The demons and the friars: Illicit magic and Mendicant rivalry in renaissance Bologna

Tamar Herzig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1473 Pope Sixtus IV instructed the vicar of the Bishop of Bologna to investigate rumors concerning Carmelite friars who were preaching that summoning demons in order to obtain responses from them was not heretical. Drawing on newly discovered archival sources, this article elucidates the circumstances that led the Franciscan pope to intervene in a conflict between the Bolognese Carmelites and the Dominican inquisitor Simone of Novara. It proposes that the Carmelite af fair, which ended with the inquisitor's defeat, constituted a critical juncture in the Dominicans' relations with other Mendicant orders, and that it shaped inquisitorial activity in Bologna over the next few decades. This paper suggests that the aftermath of the Carmelite affair may also explain why, when the repression of illicit magic was resumed, Inquisitor Giovanni Cagnazzo decided to turn a female necromancer, and not the friars who had taught her demonic rites, into the main target of his prosecution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1025-1058
Number of pages34
JournalRenaissance Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


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