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Medieval killing sprees?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:21 pm
by Arkon
I recently got interested in mass killers and I'm wondering if anything like Columbine or Jokela ever happened in the medieval/renaissance period.

Re: Medieval killing sprees?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:26 pm
by Galloglaich
Good question, not sure about spree killers per se, except for example slaughter of civilians during wartime.

There are some well documented serial killers though, the most famous being Joan of Arc's good friend and aristocratic hero and military leader of France, Gilles De Rais , who seems to have been a truly ghastly serial killer of the first order of magnitude, slaughtering large numbers of pauper children during orgies and wild satanic parties.

Of course, one never knows for sure. He could have been framed for some kind of political or hausmacht reasons. But he sure looks guilty.

Another interesting one (slightly post-medieval) is the dreadful Peter Stubbe, Stubbe Peter, or Peter Stump aka "The werewolf of Bedburg". He appears to be a serial killer who thought he was a werewolf... or he was framed for religious reasons. His punishment is almost as scary as his crimes and the tale of the case makes for chilling reading either way.


his case became famous due to a broadside about the trial translated into several languages including English.

There seems to have been at least a handful of cases like this that look real. I suspect Peter Stubbe was a killer though it's hard to be certain, but it follows a certain pattern.

There are also alleged outbreaks of mass - murderous insanity. Olaus Magnus the Swedish bishop and mapmaker describes the 'Werewolves of Livonia' who sound like maybe a murderous cult to me. ... s-perfect/

Here is the lurid text of his account:

"In Prussia, Livonia, and Lithuania, although the inhabitants suffer considerably from the rapacity of wolves throughout the year, in that these animals rend their cattle, which are scattered in great numbers through the woods, whenever they stray in the very least, yet this is not regarded by them as such a serious matter as what they endure from men turned into wolves. On the feast of the Nativity of Christ, at night, such a multitude of wolves transformed from men gather together in a certain spot, arranged among themselves, and then spread to rage with wondrous ferocity against human beings, and those animals which are not wild, that the natives of these regions suffer more detriment from these, than they do from true and natural wolves; for when a human habitation has been detected by them isolated in the woods, they besiege it with atrocity, striving to break in the doors, and in the event of their doing so, they devour all the human beings, and every animal which is found within (Magnus, Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, 1555, p642)."

What gives this legs, for me, are documented incidents of cannibalism during the Livonian Wars, caused not so much by Lycanthropy but rather starvation. However, considering this was still a largely pagan area, and was prone to violent anti-Christian uprisings, and the Christians themselves of course believed in all kinds of wild superstitions at the time, particularly in rural areas, who knows what kind of mindset people got into when food ran out.

The extremely bloody and ruthless Livonian Wars, fought across religious / cultural / sectarian lines, which took place during the lifetime of Bishop Magnus, were known for all kinds of atrocities and cruelty, a precursor many would say to the much larger 30 Years War a couple of generations after.

This is an image of one of the documented incidents of cannibalism depicted during the war. Looks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre!


There are also a lot of robber knights who were notoriously bloodthirsty, I know of at least a couple of dozen of them, who would kill, dismember and also capture and torture people during their raids. There was a big war over one of these in the 16th Century as well. But that's another story probably for another day...

Re: Medieval killing sprees?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:12 am
by Arkon
Well, I'm mostly interested in individual vendettas against groups. Apparently in Malaysia there is/was an old cultural phenomena of individuals running amok. I wonder if it happened in Europe too.

I think someone with a grudge being motivated to obsessively study martial arts and then taking vengeance on a community could make a cool story.

I think robber barons would be closer to mafia than to aristocracy of crime.

Re: Medieval killing sprees?

PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:43 pm
by Galloglaich
Well they do have some documented incidents ion town records during political uprisings, riots etc. where somebody killed a bunch of people. Including one case I remember where a woman killed 5 people in Prague during a political riot. But these city council records don't give you a lot more of the story, (quite often that info is out there but not necessarily transcribed or translated)

I did think of one interesting case of revenge, in Russia from the 14th Century by a guy called "Dmitri of the Terrible eyes". The basic story is in the wiki. he has a great name I think you can find more detail out there. It's a very "Game of Thrones" type story and includes many massacres and so on.

There is a bit more detail here:

Far more probably in Russian language sites, probably Polish too.

Vendettas between families or even cities like this were often really brutal particularly among the aristocratic families. I know there are many cases like that though I don't know precisely the 'Charles Bronson' type case that you described, I bet you can find them out there. Jan Dlugosz would be a good source but you'd have a lot of reading to do probably before you found a really good example.

I remember from Jan Dlugosz there is some really amusing and also hair-raising drama between the remaining Piast (and some of the Premysil) princes in the 13th Century if I remember correctly.

I remember there was one story where one of the princes, who was constantly committing massacres, was planning to burn some villages but the villagers hired mercenaries like in Seven Samurai, and ended up capturing him and turning him over to his brother.