Wednesday, 9 April 2014


EARLY MODERN TREATMENT: Possessed by the Devil and punished by the Inquisition.

In 1552, the wool carder Bartolomé Sanchez of Cardenete sensed that he was possessed by the devil. The Inquisition immediately took an interest in him.

According to trial records, Sanchez attempted to get rid of the Devil by the DIY method:
On the advice of the village priest, I went to do penance at the Dominican monastery.
I wrapped a rope of raw matweed around my body at the waist and gave it about five or six turns so it would cut into my flesh. I prepared five stones that weighed about 25 pounds and put them inside some saddlebags, which I intended to carry to the monastery as a form of penance. I then ordered my son to read some prayers because I was so high and dizzy I couldn’t pray on my own. To drive out the devil, I began shouting Get out, cursed Lucifer, I did not give you permission to come in here.

But the Devil kept plaguing Sanchez, and the Inquisition had him imprisoned. His cell mate, however, testified that he seemed normal: I have not seen Bartolom√© Sanchez out of his senses or understanding…he does nothing but eat and sleep and walk to and fro.

In the final sentencing, Sanchez was nevertheless declared a heretic and apostate, excommunicated and released to the secular arm of justice. All of his property was confiscated…His descendants for two generation were deprived of all and any benefices, dignities, and offices… and ineligible to bear weapons or ride on horseback.

Sanchez abjured his errors publicly:
Mercy! I confess. I want to convert to our Holy Catholic Faith…I fully understood the error I was in and in which the devil kept me fooled…I am sorry for all of it, and I beg God for mercy.

He was released, but had to wear the sanbenito – a shirt that identified him as a former heretic. Every Saturday, moreover, he had to make a short pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Bridge outside the city walls.

Unfortunately Sanchez suffered a relapse. While attending mass, he began shouting and striking at those around him, calling them goddamned buggers…and foaming at the mouth.

In 1560, the Inquisition finally acknowledged that Sanchez was mentally ill and put him into an asylum in Zaragoza.
(Source: Sara Tilghman Nalle, Mad for God)

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