention of the Landgrave (prince) Ludwig of Thuringia and his wife
Elizabeth. Ludwig really dug Conrad to the extent that Conrad was
authorized by him to appoint all ecclesiastical offices in Thuringia.
When Elizabeth’s confessor, Rodger (a Franciscan), was recalled,
became Elizabeth’s spiritual adviser.

Let us briefly talk of the Landgravine Elizabeth who was later made
Elizabeth of Hungary. She was the daughter of King Andrew II of
Hungary, born in Bratislava in 1207. She married Ludwig when she was
only 14. What was a marriage of state quickly became a love match.
Ludwig was crazy for her and always brought her back souvenirs from
each of his military campaigns. In the six years they were married,
they had three kids. Ludwig died on the Fifth Crusade in Otranto in
1227. It was the plague which took him off. He had a special ring
he told Elizabeth he would have sent her if he ever got offed. Of
course, when the ring made it back, Elizabeth knew it was over. Fact
is, as Ludwig’s widow she was thrown out of the palace by Henry

As spiritual teacher, Conrad would think up nifty little traps and
disobediences for Elizabeth to fall for. When she fell, he was there
help guide her onto the path of righteousness by some mortification
the flesh. It was nothing much more than he did to himself, you

Although she wore the exterior finery when hubby was home, underneath
Elizabeth wore a hair shirt. She fasted continuously, hugged lepers,
lots of St. Francis stuff. There was a story, possibly invented by
Conrad who was responsible for her biography and helped get her made
saint, that Elizabeth found a leprous child out in the snow. She
him up and placed him on her couch. Scandalized servants reported
to Ludwig. When the Landgrave went to see the leper, he saw instead
Christ child. There is little doubt that this young mom really wanted
to be as good and Christ-like as she could. When Ludwig died, she
became a Franciscan tertiary under Conrad’s direction. He ordered her
to give up her children and it is said that he beat her and her maids
so hard that the marks remained for weeks on their backs. She died on
November 19, 1231 at the age of 24.  She was canonized in 1235.

At this time, some free-thinking and an urge toward religious reform
was pestering the Roman Catholics. The Cathari (see "Unto the Pure")
and Waldenses were beginning to attract followers. These heresies
treated as diabolically inspired. There were even some folk who
believed that the God of the Catholics was actually the real Devil.
These heretics worshipped a "Lord of Light"-- Lucifer. Yep, this was
Manachean heresy of the worst sort.  Heretics were burned at the
to teach them a lesson and to show the remaining folks that the
Catholic Church was not evil and wicked like these heretics were

Pope Gregory IX heard that Conrad had been preaching against and
bashing heretics. Heinrich Minnike, Provost of Goslar had been
target. Heinrich went to the stake after a two year trial. That was
good. The pope sent an attaboy letter to Conrad in 1227. In October
1231 Conrad got the nod to become the first Papal Inquisitor in
Germany. Further the pope essentially said "You may dispense with the
niceties of church law, just whack them heretics."

Conrad hired some assistants: Conrad Dorso (a Dominican lay-brother)
and John, a layman. These guys were anxious to please and to serve
Conrad of Marburg. Heck, they were minions like you just cannot find
anymore. They did not hesitate to grab anyone who appeared suspicious
and accuse them of being a heretic or a Satanist. Conrad of Marburg,
the trusting and loving soul that he was, just believed his
a Theory Y manager. Perhaps it was a training issue. The two helpers
said that they could just sense who was a heretic. Hard to have
measurable standards in this work. Their charges were widespread and
folks either confessed and did whatever penance was appropriate or
were tortured and then burned at the stake. How many perished? I do
know. Does it really matter? The whole of western Germany was in a
panic of this rather obscure cleric whose motto was "We would gladly
burn a hundred if just one of them is guilty." Is that dedication or

When the Count of Sayn was accused of heresy, things got pretty
The count appealed to the Archbishop of Mainz. The archbishop
a synod in July 25, 1233 and had King Henry sit in on it. The bishops
and the nobles did not really like or trust Conrad, who was there at
the synod.  How those stiff-necked clerics could not tell that Count
Sayn was not a heretic was beyond Conrad. After all, didn’t Conrad
Dorso and John say he was? The synod of Mainz could not find anyway
convict the count of heresy. Conrad calmly and honorably cited his
papal commission and preached a crusade against all those heretic

Conrad and a friend, the Franciscan Gerhard Lutzelbolb, were riding
home to Marburg from the synod on July 30, 1233. You can bet they
discussing strategy and tactics against those smart aleck nobles.
were set upon by person or persons unknown and got themselves acutely
and chronically deceased. The loyal folk of Marburg buried Conrad’s
body near his Landgravine St. Elizabeth.

Pope Gregory IX said that he did not care one bit about the synod of
Mainz, Conrad was his boy and it was wrong to whack him. There is no
record that these assassins ever were caught. The Inquisition did not
end with Conrad; however, it sort of started with and around him.
Conrad used torture, denunciations, confessions and his henchmen’s
intuition to lead the Church to what they truly wanted: purity.

So what have we learned? Young princesses can be persuaded to do
anything? Evil must be fought with evil as fire is with fire? Saints
hug lots of lepers? Nobles do not take well to rabble priests
denouncing them? How about something out of the book of Timothy:
the pure all is pure; unto the defiled nothing is clean?"

If you are indicting a count, offing an inquisitor, or just flogging
landgravine and you wish to forward these missives to others, please
do. Just leave my name and sig attached.

Honi soit qui mal y pense ("Evil to whom who thinks evil") the motto
the British Order of the Garter,
Ellsworth Weaver

SCA – Sir Balthazar of Endor
AS – Polyphemus Theognis
TRV – Sebastian Yeats

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