Peter Binsfeld (ca. 1540–1603) was a German Jesuit priest, Demonologist, and witch hunter. Peter Binsfeld was born in the village of Binsfeld, Eifel, Germany. His father was a farmer and craftsman. Gifted in childhood, he was sent to Rome for study. He returned to Binsfeld and became prominent in campaigns against the Protestants.
Binsfeld was elected suffragan bishop of Treves (Trier) and became one of the primary witch hunters behind the trials of 306 persons accused of Witchcraft between 1587 and 1594. The region was gripped by a terrible blight on crops, and the public readily blamed their troubles on the evildoing of witches.
Binsfeld authored the Treatise on Confessions by Evildoers and Witches (1589), which became a leading inquisitors’ handbook and was translated into several languages. He encouraged denouncements—the accused at the Treves trials denounced about 6,000 people—and sanctioned the repetition of torture. He maintained that the Devil could not appear in the form of an innocent person, but he did not believe in the Devil’S MARK and the shape-shifting ability of witches. He allowed the trials of children under certain conditions.
In the Treves trials, even leading citizens were not immune. The chief judge, Dietrich Flade, was himself accused and burned at the stake, as were two burgomasters and several councilors and associate judges. Numerous clerics were ruined, and the children of the condemned were stripped of all their belongings and sent into exile. Binsfeld’s treatise included a classification of Demons and their sins; he was the first person to pair Demons with the Seven Deadly Sins: Lucifer (pride), MAMMON (avarice), Asmodeus (lechery), Satan (anger), Beelzebub (gluttony), Leviathan (envy), and BELPHEGOR (sloth). Binsfeld died in Treves of the bubonic plague around 1603.
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