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(Re)lecture archéologique de la justice en Europe médiévale et moderne

2. La justice et ses "objets"

The Sword, the Hand, the Account: Rereading Justice in the Museum Context

Anastasija Ropa et Edgars Rops

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  • 1 The notion of medieval cruelty is still commonplace both in popular representation of the Middle (...)

1One of the most famous – and popular – exhibits in the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation in Latvia is the sword of the executioner of Riga. On the exhibition display presented to the visitors during the Museum Night of 2009, the sword was shown next to mummified hands of criminals, allegedly forgers, and a 16th c. document, a bill where the executioner lists the fees due for his various services. The objects would have hardly appeared together in their original context, as they represent different aspects of medieval justice, its public and private appearances. However, the combination offers a certain perception of medieval justice for the 21st c. spectator, building on modern representations of the Middle Ages as an age of unwarranted violence and torture1.

  • 2 ‘Culture of violence’ is the term used to describe violence as a form of social organisation or a (...)
  • 3 There have been numerous studies of medieval and early modern violence in Europe. In 1987, R. I. (...)
  • 4 Coins have been minted in Riga since 1211. For the history of striking coins in Riga, see Berga 2 (...)
  • 5 Object 17: act of the Riga Council for the sale of land to Herman Volf, dated 1508. The charter s (...)

2The presentation of the objects of medieval justice in museum context serves as a powerful indicator of the modern perceptions of medieval justice, while also contributing to the public perception of medieval society, in this case, to the administration of justice and the so-called “culture of violence”2 and the formation of a persecuting mentality3. The above-mentioned bill of the executioner’s services, which was then on loan to the Museum, is next to a display focusing on forgery in the display attributed to forgers, and an array of forged coins4, together with other objects related to the government of Riga – seals and stamps, a charter5, and the coat or arms of the city. The significance of the sword and other objects related to execution is transformed: instead of impressing the viewer as evidence of medieval and early modern violence, the objects testify to the maintenance of law and order in the city. This change could indicate evolving ideas about the Middle Ages, including the performance of law and justice in the medieval period. The new display stresses the efficiency of governance in Riga, which was a free Hanseatic city in the period, rather than cruelty of the medieval execution of justice in the city.

3In the present article, our aim is to explore the material underpinnings of judicial violence and the role of the Riga executioner in the execution of justice in late medieval and early modern urban administration. We will concentrate on the objects, in their present museum context, and consider textual evidence for their significance and use. First, however, comes an overview of the post-medieval image of the Riga executioner and the possible historical clues that resulted in the formation of this image, again, from an archaeological and material perspective. Subsequently, we briefly introduce the institutional framework regulating the work of the executioner in Riga, to contextualise the objects that were associated and became, in a sense, iconic of the office. Finally, we will point to the places of justice in medieval and early modern Riga, using the evidence of art and street names, as well as the surviving records, before drawing conclusions on the role of the objects of justice in historical Riga and contemporary understanding of these objects.

Legends and representations of the Riga executioner. The iconic objects

  • 6 On the ambiguity of the executioner’s status, see Klemettilä 2006.
  • 7 Klemetillä 2006, 78.

4The Riga executioner is a figure that, in modern urban culture and literature, is surrounded by myth and stereotype. There is, for instance, a classical work of modern Latvian literature, a fairy tale by the Latvian children’s writer Karlis Skalbe, ‘The Executioner’s Daughter’, which appeared in a collection of Winter Tales in 1913. The tale plays on the typical representation of the executioner as an unhappy, drink-driven man, showing his daughter as a fair, but sadly isolated child. While drinking was a commonplace affliction of late medieval executioners, and there is evidence that many of these professionals were, in fact, hard-drinking men, we have little evidence about the character of any of Riga’s executioners. The house in which the executioner lived from the 16th century onwards was, in fact, built next to a brewery, and the entry could have been through the brewery, as the executioner’s house as it is currently preserved does not have a separate entrance. Also, one of the neighbouring streets is called ‘Alus’ (‘Beer’ street), indicating that it used to be occupied by brewers. Likewise, being associated with an executioner as member of the family or household carried a particular social stigma, which may have resulted in social alienation and problems in starting their own families for the children of executioners.6 On the other hand, there are cases of executioners marrying their children within the profession, resulting in the creation of entire ‘dynasties’ of executioners. Thus, according to H. Klemetillä, the antipathy related to the hangman’s person extended to all his family. A hangman’s son had great difficulties in finding any other occupation for himself, if he did not wish to follow in the footsteps of his father. Also, a hangman’s descendants had difficulties finding spouses. They were usually forced to marry their own kind7.

