Praetorius, Anton

(Lippstadt 1560 – 6 December 1613 near Heidelberg in
Laudenbach (Rhein-Neckar)/Bergstrasse), Protestant pastor and fighter against
the persecution of witches (witchhunts, witchcraft trials) and against torture.

Life and writings


    Persecution of witches


Anton Praetorius was the son of Matthes Schulze. He later changed his name
to the Latin Praetorius. He studied theology and became principal of the
humanistic Latin school in Kamen, Westphalia. There, he married, but his
wife Maria died of the plague. They had one child: Johannes.


  Heidelberg Castle Wine Barrel


As the first Calvinist pastor in the parish of Dittelsheim, he undertook
a trip to Heidelberg, the centre of Calvinist theology in Germany. Praetorius
was so impressed by the Great Wine Barrel in the Heidelberg Castle that he
published a poem with the title "Vas Heidelbergense" in October
1595, praising its size as an apparent proof of the superiority of the Calvinist

In his poem on Wolfgang Ernst, Earl of Ysenburg, Büdingen and Birstein
("De pii magistratus officio"), he asked the Christian governments
for a reformation of nation and church along the principles of the Bible
and the Calvinist faith. Subsequently, the earl called him as a princely
preacher to his castle in Birstein.

In the town of Birstein (near Frankfurt am Main), Praetorius published church
songs, a catechism, and a book for families about Christian education in
1597. In 1602, he made a contribution to the discussion about the interpretation
of the Last Supper and the Sacraments in his book De Sacrosanctis novi foederis
Jesu Christi.



Fight against the persecution of witches



   Praetorius Bericht Zauberey 1602


In 1597 Anton Praetorius was appointed as pastor to the Earl of Büdingen/
Ysenburg in Birstein (near Frankfurt am Main) and had to witness the torture
of 4 women accused of witchcraft.





According to the court records, Reverend Praetorius was so upset about the
torture of the accused woman that he pressed for a stop in the trial against
the last surviving woman. His protest against the torture can be found in
the record of the witch-trial of Birstein 1597: "As the pastor has violently
protested against the torture of the women, it has therefore been stopped
this time." As a consequence Anton Praetorius was dismissed by the Earl.

In his new parochy in Laudenbach/Bergstrasse (near Heidelberg) he wrote the
book Gründlicher Bericht über Zauberey und Zauberer (Thorough Report
about Witchcraft and Witches) to protest against torture and the prosecution
of witches. At first he published the book in 1598 under the name of his
son Johannes Schulze ("Johannes Scultetus"). In 1602 he dared to
publish the book under his own name. The book was published again in 1613
and posthumously in 1629.



Laudenbach House of the Pastor


Praetorius was one of the first to describe the terrible situation of the
prisoners and to protest against torture, and with his "Bericht" Praetorius
publicly objected to the prevailing attitude in the church (a view held by
Roman Catholics as well as Protestants such as Martin Luther and John Calvin)
on the torture and burning of witches.

Publications (German and Latin)

Front page of Poem on Heidelberg Castle Wine Barrel 1595


• Vas Heidelbergense, Heidelberg, October 1595 (Poem about the 1. Great
Wine Barrel in the Castle of Heidelberg. Only one remaining print, translated
into German by Burghard Schmanck)

• De pii magistratus officio (Poem on Wolfgang Ernst, Earl of Ysenburg,
Büdingen and Birstein). Heidelberg, Printed by Christoph Löw, 1596
(Only one remaining print, translated into German by Burghard Schmanck)

• Hauptstück (catechism) Christlicher Religion sampt den gemeinesten
Gebetlein/ und etlichen Fragen. Printed in Lich by Nicolaum Erbenium. 1597.
Only one remaining print, fragment

• Haußgespräch, darinn kurtz doch klärlich vnd gründlich
begriffen wirdt, was zu wahrer Christlicher Bekanntnuß auch Gottseligem
Wandel ... zu wissen von nöhten, (conversation in the family about Christian
education) Printed in Lich 1597

• Gründlicher Bericht von Zauberey und Zauberern/ darinn dieser grausamen
Menschen feindtseliges und schändliches Vornemen/ und wie Christlicher
Obrigkeit ihnen Zubegegnen/ ihr Werck zuhindern/ auffzuheben und zu Straffen
/ gebüre und wol möglich sey... kurtz und ordentlich erkläret.
(Thorough Report about Witchcraft and Witches) By Joannem Scultetum Westphalo
camensem. (Johannes Scultetum is a pseudonym of Anton Praetorius) printed in
Lich by Nicolas Erbenis. 1598

• Clarissimo juris utriusque Doctori Domino Jano Grutero Sponso. Poem
for the wedding of Jan Gruter, (translated into German by Burghard Schmanck)
1601 (Only one remaining print)

• Gründlicher Bericht von Zauberey und Zauberern: kurtz und ordentlich
erkläret durch Antonium Praetorium, (Thorough Report about Witchcraft
and Witches) printed in Lich/ 1602

• De Sacrosanctis novi foederis Jesu Christi (about the sacraments) printed
by Wolgangus Kezelius and Conradus Nebenius, Lich 1602

• Nemo Ad Desideratissimas 15. Iunii.,1613 (Poem for a wedding of a pastor)
Lancellotus Heidelberg (only one remaining print)

• Von Zauberey und Zauberern/ Gründlicher Bericht, (Thorough Report
about Witchcraft and Witches) printed 1613 in Heidelberg by Johann Lancellot/
Andreae Cambier.

• Gründlicher Bericht, (Thorough Report about Witchcraft and Witches)
printed 1629 in Frankfurt am Main by Johann Niclas Stoltzenbergern/ Johann
Carl Unckels

• several handwritten letters



Bibliography (in German)

• Hartmut Hegeler: Anton Praetorius, Kämpfer gegen Hexenprozesse
und Folter, (fighter against the persecution of witches and against torture)
Unna, 2002

• Hartmut Hegeler und Stefan Wiltschko: Anton Praetorius und das 1. Große
Fass von Heidelberg, (the 1. Great Wine Barrel in the Castle of Heidelberg) Unna,



External links

http://www.bautz.de (Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, Verlag
Traugott Bautz)

http://www.anton-praetorius.de biography and literature about Anton Praetorius

http://www.rzuser.uni-heidelberg.de/%7Ecd2/drw/F3/praetor/o02wid.htm reprinted
text of the "Bericht" of Praetorius 1613

http://www.theology.de/praetorius.htm Biography including coulored pictures

http://news.genealog.de/rheinhessen/dittelsheim-hessloch/anton-praetorius-teil1.shtmlPraetorius as pastor in Dittelsheim (with pictures)


Hartmut Hegeler, Sedanstr. 37, 59427 Unna, Tel. 02303 53051.


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