ALTHOUGH the infamous Middle Ages practice of witch hunting was not as widespread in Slovakia as it was in other European countries such as Spain, Germany, France and England, crowds in what today are Slovak towns gathered dozens of times over the centuries to watch people burn at the stake for witchcraft.
Although no complete historical record exists of witch hunting in Slovakia or of the exact number of witches burned on the territory, witch trials are thought to have culminated in the 17th century.
The Time of Satanic Fires, a book by lawyer Viliam Apfel that was published in 2001, offers an overview of witch hunting on Slovak territory between 1506 and 1766. Apfel states that the Inquisition produced the most deaths by fire in Krupina, a southern Slovak town in today's Banská Bystrica region.
Between 1620 and 1695, over 30 people were sentenced to death by fire on witchcraft charges in Krupina, while several were executed by the sword.
According to Apfel, it was not until 100 years after the infamous papal bulls issued by Pope Innocent VIII in the 1480s that the first witch trial took place on Slovak territory. The second of Innocent's edicts was called Hammer for Witches and removed bans on torture in church investigations, launching witch hunting madness across Europe.
In 1506, an executioner was paid to burn to death a witch known as Maxinka in the eastern Slovak town of Štítnik.
While witch trials were most frequently held in southern and eastern Slovak rural areas such as Šamorín, Komárno and Bardejov, or in central Slovak towns such as Kremnica, Bratislava also saw several deaths of people who fell victim to the religious fanatics of the era.
Several women, whose names have not been preserved but who were described by a contemporary as having "during the night jumped around like cats, blustered and danced, drank and harloted among themselves," were allegedly burned to death in Bratislava in 1574.
Almost 30 years later, Agáta Toot Borlobaschinová (see story this page) became the first known woman to be burned at the stake in May 1602, followed soon thereafter by Alžbeta Nagsányová. Both women were sentenced to death by fire at the town's scaffold under today's Michalská Gate. The sentence on Nagsányová was later commuted to death by the sword.
After the turn of the 18th century the number of witch trials declined rapidly, although it is estimated that in the first half of the century some 22 people were sentenced to die at the stake.
While it is not known when the last witch was burned at the stake in Slovakia, it is believed that the world's last witch to be burned died in 1873 in Mexico.
20. May 2002 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová