Life and Death in the Sixteenth Century
Step into the world of Meister Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and dispenser of justice.
Meet Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and, most unusually for his times, diarist.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Frantz entered the executioner’s trade as an Apprentice. 394 executions and forty-five years later, he retired to focus his attentions on running the large medical practice that he had always viewed as his true vocation.
Through examination of Frantz’s exceptional and often overlooked record, Joel F. Harrington delves deep into a world of human cruelty, tragedy and injustice. At the same time, he poses a fascinating question: could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate – even progressive?
The Faithful Executioner is the biography of an ordinary man struggling to overcome an unjust family curse; it is also a remarkable panorama of a Europe poised on the cusp of modernity, a world with startling parallels to our own.
“A surprisingly moving story of brutality and redemption”
Dan Jones, Telegraph
“Opens a window on a gruesome world”
“This is a marvelous book about a fascinating subject… It is a virtuoso performance… A brilliant microhistory, a triumph of technique and a wonderful read”
Peter Marshall, Literary Review
“Who can imagine how an executioner feels about his trade? Joel F. Harrington has written a considered and fascinating book which helps us hear the voice of one such man, a professional torturer (and healer) who, astonishingly, kept a diary”
“This is a sympathetic, intelligent and surprisingly tender book”
“Harrington does an excellent job at recreating the thoughts and fears of a man whose job is one of the most loathed and caricatured”
Ben Wilson, Daily Telegraph
“A vivid window on a fascinating age”
Michael Kerrigan, Scotsman
“Fascinating… This is a surprisingly modern, even topical story that poses difficult questions about capital punishment and what Harrington calls ‘the human drive toward retribution’”
Daniel Stashower, Washington Post
“Vividly drawn… Finely researched and crafted”
Kat Hill, History Today
“Macabre but fascinating”
Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday Event