  • 8 Wiltenberg 2012, 17. The journal of the Nuremberg executioner, who lived and worked at the same p (...)

5Unlike some of the German and French executioners, who left extended memoirs and family history8, none of the Riga executioners seems to have produced any surviving written evidence of their careers, apart from the above-mentioned bill that would be presented to the Riga Council in the late 16th c.

  • 9 Thus, gloves are commonly mentioned among the executioner’s equipment in the French records; see, (...)

6One of the modern ‘legends’ about the Riga executioner offers an account of symbolic extra-verbal communication that took place between the town officials and the executioner on the one hand, and the executioner and the Riga citizens on the other hand. It is said that whenever the services of the executioner were required to administer punishment the officials would send him a glove as a sign of summons. This romantic account has, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, some historical confirmation, as it is known from the records of other European towns that an executioner required a pair of gloves to administer his services and that these gloves were supplied or funded by the town9. No compatible historical parallel is apparent for the second element of symbolic communication between the executioner and the citizens of Riga, whom, according to modern urban legends, the executioner informed about the forthcoming public punishment by placing a rose in the window of his house.

  • 10 Evans 1906, 140.

7A reference to gloves given to the executioner by the city and, apparently, worn during the execution, emphasise the ambiguity of the executioner’s status. On the one hand, the gloves would have reminded the audience of the judicial ‘performance’, which a public execution was, and of the unsavoury nature of the profession. On the other hand, the gloves, keeping the executioner’s hands from all contact with the criminal and the criminal’s body, would have kept the executioner’s hands literally and metaphorically ‘clean’, which, according to Evans10, was their primary function.

  • 11 On the leather gloves found in Riga and dated from the 13th to the 18th c., see Bebre 2009, 101-1 (...)

8Although the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation contains an extensive collection of medieval and early modern leather objects, no gloves from the archaeological finds have been identified as belonging to the executioner11. On the other hand, an object that is certainly attributed to the executioner, which comes from the Historical Collection of the Museum, is the sword (fig. 1). The sword is dated to the 16th c. and is preserved together with its scabbard, which is dated to the 16th or 17th c. (fig. 2).

Fig. 1. The sword of the Riga executioner, dated to the 16th c., made by Johannes Hoppe; a fragment showing the master’s signature and marks, The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).

Fig. 1. The sword of the Riga executioner, dated to the 16th c., made by Johannes Hoppe; a fragment showing the master’s signature and marks, The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).

Fig. 2. The sword of the Riga executioner, dated to the 16th c., and the scabbard, dated to the 16th-17th c., The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).

Fig. 2. The sword of the Riga executioner, dated to the 16th c., and the scabbard, dated to the 16th-17th c., The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).
  • 12 On the wolf mark used by the Solingen masters, see Boeheim 1897, 152.
  • 13 Oakeshott 2012, 275.
  • 14 The Wallace Collection, [En ligne] URL: http://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org:8080/eMuseumPlus (...)
  • 15 For a description, see Vgl. Kat. Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen, 1991, Abb. 83
  • 16 Europeana Collections, “Bödelssvärd, Solingen ca 1620-ca 1640, | Johann Happe (Hoppe) (Tillverkar (...)

