- Katharina Henot was executed for sorcery in Cologne 385 years ago
- Her modern-day supporters say post office woman was set up in a conspiracy
Last updated at 2:51 PM on 13th February 2012
In memory: A statue of Katharina Henot (figure on the right) has been placed in Cologne following her execution
A woman who was burned at the stake for sorcery more than 300 years is the subject of an extraordinary retrial which is seeking to clear her name.
Katharina Henot was tried, convicted and burned at the stake in the German city of Cologne in 1627 for being a witch - one of an estimated 25,000 alleged sorcerers incinerated for practicing the dark arts in Germany in days gone by.
However, her supporters are hoping to see her name cleared of any wrongdoing in a trial which could pave the way for other similar hearings to take place.
Mrs Henot ran the local post office and attended parties in the city. Her modern-day defenders say she was tortured and burned because a political rival wanted to get his hands on her money.
Her story is well-known in Germany - there is a statue of her in the town hall in Cologne and a book was written about her.
Now Cologne council - the same body which found her guilty - is reopening her case.
Hartmut Hegeler, an evangelical priest and religious education teacher who made the request for the trial to be reheard, said: 'Katharina held her own reputation in high esteem, she would want to have it cleared.
'As Christians, we find it challenging when innocent people are executed, even If it was centuries ago.'
Hegeler tracked down some of her living relatives, some of whom will attend the hearings.
Evidence from the time will be re-examined and a panel of local politicians, clergy and lay people will decide on her guilt or innocence.
One of her relatives, Martina Hirtz, said: 'I do think she should have her name cleared. But I think of the endless amount of people still living who are being mistreated and find that much worse.'
case is successful it could lead to similar hearings across Germany, the
European country which burned more witches than any other.
Following the Würzburg Witch Trials, which lasted from 1626 to 1631, 157 men, women and children in the city were burned alive at the stake and more than 900 burnt altogether over the entire area.
They were judged for sorcery and witchcraft and for having made a pact with the Devil, and were a part of the witch hysteria that precipitated a series of witch trials in South Germany at that time, such as at Bamberg where over 300 executions took place, Eichstätt, Mainz and Ellwangen.
Witch hunt: Men, women and children were burned alive at the stake for using sorcery during the witch trials of the 1600s
Retrial: Cologne (pictured) - the same city where Katharina Henot was executed - is the scene of a retrial into her sorcery crimes
The Catholic Church was the driving force behind the persecution which was enthusiastically stoked up by nobles across the land.Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn, Prince Bishop of Würzburg, and his nephew Philipp Adolf von Ehrenberg, were responsible for burning 900 people, including 19 Catholic priests and children of seven who were said to have had intercourse with demons.
People from all walks of life were arrested and charged, regardless of age, profession or sex, for reasons ranging from murder and Satanism to 'humming a song with the Devil,' or simply for being vagrants and unable to give a satisfactory explanation of why they were passing through town.
VICTIMS OF CONSPIRACY? THE SIBLINGS ACCUSED OF SORCERY
Witch trials: The town of Würzburg
Katharina Henot was said to have been an influential citizen of Cologne. She and her brother Harger Henot inherited a post office from their father and were thought to have been embroiled in a dispute at the Imperial Court about the creation of a central post office.
She was accused of sorcery amid a great witch trial in Cologne between 1626 and 1631.
Both she and her brother were arrested by the commission of the archbishop in January 1627 and were accused of using magic to cause several cases of death and sickness.
She was imprisoned but - despite suffering terrible sickness and injuries from torture - never admitted to anything.
In spite of this, she was found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake for sorcery.
Her brother tried many times to get her freed, but he was unsuccessful and he also tried to get her name cleared after her execution.
It was not until after her death that research revealed she could have been the victim of a conspiracy.
In 1929, Harger was himself accused of witchcraft and was arrested in 1631, along with a number of other influential Cologne citizens.
However, his witch trial was interrupted soon after by intervention.
Katharina Henot's memory is commemorated in Cologne in the form of a statue.
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