Konrad von Marburg
Konrad von Marburg was a medieval German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

An inquisitor was an official in an Inquisition, an organisation or program intended to eliminate heresy and other things frowned on by the Roman Catholic Church...

. He was commissioned by the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 to combat the Albigensians, whom the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 considered heretics
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

. He is known for the extreme methods he employed, and for the early death that these methods brought him.


Konrad's early life is not well known, but he was described by contemporary church sources as well educated and highly knowledgeable. It is possible that he received a university
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 education. He was also noted for his strong asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 and his zeal in defending the church. Konrad long was considered to have been a member of the Dominican Order
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

, but modern scholarly consensus holds that he was not. Much of his early work within the church was related to the suppression of heresy, and he took an active part in the Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

 in southern France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

, who championed the Crusade and the accompanying Medieval Inquisition
Medieval Inquisition
The Medieval Inquisition is a series of Inquisitions from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition and later the Papal Inquisition...

, was one of Konrad's early supporters.

Eventually, however, Konrad returned to Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, the land of his birth. He gradually acquired a position of considerable influence at the court of Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia
The Free State of Thuringia is a state of Germany, located in the central part of the country.It has an area of and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen states....

. In particular, Konrad gained considerable power over Louis' wife, Elisabeth of Hungary, to whom Konrad acted as religious advisor and confessor
-Confessor of the Faith:Its oldest use is to indicate a saint who has suffered persecution and torture for the faith, but not to the point of death. The term is still used in this way in the East. In Latin Christianity it has come to signify any saint, as well as those who have been declared...

. In this role, Konrad's treatment of Elisabeth was extremely harsh, and he held her to standards of behaviour which were almost impossible to meet. Among the punishments he is alleged to have ordered were physical beatings and separation from her three children. In 1231, possibly because of Konrad's treatment of her, Elisabeth died. She was soon elevated to sainthood as St. Elisabeth, and became one of the two or three most eminent female saints of medieval times (and beyond). In modern scholarly literature, generally a strongly sadistic
Sadism and masochism
Sadomasochism broadly refers to the receiving of pleasure—often sexual—from acts involving the infliction or reception of pain or humiliation. The name originates from two authors on the subject, Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch...

 element has been diagnosed in Konrad's behavior towards Elisabeth.

Konrad also set to work seeking out heresy in both Thuringia and Hesse
Hesse or Hessia is both a cultural region of Germany and the name of an individual German state.* The cultural region of Hesse includes both the State of Hesse and the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state...

, and quickly gained a reputation for being unreasonable and unjust. According to most accounts, Konrad accepted almost any accusation as true, and regarded suspects as guilty until proven innocent. Those accused of being heretics were quickly sought out by Konrad's mobs, and told to repent or else be burnt at the stake
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

. Those accused of heresy were also encouraged to falsely denounce others, with the implication that their own lives might be spared if they did so. Konrad included commoners, nobles, and priests in his inquisition: Heinrich Minnike, Provost
Provost (religion)
A provost is a senior official in a number of Christian churches.-Historical Development:The word praepositus was originally applied to any ecclesiastical ruler or dignitary...

 of Goslar, was one of Konrad's first targets, and was burnt at the stake. In 1227, Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX, born Ugolino di Conti, was pope from March 19, 1227 to August 22, 1241.The successor of Pope Honorius III , he fully inherited the traditions of Pope Gregory VII and of his uncle Pope Innocent III , and zealously continued their policy of Papal supremacy.-Early life:Ugolino was...

 commissioned Konrad to eliminate heresy throughout the whole of Germany, granting him permission to ignore standard church procedure for the investigation of heresy. According to many sources, news that Konrad was to pass through an area almost invariably caused widespread panic.

In 1233, Konrad accused Henry II
Henry II, Count of Sayn
Henry II was the Count of Sayn, a County located near the Sieg River in northern Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Henry II shared the first year of his reign with his uncle, Count Henry I, as he and his father Eberhard II had co-ruled the Countship. Godfrey II had been a regent from 1181 and...

, Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

 of Sayn
Sayn was a mediæval German County located in the Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. There were two Counties of Sayn: the first County emerged in 1139. It became closely associated with the County of Sponheim early in its existence. Count Henry II was notable for being accused of...

, of taking part in "satanic orgies". Henry, however, appealed to an assembly of bishops in Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 and was declared innocent. Konrad refused to accept the decision and demanded that the verdict be reversed, but eventually left Mainz to return to Marburg
Marburg is a city in the state of Hesse, Germany, on the River Lahn. It is the main town of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district and its population, as of March 2010, was 79,911.- Founding and early history :...

. On the road, he was attacked by several knights, who killed both Konrad and his assistant. The knights may or may not have been in the service of Henry.

After Konrad's death, Pope Gregory declared Konrad to have been an upholder of the Christian faith, and ordered his killers punished. Perceptions in Germany, however, were markedly less favourable, and the memory of Konrad was enough to turn opinion against the Inquisition for many years.

Not only locally, and not diminishing over the centuries, the name of Konrad von Marburg became a byword for sadism and the dark side of Catholicism. The place where Konrad was killed, Hof Kapelle near Marburg, is marked with a stone (within the premises of a private farm); it was locally long believed to be haunted and is allegedly today on certain days the site of black rites. A fountain on the lower Steinweg, one of Marburg's main lanes, close to St. Elisabeth Church
Elisabeth Church (Marburg)
St. Elisabeth's Church is a religious building in Marburg, Germany, built by the Order of the Teutonic Knights in honour of Elisabeth of Hungary...

, which in some neo-gothic restoration attempt was topped with the effigy of a generic monk that was locally believed to represent Konrad, was continuously stoned by the students of the University of Marburg, and after many attempts at replacement, had to be substituted with an architectural ornament.

Konrad appears in a work by the English novelist Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley was an English priest of the Church of England, university professor, historian and novelist, particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire.-Life and character:...

, who wrote his Saint's Tragedy about Elisabeth.

Popular culture

Konrad von Marburg is pictured as the main character in the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 "The Third Testament" by Xavier Dorison and Alex Alice. After hiding for 20 years after being sentenced to death by an Inquisition Tribunal framed by Henry of Sayn, a mellowed and weary Konrad (somewhat resembling actor Sean Connery) again faces the mysterious Count of Sayn in a race to find a legendary document, the “Third Testament”. The story is a 4-part suite published by Glénat
Glénat (publisher)
Glénat Editions SA is a French publisher with its head office in Grenoble. The company publishes many things, including comic books and manga in France, Benelux, and Spain; it was founded by Jacques Glénat. The Spanish subsidiary has its head office in Barcelona. The Benelux subsidiary, Glénat...


See also

  • Pedro de Arbués
    Pedro de Arbués
    Pedro de Arbués was an official of the Spanish Inquisition who was assassinated in the Zaragoza Cathedral in 1485 in an alleged plot by conversos and Jews...

  • Peter of Verona
    Peter of Verona
    Saint Peter of Verona O.P. , also known as Saint Peter Martyr, was a 13th century Italian Catholic priest. He was a Dominican friar and a celebrated preacher...

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