Later Trials: Summer and Fall 1460


Traittié du crisme de vauderie, Jean Tinctor,
Ms. fr. 961, f.1, Bibliothèque nationale de France

(The following is adapted or paraphrased from Singer (95-109); we have retranslated the excerpts from du Clercq's Mémoires.)

Undaunted, the inquisitors continued to hunt for vaudois in Arras. Using “evidence” obtained through torture, they soon detained another 10 citizens—six women and four men. These included the cook serving the governor of Arras, a furrier, a tavern-keeper, and a number of prostitutes. Their interrogation and “confessions,” in turn, led to a series of arrests in June; and this time, prominent Arrageois citizens began to feel the brunt of the inquisition. An alderman, a rich accountant, and even a minor lord—the colourful Colard de Beaufort—were arrested and imprisoned.

For his part, Beaufort showed courage under pressure. He refused to leave the city, and sought to meet with the count of Étampes. But like his allies in the inquisition, the count was unmoved; he declined the request, and Beaufort—together with a relative and a member of his household—was eventually detained in the bishop’s prison in the cité

The inquisitors were not satisfied with these arrests. On 16 July 1460, Antoine Sacquespée, a wealthy citizen, was arrested for vauderie, spirited out of his house, and carried to the bishop’s prison. Following two more arrests the next day, three prominent citizens—a sergeant, a ducal tax collector, and a rich burgher—learned that they were suspects, and all three fled from Arras.

The effects of the burnings and arrests on the city’s reputation and its commerce, writes du Clercq, were disastrous. The cité and ville, “and certainly all of those who lived there, were so deeply suspected by all of the kingdom of France and elsewhere of being vaudois that people hardly wanted to give shelter to the merchants and others from the said city. Likewise, the merchants lost their credit, and those to whom they owed money wanted to be paid for fear that they would be arrested as vaudois, in which case they would have had all of their goods confiscated” (du Clercq 43).

The trial of the second group of accused—those seized in May and June—did nothing to alleviate the crisis. The trial of 16 July 1460 took nearly the same form as the first trial; it featured scaffolds, mitres, and public confessions in front of a vast crowd of onlookers. Of the nine people sentenced, seven were publicly executed; two who had readily admitted guilt were given prison terms, in order to encourage other accused vaudois to be pliant and cooperative.

The most dramatic of the trials, however, might have been that held for three of the notables—Beaufort, Pierre du Carieulx (the wealthy accountant), and Jean Taquet (the alderman)—and an early arrestee, Huguet Aymery, who had withstood repeated tortures with nearly superhuman resolve. This trial was held in late October 1460. The scaffold was erected yet again, and large crowds gathered to watch the humbling of these great men.

As before, the spectacle began with a public sermon, this time from the inquisitor of nearby Cambrai. Not all of the accused, however, were as cooperative as their predecessors. Beaufort—who, the inquisitor proclaimed, had been to several witches’ sabbaths and had pledged his fealty to the Devil in the guise of a monkey—publicly acknowledged his sins and begged for mercy; likewise Taquet, accused of making a covenant with a fiend who, as du Clercq notes, prohibited him from “doing any of the good deeds of a Christian,” pleaded guilty to all charges.

But du Carieulx resisted his tormentors. The inquisitor began by reading his charges; in addition to crimes similar to those listed above, he said, the accountant had

on three separate occasions given to the Abbot of Folly the sacred host or the precious body of our Lord Jesus Christ when he received it at Easter, to be given to toads to eat, from which toads, [together] with the bones of the hanged, which he himself had gathered beneath the gibbet of Arras and elsewhere, and with the blood of [four] young children which he himself had killed . . . he, the Abbot of Folly, and Colette Lescrebée . . . had made that ointment which they painted on themselves, as well as certain powders with which they harmed human beings and land, and they had done many other evil things. (du Clercq 66)

Du Carieulx had already confessed to these sins. But once on the scaffold, the accountant would have none of it. He “responded publicly that there was nothing in it, and that everything he had confessed had been by force of hellish torture,” writes du Clercq. He then became “very excited—so much that they had to make him stop speaking on the platform, because he still wanted to speak and would have said many things had they let him” (du Clercq 66-7).

The men received sentences of varying severity. Aymery, who had never confessed to vauderie but had tried to escape from the bishop’s prison, received a twenty-year sentence. Du Carieulx was turned over to the secular authorities for execution. Taquet was given a ten-year prison sentence, in combination with a financial penalty. The most prominent victim, Beaufort, was condemned to seven years in prison and a devastating fine of some 7,200 pounds of local currency.

Next: The Appeals: 1461-91