December 2019: New Title on Jesuit Prison Ministry during the Witch Trials

The Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu has published a new book by Frank Sobiech — Jesuit Prison Ministry in the Witch Trials of the Holy Roman Empire: Friedrich Spee SJ and his Cautio Criminalis (1631).


Sobiech’s book is the first study of prison ministry of Jesuits during the witch trials of the early seventeen century. According to the publisher, Sobiech “provides new insights into the prisons where the persons detained for witchcraft were incarcerated, as well as into their trials, including their torture and executions — as seen through Jesuit eyes.” A particular focus is the Cautio Criminalis, written by Friedrich Spee, S.J. (1591–1635) about the legality of these trials and the related prison ministry. Spee’s text was printed pseudonymously in 1631 and again in 1632, and, with his new book, Sobiech not only offers a complete biography of Spee but also “outlines the book’s publication and provides a detailed analysis of the Jesuit prison visits.” Spee was critical of prison ministers and wrote at length about “the guilt or innocence of the imprisoned, tortured and executed women and men of this tragic period in European history.”


The IHSI publishes this new book as the 80th volume in its Bibliotheca Instituti Historici Societatis Iesu, a series devoted to monographs and edited essay collections on the history and culture of the Society of Jesus.


More information is available at the IHSI website ( A citation for Sobiech’s book appears in the Jesuit Online Bibliography (

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