Guazzo, Francesco-Maria

Francesco-MariaGuazzo (17th century) was an Italian friar who became well known as a Demonologist and opponent of witches. Francesco-Maria Guazzo is best known as the author of Compendium Maleficarum (Handbook of Witches), a leading inquisitor’s guide. Little is known about Guazzo’s life. He joined the Brethren of St. Ambrose ad Nemus and St. Barnabas in Milan. He wrote the Compendium in response to a request from Cardinal Federico Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan.

The book, published in 1608, draws upon the works of other Demonologists and repeats some of the superstitions of the time, including the assertion that Martin Luther was born from the union of the Devil and a nun. Guazzo served as a judge and assessor in witchcraft trials. In 1605, he was sent to Cleves to advise in a case involving the Serene Duke John William of Julich-Cleves. The duke accused a 90-year-old warlock, John, of overlooking and ensorcelling him (see also:evileye and sorcery). John confessed that he used charms and runes to afflict the duke with a wasting sickness and “frenzy.”

He was found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Before the sentence could be carried out, John committed suicide by slicing his throat with a knife. According to Guazzo, the Devil himself stood at John’s side as he died. The duke asked Guazzo to assist in other witchcraft cases in Germany, which he did. The Compendium became the leading witch handbook in Italy and has been compared to the Malleus Maleficarum.


Further Reading :

  • Guazzo, Francesco-Maria. Compendium Maleficarum. Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1974.


The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.