Winding lanes, narrow alleyways, baroque and romantic façades and a medieval atmosphere make up the Old Town of Bamberg. Darryl and I were convinced that we had entered a fairy world when we arrived in Bamberg. Bamberg offers Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and some of Germany’s finest art. Bamberg’s architecture greatly influenced northern Germany and Hungary from the 12th century onward, and is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Every corner provided a photo opportunity and we soaked in the Venice like quality of this old town.
What neither of us fully appreciated at the time was that Bamberg’s has a dark secret.(as do most places)
During the 16th and 17th centuries more than 100,000 people in Germany were tortured and murdered as a result of being accused of being witches. The witch hunts were led by fanatical rulers, spurred on behind the scenes by the Catholic Church. Using torture and inflicting horrible deaths on men, women and children over 100,000 people died.
Some of the worst persecutions took place in Bamberg, a small state ruled by Gottfried Johann Georg 11 Fuchs von Dornheim. Dornheim established an operation of full time torturers and executioners. A witch prison was built in Bamberg and a network of informers was established. Accusations were not made public and the accused were denied legal rights.
Torture was the rule and was applied to all those accused. Victims were put in thumbscrews and vises, dumped in cold baths and in scalding lime baths, whipped, burned with sulphure, put in iron spiked stocks and subjected to other forms torture. Thr torture did not stop even after condemnation. As they were led to the stake prisoners had their hands cut off.
Many rich and powerful people fell victim and had their property and assets confiscated in Bamberg. Anyone who questioned what was happening was also tortured and killed.
Photographs by Darryl Blakey 2001