Practica Nova Imperialis Saxonica rerum criminalium

Satanas de novo construere

Benedikt Carpzov der Jüngere (* 27. Mai 1595 in Wittenberg; † 30. August 1666 in Leipzig) was a German criminal lawyer and witch theorist. He is considered to be one of the founders of German law. His pseudonym was Ludovicus de Montesperato.

"As a rather conservative, organizing and summarizing author, he was particularly important in establishing an independent German legal system. Based on his own experience, he wrote his works, which were mainly based on the case. His best-known work is the Practica nova Imperialis Saxonica rerum criminalium (Embarrassing Saxon Inquisition and Eight Trial), in which he presents the substantive criminal law and the law of criminal procedure from the beginning of the 17th century. This book gave German criminal law such a comprehensive and haunting account that for a century it enjoyed almost the same authority as the law. His last major work, Processus juris in foro Saxonica, was for a long time a valid textbook in the training of procedural law. He is considered to be one of the first representatives of the Usus modernus pandectarum.

Carpzov, who was deeply rooted in the religiosity of his time, was also strongly religiously shaped in criminal law thinking and influenced by the school of Salamanca, in particular by Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva. A crime was seen as a rebellion, ultimately as an insult to God himself. For Carpzov, the perpetrator was not only a lawbreaker who violated a state prohibition, but also a sinner who had rebelled against God. In addition to retaliation, the punishment also served as a deterrent to the general public from the crime. In addition to the severity of his punishment due to its time (in the middle of the Thirty Years' War), the punishment of the lawbreaker should nevertheless be fairly balanced.

This goal served, among other things, a refinement of the concept of guilt, a limited arrangement of the extraordinary punishment as well as a restriction of the legal interpretation and analogy. In criminal trials he tried to keep the use of torture within the narrowest possible limits and to acquit a guilty person rather than convict an innocent person. In trials against witches, the existence of which Carpzov had no doubt, he is said to have received a large number of death sentences. However, the source situation is difficult. Carpzov as an individual cannot be proven beyond doubt that individual death sentences have been passed, neither in relation to the witchcraft rule nor other crimes, since all of the judges' judgments were made as a joint decision. Nevertheless, Carpzov is said to have theoretically advocated the persecution of witches to this day. This is justified by the fact that Carpzov expressed himself in the first part of his Practica Nova in the questions 48-50 on the individual magic rites and explicitly specified death by fire as a punishment for the devil's pact, the devil's compensation and the damaging spell."

"In 2001 the city of Leipzig named a street after Benedikt Carpzov"

Hardly any other work in German jurisprudence has been discussed as controversially as “Practica nova”. Georg Längin wrote in 1888 that the “Practica nova” “can in a certain sense be called the Protestant witch's hammer” .2

“Practica nova” consists of three parts, each of which is divided into 50 questions. The first and second parts deal with substantive criminal law. The third part deals with the criminal process. In 1638 this part appeared in German as "Embarrassing Saxon Inquisitions and Eight Trials". In Questiones 44-50 from Part I, Carpzov deals with religious offenses. Among them are Questiones 48 - 50, which are interesting for the witch trials, in which Carpzov expresses himself on magic, superstition and sorcery.

Carpzov represents the highly differentiated concept of witchcraft, as it was developed in Hexenhammer (1486). Even more - he places an emphasis on proving the reality of the flight of witches and the witches' Sabbath. For Carpzov, the center of the witchcraft offense is the use of diabolical arts and the magic of harm to humans and animals.

The term usus modernus pandectarum (short: usus modernus, translated as follows: contemporary practice of Roman law (the book of the Pandects is only the hook); contemporaries also speak of the mores hoderniae (= today's [judicial] use) or of the nova practica (= modern practice)) designates in a narrower sense, which relates only to Germany, to an epoch in German legal development during the 17th and 18th centuries. Often it is understood in a simplified manner as the reception of Roman law in Germany.

The "scientification of legal life" went hand in hand with the Usus modernus. Basically it began as early as the 16th century and ended with the great codifications of natural law. In the intervening period, Germany adopted Roman canon law, which elsewhere, for example in Italy and France, had long since been adopted for legal practice. The resulting “ius commune” provided a legal foundation on which legal doctrine and jurisprudence could build.

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