Kramer, Heinrich

KRAMER (INSTITORIS), HEINRICH (ca. 1430–1505).A Dominican friar and papal inquisitor, Kramer (the name he used in his German writings; he used Institoris in his Latin works) is best known as the author of the infamous late-medieval witch-hunting manual Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), written in 1486 and first printed in 1487. Although he is traditionally listed along with his fellow Dominican Jakob Sprenger as the author of this work, much evidence points to Kramer being the sole author.

Before writing his great treatise on witch-hunting, Kramer was active as a papal inquisitor conducting inquisitions into heresy and witchcraft in the southern lands of the German Empire. He was appointed to his office in 1474, and in 1484 he and his fellow inquisitor Sprenger were singled out in Pope Innocent VIII’s bull Summis desiderantes affectibus. Concerned over reports of widespread witchcraft and Demonic activity coming from Kramer and Sprenger, the pope ordered the inquisitors to proceed against these threats to the faith with all their energies, as well as commanding that all local authorities should aid them in whatever way they could. Although in no way connected to the later Malleus maleficarum, this bull was included in printed editions of that book, thereby adding to the treatise’s authority.

Especially as it has become increasingly clear that Kramer was the primary author, and in all likelihood the sole author, of the Malleus maleficarum, many scholars have sought to link elements of that work to Kramer’s own personality. He has been depicted as emotionally disturbed, an almost pathological hater of women, and as someone prone to strange sexual fantasies. He was certainly an arrogant and ruthless man who aroused much opposition from local authorities. In 1490, he was censured by the Dominican order for his irregular and excessive activities. In 1500, he was dispatched to combat heresy and witchcraft in Bohemia, where he died.

From the : Historical Dictionary of Witchcraft – Written by Michael D. Bailey