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The papal bull (or decree) Summis desiderantes affectibus, issued in 1484 by Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492), specifically addressed the malign presence of witches and witchcraft in the Holy Roman Empire and authorized a formal inquisition into their activities. It was one of several official condemnations of heretics and other enemies of Christendom, both groups and individuals, issued during Innocent VII’s reign.

Heinrich Kramer, the primary author of the Malleus maleficarum (1486/7) prefaced the second edition of his witch-hunting manual with the Summis desiderantes affectibus without explicit permission; scholars argue that he considered it likely to bolster the work’s authority with local rulers and clergy. The reputation of Pope Innocent VIII as an affable but corrupt and politically weak pontiff did not necessarily strengthen the bull’s justification of Kramer’s witch-hunting treatise.

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Early modern history, Medieval Italian history, Christianity, Demonology


European History | History of Christianity | Medieval History | Medieval Studies


This essay is part of a series of research projects written for Professor John Ott's Spring 2020 Medieval History seminar on PSU Library Special Collections' Malleus maleficarum and Fasciculus temporum codex.

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Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) and the <i>Summis desiderantes affectibus</i>