The Scourge of Demons: Possession, Lust, and Witchcraft in a Seventeenth-Century Italian Convent

The Scourge of Demons: Possession, Lust, and Witchcraft in a Seventeenth-Century Italian Convent

by Jeffrey R. Watt
     
 

ISBN-10: 1580462987

ISBN-13: 9781580462983

Pub. Date: 04/15/2009

Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited

In 1636, residents at the convent of Santa Chiara in Carpi in northern Italy were struck by an extraordinary illness that provoked bizarre behavior. Eventually numbering fourteen, the afflicted nuns were subject to screaming fits, throwing themselves on the floor, and falling abruptly into a deep sleep. When medical experts' cures proved ineffective, exorcists…  See more details below

Overview

In 1636, residents at the convent of Santa Chiara in Carpi in northern Italy were struck by an extraordinary illness that provoked bizarre behavior. Eventually numbering fourteen, the afflicted nuns were subject to screaming fits, throwing themselves on the floor, and falling abruptly into a deep sleep. When medical experts' cures proved ineffective, exorcists ministered to the women and concluded that they were possessed by demons and the victims of witchcraft. Catering to women from elite families, the nunnery suffered much turmoil for three years and, remarkably, three of the victims died from their ills. A maverick nun and a former confessor were widely suspected to be responsible, through witchcraft, for these woes. Based primarily on the exhaustive investigation by the Inquisition of Modena, The Scourge of Demons examines this fascinating case in its historical context. The travails of Santa Chiara occurred at a time when Europe witnessed peaks in both witch-hunting and in the numbers of people reputedly possessed by demons. Female religious figures appeared particularly prone to demonic attacks, and Counter-Reformation Church authorities were especially interested in imposing stricter discipline on convents. Watt carefully considers how the nuns of Santa Chiara understood and experienced alleged possession and witchcraft, concluding that Santa Chiara's diabolical troubles and their denouement -- involving the actions of nuns, confessors, inquisitorial authorities, and exorcists -- were profoundly shaped by the unique confluence of religious, cultural, judicial, and intellectual trends that flourished in the 1630s. Jeffrey R. Watt is professor of history at the University of Mississippi.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580462983
Publisher:
Boydell & Brewer, Limited
Publication date:
04/15/2009
Series:
Changing Perspectives on Early Modern Europe
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction Nuns, Witchcraft, and the Inquisition 1

Ch. 1 Female Religious, Claustration, and Santa Chiara of Carpi 21

Ch. 2 The Outbreak and Maleficia 37

Ch. 3 The Confessor and Love Magic 73

Ch. 4 The Exorcists and the Demons 104

Ch. 5 Sisters Dealta and Ippolita under Attack 141

Ch. 6 Bellacappa's Defense 157

Ch. 7 The Waning of the Possessions 181

Conclusion 197

Appendix A 215

Appendix B 216

List of Abbreviations 219

Notes 221

Selected Bibliography 279

Index 291

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