Konrad von Marburg

From Academic Kids

Konrad von Marburg (sometimes Anglicised as Conrad of Marburg) was a 13th century German inquisitor. He was commissioned by the Pope to combat the Albigensians, who the Roman Catholic Church considered to be heretics. He is known for the extreme methods he employed, and for the early death that these methods brought him.

Konrad's early life is not well known, but he was described by contemporary church sources as being well educated and highly knowledgeable. It is possible that he received a university education. He was also noted for his strong asceticism and his zeal in defending the church. Much of his early work within the church was related to the suppression of heresy, and he took an active part in the Albigensian Crusade in southern France. Pope Innocent III, who championed the Crusade and the accompanying Medieval Inquisition, was one of Konrad's early supporters.

Eventually, however, Konrad returned to Germany, the land of his birth. He gradually acquired a position of considerable influence at the court of Ludwig IV, Landgrave of Thuringia. In particular, Konrad gained considerable power over Ludwig's wife, Elisabeth of Hungary, to whom Konrad acted as religious advisor and confessor. In this role, Konrad's treatment of Elisabeth was extremely harsh, and he held her to standards of behaviour which were almost impossible to meet. Among the punishments he is alleged to have ordered were physical beatings and separation from her three children. In 1231, possibly because of Konrad's treatment of her, Elisabeth died. She was soon elevated to Sainthood as St. Elisabeth, and became one of the two or three most eminent female saints of medieval times (and beyond). In modern scholarly literature, generally a strongly sadistic element has been diagnosed in Konrad's behavior towards Elizabeth.

Konrad also set to work seeking out heresy in both Thuringia and Hesse, and quickly gained a reputation for being unreasonable and unjust. According to most accounts, Konrad accepted almost any accusation as being true, and regarded suspects as guilty until proven innocent. Those accused of being heretics were quickly sought out by Konrad's mobs, and told to repent or else be burnt at the stake. Those accused of heresy were also encouraged to falsely denounce others, with the implication that their life might be spared if they did so. Konrad included commoners, nobles, and priests in his inquisition - Heinrich Minnike, Provost of Goslar, was one of Konrad's first targets, and was burnt at the stake. In 1227, Pope Gregory IX commissioned Konrad to eliminate heresy throughout the whole of Germany, granting him permission to ignore standard church procedure for the investigation of heresy. According to many sources, news that Konrad was to pass through an area almost invariably caused widespread panic.

In 1233, Konrad accused Heinrich II, Count of Sayn, of taking part in "satanic orgies". Heinrich, however, appealed to an assembly of bishops in Mainz, and was declared innocent. Konrad refused to accept the decision, and demanded that the verdict be reversed, but eventually left Mainz to return to Marburg. On the road, he was attacked by several knights, who killed both Konrad and his assistant. The knights may or may not have been in the service of Heinrich.

After Konrad's death, Pope Gregory declared Konrad to have been an upholder of the Christian faith, and ordered his killers punished. Perceptions in Germany, however, were markedly less favourable, and the memory of Konrad was enough to turn opinion against the inquisition for many years.

Not only locally, and not diminishing over the centuries, the name of Konrad von Marburg became a byword for sadism and the dark side of Catholicism. The place where Konrad was killed, Hof Kapelle near Marburg, is marked with a stone (within the premises of a private farm); it was locally long believed to be haunted and is allegedly today on certain days the site of black rites. A fountain on the lower Steinweg, one of Marburg's main lanes, close to St. Elizabeth Church, which in some neo-gothic restoration attempt was topped with the effigy of a generic monk that was locally believed to represent Konrad, was continuously stoned by the students of the University of Marburg, and after many attempts of replacement had to be substituted with an architectural ornament.

Konrad appears in a work by the English novelist Charles Kingsley, who wrote his Saint's Tragedy about Elisabeth.de:Konrad von Marburg fr:Conrad de Marbourg


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