9The blade of the sword is inscribed with the name of the master, Johannes Hoppe, from Solingen, and bears the master’s marker, as well as the mark of a wolf12. The sword was held by the executioners successively until the office of the executioner was abolished in Riga in 1863, when corporal punishment disappeared from the entire Russian Empire. Master Johannes Hoppe (also known as Happe, Hoappe or Happie) from Solingen is known to have been active in the first half of the 17th c., between c. 1620 and c. 164013. The Wallace Collection, for instance, contains a rapier attributed to the master and dated to c. 1630 (European Armoury III, A645). The sword from the Wallace Collection bears the name of the master “IOHANNES / HAPPE (sic) / ME FECIT / SOLINGEN” and a wild man with a club is etched below the name14. Another sword made by Johannes Hoppe and conserved in Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen, was made after c. 1640; this sword, too is inscribed with “Me fecit Johannis Hoppe Solingen” and bears the mark of a wild man15. Finally, what appears to be an executioner’s sword, again by Hoppe, is preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602); it is inscribed “IOHAN HAPPE ME FECIT” on the one side and “IOHAN HAPPE SOLINGEN” on the other side (for the sword, see fig. 3; for the master’s inscription and marks, see fig. 4)16. Although the sword of the Riga executioner is less of an elite object than the elegant rapier of the Wallace Collection, it is a skilfully made object, highlighting, again, that, despite its stigma, the profession of the executioner as the administrator of justice was – almost – a noble one.

Fig. 3. A sword made by Johannes Hoppe, preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602), Available from Europeana Collections.

Fig. 3. A sword made by Johannes Hoppe, preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602), Available from Europeana Collections.

Fig. 4. Fragment of a sword made by Johannes Hoppe, preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602), showing the name and mark of the master, Available from Europeana Collections.

Fig. 4. Fragment of a sword made by Johannes Hoppe, preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602), showing the name and mark of the master, Available from Europeana Collections.

The legislative and administrative framework of crime and punishment in Late Medieval and Early Modern Riga

  • 17 An early, and to date the only complete edition of the Riga Statutes is by Napiersky (1876). For (...)

10As has already been explained, the first material evidence related to the personality of the Riga executioner and his professional duties dates to the 16th c. We know that the office of executioner has existed since the Middle Ages: Riga was a free city from the 13th c. onwards, and the Riga Rights (Rigisches Recht) or the Riga Statutes (Rigischen Statuten) were in force from the thirteenth until the 19th c. The Statutes were reworked between the 13th and the 14th c. (Umgearbeitete Rigische Statuten). The new Statutes, divided into 11 sections and containing 175 articles, borrow the majority of their content (105 articles) from the earlier Riga-Hamburg Statutes, with borrowings from Riga-Hapsala Statutes (37 articles) and other sources that regulated the trade of the Hanseatic merchants, including the Lubeck Rights and the Rights of the German Merchants’ Court in Novgorod.17 The provisions related to criminal justice, that would have specified corporal punishment or involved torture in the process of investigation are in sections VI, VIII, IX and X.

  • 18 Meiers 2017.
  • 19 The office of the executioner was regulated by the provisions of the Riga Statutes.

11However, the executioner had duties other than administering punishment and torture. Thus, the 16th c. executioner was also charged with waste disposal from the streets of Riga, a duty for which he could engage assistants. Prior to the 15th c., many European cities did not have provisions for regular waste disposal; in Luxembourg, for instance, regular waste disposal was introduced only in 149718. The executioner of Riga was a permanently hired official, who derived his income from a fixed salary and additional fees for corporal punishments19. The executioner had a group of helpers, which, in Riga, would consist of one assistant and up to fifty servants, the latter, presumably, needed for executing the duties of waste disposal.

  • 20 Thus, the analysis of crimes related to coins in the 14th c. Venice reveals differentiation in th (...)
  • 21 Napiersky 1876, 250.

12Beside the sword and scabbard of the executioner, the display at the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation contains two severed mummified hands, allegedly of forgers punished in the 16th or 17th c. in Riga (fig. 5). Both hands are severed at the wrist, which may suggest professional execution, albeit partially severed pieces of bone may have become detached later. One is the left hand and the other the right, but their state of conservation is different, suggesting, unsurprisingly, that they do not belong to the same criminal. Forgery and other crimes related to falsifying coins or reducing their value (clipping and culling) were severely punished in the medieval and early modern period across Europe, with punishments varying from mutilation to death, although, in certain cases, monetary fines and exile were applied20. The statutes of Riga specified fines and punishments for those paying with forged money and selling counterfeit products. For those caught with less than 2 öres of forged money, the fine was 1 silver mark; if the amount was half a farthing, the criminal’s hand was to be cut, but this punishment could be replaced by a fine of 5 silver marks; if the amount of forged money exceeded 1 farthing, capital punishment was applied21.

