The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death in the Sixteenth Century Paperback – 1 May 2014
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"A surprisingly moving story of brutality and redemption" (Dan Jones Telegraph)
"Opens a window on a gruesome world" (Daily Express)
"This is a marvelous book about a fascinating subject… It is a virtuoso performance… A brilliant microhistory, a triumph of technique and a wonderful read" (Peter Marshall Literary Review)
"Who can imagine how an executioner feels about his trade? Joel F. Harrington has written a considered and fascinating book which helps us hear the voice of one such man, a professional torturer (and healer) who, astonishingly, kept a diary" (Hilary Mantel)
"This is a sympathetic, intelligent and surprisingly tender book" (The Times)
Step into the world of Meister Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and dispenser of justice.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
One of the oddest, and saddest, things about Schmidt's life is that he became an executioner through a quirk of fate when his father, Heinrich, was called upon by a noble to act as executioner after he had arrested three locals for plotting against his life Up to that point, Heinrich had been a woodsman and fowler. After the hapless man was forced to kill he had no choice but to become an executioner. Since the Middle Ages, executioners were shunned and excluded by society and tended to bond together out of necessity. When this terrible social exclusion was forced upon him, Heinrich did the best he could and trained his son Frantz in his new profession - although both men had plans to try to escape the calling forced upon them.
It has to be said that Frantz did the best he could under the circumstances. His training began with using rhubarb stalks to practice on (apparently similar to the sinews in the neck - much of this book is gruesome, so this is not for the squemish), continuing with beheading stray dogs and helping his father in his work before, ahem, striking out on his own. During his long career, he personally killed three hundred and ninety four people, torturing countless others.Read more ›
It is a book about punishment, but also about a society's, and individual's view on justice, sin, damnation and redemption. It is about how one man sets about restoring his family's honour while working in a 'dishonourable' profession.
I have found it a chilling, moving and fascinating insight into a world at the very doorstep of the modern era.
Hugely readable, and highly recommended.
This is a fascinating and exceptionally well written account of the life of Meister Frantz, whose father was forced to enter the unsavoury and socially pariah status of an executioner, and his son followed suit. Despite the awful state-sanctioned punishments that Frantz inflicted on a variety of miscreants, he comes across as being a conscientious and rather likeable man. He was desperate to be accepted into Nuremberg society, at a time when the public executioner was almost always shunned by polite society. His journal demonstrates how Frantz was determined to do the job to the best of his ability, whilst minimising suffering of his victims; nevertheless he routinely inflicted horrendous pain on what he judged to be the worst offenders – usually inveterate and cruel criminals. This is an excellent study of 16-17th century Nuremberg society and its social mores.
Interesting subject as well.
My reaction to the whole subject was quite different at the end to the beginning. Author manages to take you into the world of Germany at that time.
It lost a bit of its vrim and coherence towards the end, but a small criticism.
It raises ethical problems for ourselves - are we really so far removed from the mindset of the seventeenth century as we like to think?
Harrington is at pains to distance himself from the prurient and sensationalist side of the executioner's art, but there are still passages that drew me up short in their implication. The victims and the executioners both have good tales to be told, and they receive good airings in this book.
The curious part in me now wishes to know how transposable the German experience is to the English/British model. Were executioners here similarly disadvantaged?
The text is generously annotated and referenced, and on the whole the book straddles the divide between popular and scholarly history in a successful way. A curious insight into the past, and very welcome for it, I would recommend this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fascinating insight into life in the German states in the sixteenth century from the point of view of men with a calling shunned by society.Published 4 months ago by Ludder
death sentences carried out by the german executioner who kept a diary of his 'work'Published 5 months ago by bkkbob
A scholarly and entertaining account of an executioner's life and social position.Published 20 months ago by John Flood
Some interesting insight in to the period Franz lived in, but reads more like a shopping list at times. 2 hangings, 3 tongue loosenings and one "hot pokering".Published 21 months ago by Karl Byrne
An interesting read but difficult at times to appreciate that people were genuinely happy to be executed by the sword rather than hanging. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Colin Nelson