Scourging demons with exorcism
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By 1580 at the latest, Protestantism in Bologna had been defeated. Yet, scepticism about demons and other occult phenomena still thrived. It had the potential to threaten some of the most sensational features of Counter-Reformation religious propaganda, such as miraculous healings, demonic possessions, and exorcisms. Although particularly widespread among the Bolognese ruling class, such critical attitudes also extended to the lower classes. This was the environment in which Menghi began his work. The exorcism therefore demonstrated to a wide audience both the existence of the devil and the demonic nature of heresy. Menghi, and possibly other exorcists as well, may have intended to influence the witchcraft trials that were going on in Bologna during the same year – four witches were condemned to death on 27 June 1559. Between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, amidst the birth of medieval Scholasticism and demonology, speculations about the devil and his power became more and more prominent and complex.