Fig. 5. Mummified hands, ascribed to executed forgers and dated to the 16th or 17th c., and forged coins, The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).

Fig. 5. Mummified hands, ascribed to executed forgers and dated to the 16th or 17th c., and forged coins, The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).
  • 22 Stahl 1998, 182.
  • 23 Turning 2016, 330. On the “changing social norms concerning the fragmentation of bodies from the (...)

13Stahl suggests that crimes concerning money, seeking to forge or lower the value of officially issued coins, compromised the authority of the state or city where the crimes took place, thus being akin to treason and led to particularly severe and spectacular execution. Striking off the hand of a forger, a symbolic gesture of punishment, was common not only in Riga, but also in other free cities and city states, such as Venice22. It is possible that the hands of forgers were preserved as part of the ‘spectacle’ of public execution and as a warning against future crimes of this nature. On the other hand, given the poor state of preservation of the city accounts for the period and the fact that no record of the execution of forgers has yet been identified, other provenance for the severed hands may be suggested. The hands of executed criminals were often regarded as talismans and were severed after the death from the body that was left for display on the public gallows23.

Places of Execution

  • 24 Ķeniņš 2009, 195.
  • 25 Turning 2013, 145.
  • 26 Turning 2013, 145.
  • 27 Stuart 1999, 125-128.

14Public executions of criminals who came from the upper social strata took place in front of the Town Hall in Riga, making the execution of justice a public performance and a proof of the efficiency of the city administration. Thus, on 2 August 1589, when Riga was under Polish power, two leaders of the burgers, Martin Giese and Johann Brikenen, also opponents of the Polish King, were executed in the front of the Town Hall24. Subsequently, the body of an executed criminal, whether upper or lower-class, could be transferred to the public gallows and left there for display25. Interestingly, Turning argues that, “By the early modern period, gallows and the executioners held a very different place in the minds of urban authority, the city’s inhabitants and guild members […] an individual who came into a willing contact with the gallows or the exposed corpses was considered ‘polluted’ and dishonoured by the public”26.
According to Stuart, this stigma was particularly pronounced in early modern Germany27. Public gallows offered the urban authorities an opportunity to showcase their power and the efficiency of justice in the city. The gallows would, therefore, be built outside the city walls, where travellers approaching the city would see it, which would be possible if the gallows were set on a hill or another elevated - or, alternatively, on the river bank.

  • 28 Braun 1612, 44 – drawings of Konigsberg and Riga; the previous page, 43, contains a description o (...)
  • 29 McLean 2013, 184. The original edition of Cosmpographia, in German, is dated 1544; Livonia is des (...)
  • 30 Van der Krogt 2008, 12-13.

15Although there is no decisive proof as to where the public gallows in the medieval period stood, it is possible that, in the 17th c., the public gallows would have been found on the bank of the river Daugava. The panorama of the city would have also presented the traveller approaching by water with a view of three elevated church towers – St. Jacob’s, the Dome Cathedral and St. Paul’s – preceded by the Riga Castle (the residence of the Archbishop of Riga), with the lower building of the City Council between the Dome and St. Paul’s. There is no evidence of the gallows or the pillory on plans or drawings of the city panorama dated to the xvith and the first half of the 17th c. A famous early drawing, showing the panorama or ‘profile’ of Riga is entitled “Riga, Percommode ad Duna Amnem Sita, Emporium Celebre, et Livoniae Metropolis”. It appears in volume III of Civitates Orbis Terrarum¸ edited by Georg Braun and engraved by Franz Hogenberg, published in 1581; the colour drawing measures 16,3 x 40,7 cm28. This engraving is thought to have been influenced by the Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster; however, McLean notes that, although Münster’s views were used “as sources and models, detail was increased and embellishments added”29. The accuracy of Braun and Hogenberg’s representation of towns in the Civitates Orbis Terrarum has been called into question; nevertheless, as van der Krogt highlights, the accuracy would have to be established for each case individually, with some plans, e.g., the early plan of Moscow being highly inaccurate, while others being almost identical to photographs taken from the same perspective, as is the case with Toledo30.

