Bamberg is a city in Upper Franconia with approximately 70,000 inhabitants. The city was built on seven hills like Rome: Cathedral Hill, Michaelsberg, Kaulberg/Obere Pfarre, Stefansberg, Jakobsberg, Altenburger Hill and Abtsberg. Bamberg was spared during the bombings in the Second World War, and carries the title of ‘UNESCO World Cultural Heritage’ because of the well-maintained medieval and baroque architecture. Not only the beautiful old town and ‘Little Venice’ on the banks of the river Regnitz attract many tourists; the city is known for its diverse and independent beer tradition. And, after 69 years of US Army presence in Bamberg, USAG Bamberg closed in September 2014.
In 1007, the German King Henry II created a new Catholic diocese that would aid in the final conquest of paganism in the area around Bamberg. The Catholic hold on this area remained securely intact with every new territory they acquired. For a short time Bamberg was even the center of the Holy Roman Empire. And they enjoyed many a century of power, until the reformers challenged their position. The first was Jan Hus in the early 15th Century and then, one hundred years later, the more well-known Protestant Martin Luther.
Then in the 17th Century, Bamberg suffered greatly during the Thirty Years War. The plague returned to Germany along with regiments of mercenaries. The country was experiencing what they call the ‘Little Ice Age,’ the cold-crisis that no expert could explain.
But what was it that turned organized religions, Catholics and Protestants alike, to seek blame for bad weather, failed crops and plagues of vermin among the city’s inhabitants? Women, children and any sorts who fell out of the ranks were accused of witchcraft and brutally tortured and executed. Were they really to blame for the atrocities of the Thirty Years War?
The guidelines for the proper handling of potential witches were printed in 1488 by two German Dominican monks with the authorization from the Pope. This guide was called the Malleus Maleficarum, or Witches Hammer. This book offered the church fathers an explanation for the climactic problems, the plague or any of the other epidemics in general.
Was it just a book or was it some kind of collective insanity? Bamberg was the center ring of the witch executions of 17th Century Germany, along with the city of Würzburg. All in all, during this 20 year period between 1616 and 1636, 1000 women, children and the occasional man (even the city’s mayor and the city council) were executed in Bamberg in the most brutal ways. Some sources say that the victims of this senseless wielding of power number 40,000 – 100,000 throughout Europe. Some go as far to say it was closer to a million.