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situation. The bishop invalidated all accusations and threw Henry Kramer out of his diocese on the grounds that he was a lunatic. It was this crushing defeat and fundamental disagreements about demonological issues that prompted Kramer to compile his extensive work on demonology (256 pages in folio). The Malleus Maleficarum was welcomed by a curious audience as the first printed handbook of demonology. The upsurge of witch trials in the early 1490s in central Europe has been interpreted as a direct result of the publication of the Witches' Hammer and there are incidents indicating that it certainly had an impact. A chronicler reported that the region near the monastery of Eberhardsklausen on the Mosel River had been plagued by witches for some time, but as no one knew how to define a witch's behaviour it was impossible to do anything about them.

Only after reading the Witches' Hammer was it clear to the authorities how to proceed in dealing with witches - and this method was carried out. Here we do indeed have a kind of conversion experience, but this is a rare example, and it is not at all clear how the Malleus was generally received. In the light of the many sceptics that Kramer so often complains about in the Malleus, it seems highly unlikely that any of them were convinced by this desperate text. It is striking that opposition publications were frequent during the 1490s. Ulrich Molitor (1442-1507), a lawyer of the Bishop of Constance and courtier at Archduke Sigmund's court in Innsbruck, challenged the central assumptions of the Witches' Hammer. Molitor fashioned his text (De laniis et phytonicis mulieribus; Constance, 1489) in the style of a dialogue between a fanatic believer in witchcraft with himself as opponent and Archduke Sigmund as the wise arbiter. The protagonists always came to rational conclusions and flatly denied the possibility that witches could fly, shape-shift or influence the weather and they denied the existence of a witches' sabbath.

Their discussions would be the standard subject matter of all future demonologies. However, Molitor did not depart from the consensus of Augus-tinian demonology, since this was exactly the traditional attitude of the Catholic Church that had hitherto prevented witch persecutions. Canon law considered the more fantastical elements of witchcraft to be based on superstition, not on real practices. What other humanists thought about witches is not really known.

Even from within the religious orders, Franciscans like Samuel de Cassinis questioned the assumptions underpinning Kramer's inquisitorial demonology (De lamiis, quas strigas vocant; Milan, 1505).

However, there were also several Dominicans who defended Kramer and the Inquisitors of their order against Cassinis, as for instance Vincente Dodo

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