James Sprenger

James Sprenger

James Sprenger (also Jacob, Jakob, Jacobus, 1436/1438 – 1494) was a Swiss priest. He was born in Basel.

With the Dominicans

He was admitted as a novice in the Dominican house of this town in 1452. He became a zealous reformer within the Order. Later he became a Master of Theology and then Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Cologne. He founded an association of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary in Strasbourg in 1474.

He was appointed by Pope Innocent VIII as the General Inquisitor for Germany, around 1475. In 1480 he was appointed dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University. His lecture room was thronged and the following year he was appointed Inquisitor Extraordinary for the Provinces of Mainz, Trier and Cologne. His activities in this post demanded constant travelling through the very extensive district. [A work from 1719 reports that Sprenger was known in the Dominican house for "his burning and fearless zeal for the old faith, his vigilance, his constancy, his singleness and patience in correcting novel abuses and errors."]

Association with the "Malleus Maleficarum"

He was named in the 1484 papal bull "Summis desiderantes" of Pope Innocent VIII. [The "Catholic Encyclopedia" states "Innocent's Bull enacted nothing new. Its direct purport was simply to ratify the powers already conferred upon Henry Institoris and James Sprenger, inquisitors, to deal with persons of every class and with every form of crime (for example, with witchcraft as well as heresy), and it called upon the Bishop of Strasburg to lend the inquisitors all possible support." [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15674a.htm] ] Popular opinion makes Sprenger the co-author of the "Malleus Maleficarum". All editions after 1519 named him as Heinrich Kramer's collaborator. [ [http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/i/Institoris.shtml] (German language) states that Sprenger worked on the compilation with Kramer from around 1485 to 1487.] It has been claimed that Sprenger was not interested in witches and that he cannot be linked to any witch trial. His personal relationship to Kramer was acrimonious and Sprenger used his powerful position whenever he could to make Kramer’s life and work as difficult as possible.Fact|date=February 2007

Scholars now believe that he became associated with the "Malleus Maleficarum" largely as a result of Kramer's wish to lend his book as much official authority as possible. [See for example Hans Peter Broedel, "The "Malleus Maleficarum" and the Construction of Witchcraft: Theology and Popular Belief" (2003) p. 19.] He forged a recommendation for the "Malleus" from the theology faculty of Cologne University, and by naming the renowned theologian and dean of Cologne University Sprenger as co-author he could not only increase the prestige of his work but also get personal revenge on one of his most persistent clerical adversaries.Fact|date=February 2007

Sprenger died suddenly in 1494.


External links

* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/mm/mmintro.htm Introduction to the Malleus Maleficarum (1928 edition)] by Montague Summers, including some biographical facts and sources about Sprenger

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