  • 31 It is not known to what extent the city fortifications had already been altered and if the map re (...)

16However, even if the profile of Riga in both Münster’s and Braun’s books does not feature the gallows or the pillory, this can hardly be surprising, given the fact that these were relatively small constructions, and the views themselves are of modest sizes. The city plan of Riga, printed by Gottried in his Neuwe archontologia cosmica in 1638 offers the first bird’s eye view of the city encircled by walls and canals. There is no hint of gallows or pillory structures on this map; instead, the plan highlights the military defenses of the city, which had surrendered to the Swedish King in 162131, and its naval presence, with ships crowding the waterfront and the river.

  • 32 “Prospect der Stadt Riga ums Jabr 1650”, drawing by Johann Christoph Brotze.
  • 33 On Brotze, see Welding 1970, 108.
  • 34 The collection has been digitised and forms part of a digital archive and bibliographic database (...)
  • 35 Lusēns 2009, 71-90.

17However, a drawing of the panorama of Riga from 1650 shows a construction, which may be public gallows, on a straight line from the City Council (the Rathhaus) but outside the city walls (fig. 6a for the full drawing and fig. 6b for the detail showing the possible gallows)32. The drawing is by Johann Christoph Brotze (1742-1823), a German-born teacher, artist and ethnographer, who left testimony to both his own and earlier historical periods. His historical drawings reproduced earlier sources and are thought to be executed with considerable accuracy33. The drawing comes from Brotze’s most significant collection, Sammlung verschiedner Liefländischer Monumente ..., which consists of 10 volumes; two drawings of Riga, including the above-cited profile view of the city, and a description of Riga in 1650, are in volume 434. Due to silting, the river bed has changed, and the site where the construction stood is under water. Based on archaeological work on the Daugava riverbed, it is now possible to partially reconstruct the historical line of the bank35; however, further archaeological and archival research would be required to ascertain the presence and purpose of the construction which can be seen on Brotze’s drawing.

Fig. 6a. Panorama of Riga dated 1650, “Prospect der Stadt Riga ums Jahr 1650”, drawn by Johann Christoph Brotze.

Fig. 6a. Panorama of Riga dated 1650, “Prospect der Stadt Riga ums Jahr 1650”, drawn by Johann Christoph Brotze.

Fig. 6b. Detail of the drawing by Brotze, showing possible gallows in front of the City Council.

Fig. 6b. Detail of the drawing by Brotze, showing possible gallows in front of the City Council.
  • 36 Spārītis 2007, 21. The base of the pillory, bearing the inscription, is preserved in the Museum o (...)
  • 37 Spārītis 2007, 100.
  • 38 Spārītis 2007, 101.
  • 39 Spārītis 2007, 101.
  • 40 Fuller 2014, 120. However, the capital punishment for state crimes and the breaking of quarantine (...)

18Another place associated with the early modern ‘theatre of justice’ is the pillory: the place of the pillory in early modern Riga was on an elevated mound outside the medieval walls and the Swedish fortifications. The street which runs there still bears the name “Stabu”, which, in Latvian, means a “post” or “pillar”; the German and Russian names of the street, “Säulenstrasse” and “Столбовая улица”, respectively, bear the same meaning. The stone pillar was erected during Swedish rule in 1677, on the intersection of the contemporary Brīvības and Stabu Streets, and was removed on 14 September 184936. The pillory was erected to commemorate the execution of two supposed arsonists, the Swede Petrus Andersson and the German student Gabriel Franck. They were convicted of starting a devastating fire, which in March 1677 consumed “250 buildings and warehouses, two schools and two churches, i.e. about 30% of all the buildings in the inner city”37. The confession of the “arsonists” was obtained under torture and resulted in a severe, but no doubt spectacular execution, where the culprits were “to be pinched with red-hot tongs, impaled, strangled and set on the stake”38. According to Sparītis, the severity of the punishment and the erection of the brutal memorial was because the fire had damaged “not only interests of private persons but also state interests”, and the Swedish government wished to “demonstrate severity to the inner opposition of the burghers and to draw attention to Russia’s desire to weaken the Baltic towns”39. The removal of the pillory, thus, not only coincided with the expansion and re-planning of the city streets, but also demonstrated the new ethical stance taken by the Russian government concerning the previous and violent forms of the administration of law and justice. As has already been mentioned, the office of the executioner was abolished in 1863, the death penalty having been abolished “in all civilian courts within the Russian Empire” in the 1753 and 1754 decrees of Elizabeth Petrovna40.

