Kramer, Heinrich (ca. 1430–1505)
Dominican inquisitor who played a leading part in the great
witchcraft persecutions as author of the infamous Malleus
Maleficarum, (literally, the Witches’ Hammer), the authoritative
sourcebook for inquisitors, judges, and magistrates.
Born at Schlettstadt, in Lower Alsace, near Strasbourg,
Kramer entered the Dominican order, where he progressed so
rapidly that he was appointed prior to the Dominican House
in Schlettstadt while still a young man. He became preachergeneral
and master of sacred theology (two Dominican Order
distinctions) and around 1474 was appointed inquisitor for the
districts of Tyrol, Salzburg, Bohemia, and Moravia. He received
praise from Rome and from the archbishop of Salzburg,
becoming spiritual director of the Dominican church in Salzburg.
In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII was responsible for the famous
bull Summis desiderantes affectibus of December 9, which deplored
the power of the witch organization and redefined
witchcraft in such a way as to bring it into the scope of the Inquisition.
The pope also delegated Kramer and Sprenger as inquisitors
throughout northern Germany, especially in Mainz,
Cologne, Treves, Salzburg, and Breman.
In 1485 Kramer wrote a treatise on witchcraft that initially
circulated in manuscript; it was published in 1486 as Malleus
Maleficarum,, with the name of his colleague Jacob Sprenger
added as coauthor. This became the working manual for inEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Kramer, Heinrich
875
quisitors, judges, and magistrates in the great witchcraft persecutions
and went into many editions in French, Italian, and English,
as well as in German.
Kramer resided for a period at the priory of Santi Giovanni
e Paolo (X. Zanipolo), returning to Germany in 1497, where he
lived at the convent of Rohr, near Regensburg. On January 31,
1500, he was appointed nuncio and inquisitor of Bohemia and
Moravia by Alexander VI and empowered to proceed against
the Waldenses and Picards as well as witches. He died in Bohemia
in 1505.
Sources
Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology.
New York Crown Publishers, 1959.

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