The Faithful Executioner by Joel F. Harrington
Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews

“If you want to know what a population’s values are, take a look at how it handles the issues of crime and punishment.”
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Based on the rare and until now overlooked journal of a Renaissance-era executioner, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington's The Faithful Executioner takes us deep inside the alien world and thinking of Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg, who, during forty-five years as a professional executioner, personally put to death 394 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured many hundreds more. But the picture that emerges of Schmidt from his personal papers is not that of a monster. Could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate—even progressive?
In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice's rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz's juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but testimony of one man's lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith.
The biography of an ordinary man struggling for his soul, this groundbreaking book also offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Europe on the cusp of modernity, a society riven by violent conflict at all levels and encumbered by paranoia, superstition, and abuses of power. Thanks to an extraordinary historical source and its gifted interpreter, we recognize far more of ourselves than we might have expected in this intimate portrait of a professional killer from a faraway world.

 

About Joel F. Harrington

See more books from this Author
Joel F. Harrington is a professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of The Unwanted Child, winner of the 2010 Roland H. Bainton Prize for History, as well as Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany and A Cloud of Witnesses. He lives with his wife and two children in Nashville, Tennessee.
 
Published March 19, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Crime, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Faithful Executioner
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Brendan Simms on Apr 07 2013

Mr. Harrington tells Frantz's story briskly, and he grounds his claims in painstaking archival research as well as in the facts contained in Frantz's own journal.

Read Full Review of The Faithful Executioner: Lif... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Ted on Mar 19 2013

“If you want to know what a population’s values are, take a look at how it handles the issues of crime and punishment.”

Read Full Review of The Faithful Executioner: Lif... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Reader Rating for The Faithful Executioner
73%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 76 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×