Conclusions

  • 41 Jaritz 2009, 235.
  • 42 Jaritz 2009, 245.

19The executioner was a marginalised, alienated figure in the towns of medieval and early modern Europe. Living on the social margins of the city, and often on the physical margins of the respectable community (the 17th c. house, supposedly occupied by the executioner, was placed in an extremely dubious environment, literally on the city margins), the executioner had a particular aura because of his power and association with the authorities, as well as his perceived power over human life and death. Symbolically, the executioner in the imagination of his contemporaries, as well as in the modern imagination, represented the urban “other”. According to Jaritz, “Late medieval images especially, which were often produced in and for urban space, afford an opportunity to discuss the representation of such visual signs of social identification, integration and segregation as well as their use by and for the members of diverse groups of medieval society, and […] town society in particular”41. In much the same way, early modern society produced visual images that demarcated “others” from the mainstream society, with the ambiguous status of the executioner being symbolised by his sword, a military object associated with gentle status, but also with the hated landsknechts (also an “other”, frequently represented in medieval urban art)42, but of distinct shape (short, broad, with an elongated handle).

20The structures associated with judicial performance and the office of the executioner were also located in border spaces. Apart from the place of execution in front of the City Hall, the public gallows and the prison tower were either outside the city walls or part of them. Thus, it seems that the public gallows was located on the river bank on the outskirts of the city between the second part of the 16th and the first part of the 17th c., so that people approaching the city by water would be faced with the spectacle of justice. The other place of public display, the pillory, is attested to have been on a hill in the 17th c., where a street still bears the name. Again, the prominence of the location offered a perfect opportunity for the public display of the efficiency of urban justice.

  • 43 Stuart 1998, 125.
  • 44 Sawday 2013, 16. Likewise, Tarlow asserts that “Anatomical dissection was used punitively”
    (Tarlow (...)
  • 45 Enders 2002, 111.
  • 46 Enders 2002, especially 5.

21Public gallows offered a convenient opportunity to display the power of the city administration and warn would-be criminals; they were also “unclean places”, associated with social stigma and, at the same time, endowed, in the public imagination, with a sort of magic. While coming into contact with the body of an executed person resulted, as Stuart highlights, in pollution43, parts of bodies of the executed criminals could be put to further use. One such possibility was the use of a criminal’s body for anatomic dissection, which, according to Sawday, was already practiced in the 16th c.44. Another, less legitimate practice, was the procuring of parts of executed criminals’ bodies as magical talismans. While the dismembering of a criminal’s body for dissection served apparently scientific needs, one may question the provenance and the original rationale for preserving the mummified hands of alleged forgers, which are held in the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation. Were these hands carefully preserved with the rationale of archiving the crime, just as accounts of criminal records were written down and preserved in the registers? Was their preservation conceived as a reminder and perpetual warning against future forgery? Indeed, Enders has suggested that “the spectacle of punishment” could have functioned as a “mnemotechnical” device45. Could they have been viewed as talismans? These questions cannot currently be answered, but the careful preservation of the hands and their place on the museum display may suggest that the “theatre of cruelty”, which was described as a pre-modern phenomenon46, presents an attraction to a 21st c. audience.

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McLean, M. (2013): The Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster: Describing the World in the Reformation, Aldershot.

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Merback, M. (1999): The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel. Pain and Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, New York.

Moore, R. I. (2007): The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250, Oxford.

