Bloody business

A careful study of the victims of witch trials shows that not only poor people were accused and executed but also rich and respected townpeople. It was easy to accuse and destroy somebody reputation as no material and tangible proofs were claimed for the evidence of witchcraft. Jealousy, rivalry and cupidity were often the prime movers for such accusations.

Considerable enthusiasm for witch-hunting was also built up among local officials, since they were empowered to confiscate the entire estate of any person condemned for witchcraft. Expenses were kept down by forcing the witch’s family to pay the bill for the services of the torturers and the executioners.

The family was also billed for the cost of the fagots and for the banquet, which the judges held after the burning. If the debt was so large, more than the person’s estate value, or more than one generation of relatives could pay off, then it was carried over to the next generation.

Gilles de Rais and Elisabeth Bathory are two examples of nobles that were trialed and sentenced to death for witchcraft

The money was collected by three parties in the time of the Inquisition: the Church, the Inquisitors, and the civil authorities and shared between the clergy, the Inquisitors, and the informers (who were never named in court).

Thousands of victims of the Inquisition had only one heresy: a good bank account.

Here might be added two interesting details, which helps to explain the popularity and the terminus of the Inquisition. The Church did not favor the Spanish Inquisition because the Royalty did not give a proportion of the property of the condemned to the Church, and when the Papacy said such property could no longer be confiscated the Inquisition abruptly ended.