The Faithful Executioner
In the latter half of the 16th Century and the first years of the 17th, Meister Frantz Schmidt was the official executioner for the thriving city-state of Nuremberg, part of the Holy Roman Empire. He kept a meticulous record of the occasions for all 394 people he executed, as well many more sentences of corporal punishment and torturing of suspects.
This is a fascinating and exceptionally well written account of the life of Meister Frantz, whose father was forced to enter the unsavoury and socially pariah status of an executioner, and his son followed suit. Despite the awful state-sanctioned punishments that Frantz inflicted on a variety of miscreants, he comes across as being a conscientious and rather likeable man. He was desperate to be accepted into Nuremberg society, at a time when the public executioner was almost always shunned by polite society. His journal demonstrates how Frantz was determined to do the job to the best of his ability, whilst minimising suffering of his victims; nevertheless he routinely inflicted horrendous pain on what he judged to be the worst offenders – usually inveterate and cruel criminals. This is an excellent study of 16-17th century Nuremberg society and its social mores.