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Notes

1 The notion of medieval cruelty is still commonplace both in popular representation of the Middle Ages and in certain texts on history designed for the general audience. Certain historians draw a vivid picture of violent justice and executions without carefully examined historical evidence and without probing into such evidence, where it exists. Thus, Šterns presents late-medieval witch trials to draw a striking and memorable picture of the role of executioner in medieval Riga, without actually specifying how often, if at all, such trials took place in Riga (Šterns 1997, 69). This statement, however, goes in hand in hand with the assumption, still found in hustory textbooks, that “The gates and public squares of most cities were festooned with the amputated body parts of convicted miscreants, most often their heads” (Nicholas 1997, 309). On the other hand, after the Reformation, witch trials are known to have taken place in Livonia. Zeids cites a particular case, which appears in the Riga langfogt court protocol, of a certain non-German healer and her husband being executed for witchcraft and association with the devil, their confessions having been obtained under torture (Zeids 1978, 173-174).

2 ‘Culture of violence’ is the term used to describe violence as a form of social organisation or a mode of communication within a society. While civilian violence is an extreme form of conflict resolution, ‘judicial violence’ appears as one of the methods of ensuring social order and stability by authorities. As has been persuasively argued by scholars, judicial violence is not a late medieval invention but dates back to early medieval Europe and even before, to Roman law (on the staging of Roman executions, see, for instance, Coleman 1990, 44-73). Thus, Geary argues that ‘violence in the pursuit of justice was an integral part of Carolingian justice, both in regions largely under Roman law and in areas where Germanic laws predominated’ (Geary 2008, 82). For the archaeological evidence of violence in medieval and early modern Riga, see Gerhards (2012, 128-148), who analyses the injuries and wounds of Riga inhabitants between the 13th and 18th c.

3 There have been numerous studies of medieval and early modern violence in Europe. In 1987, R. I. Moore published a ground-breaking study entitled The Formation of a Persecuting Society. Twenty years later, Moore reviewed his conclusions in view of advances in scholarship (Moore 2007). While Moore’s work is better known to scholars of the early and high Middle Ages, Michel Foucault’s polemic statements about discipline and punishment in early modern Europe are more widely known (Foucault 1975), and had, indirectly, influenced non-academic perceptions of late medieval and early modern authority and justice outside the academe as well (Gros 2010, 5; Bert 2012, 165-166).

4 Coins have been minted in Riga since 1211. For the history of striking coins in Riga, see Berga 2000, 49-63.

5 Object 17: act of the Riga Council for the sale of land to Herman Volf, dated 1508. The charter still has the seal with the arms of the town of Riga attached to it.

6 On the ambiguity of the executioner’s status, see Klemettilä 2006.

7 Klemetillä 2006, 78.

8 Wiltenberg 2012, 17. The journal of the Nuremberg executioner, who lived and worked at the same period as the first Riga executioner for whom we have material evidence preserved, was recently published with commentaries by Harrington (2016).

9 Thus, gloves are commonly mentioned among the executioner’s equipment in the French records; see, for instance, ‘white gloves given to the hangman’, (‘gants blancs donnes au mitre’) cited in a record dated 1331 from the area of Châtillonnais (AD 21, B. 4012, Inventaire 1864, 53; for other examples, see, for 1438, B. 4074, and, for 1499, B. 4120). I am grateful to Lesley B. MacGregor for supplying this example.

10 Evans 1906, 140.

11 On the leather gloves found in Riga and dated from the 13th to the 18th c., see Bebre 2009, 101-123.

12 On the wolf mark used by the Solingen masters, see Boeheim 1897, 152.

13 Oakeshott 2012, 275.

14 The Wallace Collection, [En ligne] URL: http://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org:8080/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=artist&objectId=5101&viewType=detailView

15 For a description, see Vgl. Kat. Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen, 1991, Abb. 83

16 Europeana Collections, “Bödelssvärd, Solingen ca 1620-ca 1640, | Johann Happe (Hoppe) (Tillverkare” [Online], published online 30 June 2016, consulted 1 July 2017. URL: http://www.europeana.eu/portal/ru/record/2064105/Museu_ProvidedCHO_Livrustkammaren_40148.html.

