chapter  2
14 Pages

Defending a Conservative View on Witches: Juan de Torquemada on c. Episcopi [C.26 q.5c.12]

The roles played by certain Dominican friars in the development of witchcraft theories are well known. One need only mention Johannes Nider, Heinrich Kramer (Henricus Institoris), and Bartolomeo Spina as key figures in that history.1 Almost no attention, however, has been paid in this context to the commentary on Gratian’s Decretum composed by Juan de Toquemada (13881468), a Dominican theologian and self-taught canon lawyer, during his years in Rome as a cardinal.2 In this commentary, Torquemada devoted attention to the canon Episcopi, one of the key texts in the history of medieval beliefs about witches. Since the theories of Kramer and Spina, in particular, reversed the plain meaning of Episcopi,3 giving credence to reports of such wonders as witches flying through the air that had been dismissed in the canon as illusions, the cardinal’s commentary, with its set of questions on interrelated topics, may allow us to determine whether he contributed to this change of opinion or stood opposed to the trend toward intensive persecution.