Profs and Pints Nashville presents: “An Executioner in Old Europe,” with Joel F. Harrington, professor of history at Vanderbilt University, scholar of early modern Europe, and author of The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century.
Franz Schmidt—better known as Meister Franz—was the official executioner of the German city of Nuremberg for an astoundingly long time, from 1578-1618. Even more striking, he kept a journal of the hundreds of corporal and capital punishments that he administered during that period, describing not just the crimes and punishments but the individuals involved.
By studying and translating that journal and conducting extensive archival research in Nuremberg, Professor Joel Harrington of Vanderbilt University reconstructed the thoughts and experiences of Franz Schmidt in the broader context of crime and punishment in the early modern period. His resulting book on Franz Schmidt’s life, The Faithful Executioner, has been translated into fourteen languages and currently is being adapted for a major film.
Join Dr. Harrington at Nashville’s Fait La Force taproom for a fascinating look at Franz Schmidt’s life and the broader history of crime and punishment in the medieval and early modern periods. You’ll learn about the array of professional and amateur criminals that Meister Franz encountered, with highway robbers and mass murderers in the mix, and how he administered punishments ranging from flogging to drawing and quartering.
You’ll also learn how Meister Franz lived in an era when law enforcement was being “rationalized.” Many gruesome medieval punishments, such as boiling in oil or live burial, went by the wayside. But the overall number of executions dramatically increased, with some of those sentenced to death guilty of what we consider today to be lesser crimes, such as fraud or counterfeiting. It would be another two centuries before the rise of the modern prison, and it would take even longer for the death penalty to be abolished in most modern countries.
It's a talk that will give folks plenty to think about as they take the heads off their beers. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: A drawing of executioner Franz Schmidt in action in 1591. Taken from the margins of a court record. (Image edited, with tint added.)