17 An early, and to date the only complete edition of the Riga Statutes is by Napiersky (1876). For the evolution of the Statutes, see Lele-Rozentāle 2002.

18 Meiers 2017.

19 The office of the executioner was regulated by the provisions of the Riga Statutes.

20 Thus, the analysis of crimes related to coins in the 14th c. Venice reveals differentiation in the punishment of those within the mint (workers and officials) and the “outsiders”. The perpetrators working outside the places where coins were made were invariably subject to more severe punishment (Stahl 1998, especially 164-165).

21 Napiersky 1876, 250.

22 Stahl 1998, 182.

23 Turning 2016, 330. On the “changing social norms concerning the fragmentation of bodies from the later Middle Ages onwards”, see Santing and Baert 2013, 1-14. See also Merback 1999.

24 Ķeniņš 2009, 195.

25 Turning 2013, 145.

26 Turning 2013, 145.

27 Stuart 1999, 125-128.

28 Braun 1612, 44 – drawings of Konigsberg and Riga; the previous page, 43, contains a description of Riga.

29 McLean 2013, 184. The original edition of Cosmpographia, in German, is dated 1544; Livonia is described in volume III of the edition.

30 Van der Krogt 2008, 12-13.

31 It is not known to what extent the city fortifications had already been altered and if the map represents the alterations accurately. It is known that Dahlbergh fortified Riga in 1683 (Pollak 2010, 104), but, as excavations, begun in 2008 on the left bank of the Daugava, revealed, the process of fortification may have started much earlier, even immediately after the city was taken in 1621 (Lusēns 2008). The fortifications of Riga during the Swedish-Polish wars in the early 16th c. can be partially glimpsed from the 1620 sketch of the taking of Riga, made by the Swedish military engineers (see Jakovļeva 2009, 211-220).

32 “Prospect der Stadt Riga ums Jabr 1650”, drawing by Johann Christoph Brotze.

33 On Brotze, see Welding 1970, 108.

34 The collection has been digitised and forms part of a digital archive and bibliographic database developed by the Latvian Academic Library, URL: http://www3.acadlib.lv/broce/. The view of Riga is in vol. 4, p. 97, inventory number BM04059A; it is available at URL: http://www3.acadlib.lv/lielbildes/sejums_NR4/BM04059Am.html, consulted 10 June 2017.

35 Lusēns 2009, 71-90.

36 Spārītis 2007, 21. The base of the pillory, bearing the inscription, is preserved in the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation.

37 Spārītis 2007, 100.

38 Spārītis 2007, 101.

39 Spārītis 2007, 101.

40 Fuller 2014, 120. However, the capital punishment for state crimes and the breaking of quarantine was resurrected and applied by the subsequent Russian rulers during the 19th c.

41 Jaritz 2009, 235.

42 Jaritz 2009, 245.

43 Stuart 1998, 125.

44 Sawday 2013, 16. Likewise, Tarlow asserts that “Anatomical dissection was used punitively”
(Tarlow 2014, 405).

45 Enders 2002, 111.

46 Enders 2002, especially 5.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. The sword of the Riga executioner, dated to the 16th c., made by Johannes Hoppe; a fragment showing the master’s signature and marks, The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 50k
Titre Fig. 2. The sword of the Riga executioner, dated to the 16th c., and the scabbard, dated to the 16th-17th c., The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 83k
Titre Fig. 3. A sword made by Johannes Hoppe, preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602), Available from Europeana Collections.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Fig. 4. Fragment of a sword made by Johannes Hoppe, preserved in Sweden, in Livrustkammaren Museum (Inv. nr. 3602), showing the name and mark of the master, Available from Europeana Collections.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 31k
Titre Fig. 5. Mummified hands, ascribed to executed forgers and dated to the 16th or 17th c., and forged coins, The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Riga, Latvia).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 87k
Titre Fig. 6a. Panorama of Riga dated 1650, “Prospect der Stadt Riga ums Jahr 1650”, drawn by Johann Christoph Brotze.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 338k
Titre Fig. 6b. Detail of the drawing by Brotze, showing possible gallows in front of the City Council.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18341/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 145k

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