Guazzo, Francesco-Maria (17th century)

Guazzo, Francesco-Maria (17th century) Italian friar
who became well known as a demonologist and opponent
of witches. Francesco-Maria Guazzo is best known
as the author of Compendium Maleficarum (Handbook of
Witches), a leading inquisitor’s guide.
Little is known about Guazzo’s life. He joined the
Brethren of St. Ambrose ad Nemus and St. Barnabas in
Milan. He wrote the Compendium in response to a request
from Cardinal Federico Borromeo, the archbishop
of Milan. The book, published in 1608, draws upon the
works of other demonologists and repeats some of the
superstitions of the time, including the assertion that
Martin Luther was born from the union of the Devil
and a nun.

Guazzo served as a judge and assessor in witchcraft
trials. In 1605, he was sent to Cleves to advise in a case
involving the Serene Duke John William of Julich-Cleves.
The duke accused a 90-year-old warlock, John, of overlooking
and ensorcelling him (see evil eye and sorcery).
John confessed that he used charms and runes to afflict
the duke with a wasting sickness and “frenzy.” He was
found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Before
the sentence could be carried out, John committed
suicide by slicing his throat with a knife. According to
Guazzo, the Devil himself stood at John’s side as he died.
The duke asked Guazzo to assist in other witchcraft
cases in Germany, which he did.

The Compendium became the leading witch handbook
in Italy and has been compared to the Malleus
Maleficarum.