“It’ll Be A Hot Day Today”

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This plaque, found on the stone wall underneath the Golden Roof in Innsbruck’s old town, says: Here, on 25 February 1536, Jakob Hutter, head of the Anabaptists in Tirol, was burned at the stake.

Jakob Hutter was born in what is now South Tirol, in northern Italy. After he joined the Anabaptists, he began to preach and form small congregations in the region. Tirol was persecuting Anabaptists, so Hutter eventually followed many of his fellow believers to Moravia (part of what is now Czech Republic), where conditions were a little better for them. (The Moravian Church, not related not directly related but a possible antecedent to Hutter’s Anabaptists, got their name for this same reason — they had left Saxony for Moravia to escape religious persecution, and the name stuck when they moved elsewhere. Their founder, Jan Hus, was also burned at the stake.)

Good times in Moravia only lasted so long, however, and in 1535 the Hutterites were expelled. Jakob Hutter returned to Tirol, was soon afterward arrested, tortured, pressured to recant and inform on his fellow church members. He resisted, and was sentenced to burn. His wife was able to flee, was however later caught and executed at Schöneck Fortress in South Tirol. Online sources in German indicate that men were burned or beheaded, women drowned, and that 360 Anabaptists were executed in Tirol.

Yet another Tirolean burned at the stake was Mathias Perger, known as der Lauterfresser (g), which translates roughly to the Soup Eater. Perger was what one might call today a free spirit, occasionally working, learned in reading, writing, and astrology. In other words, someone the church considered dangerous. He was arrested on charges of witchcraft and “weather-making”, confessed under torture to such medieval horrors as “desecrating the Host”, and executed in 1645 in Mühlbach (near Brixen/Bressanone).

While Hutter was clearly pious (just the “wrong” religion), the Lauterfresser was odd enough (and perhaps heathen enough) for legends about him to crop up over time. He plays tricks on fellow inn patrons. He makes chickens fly over to the next field and lay their eggs for their owner’s neighbor. He changes at will into a bear and, for sport, chats with the hunting party trying to track it down. The legends make him a sympathetic, clever figure, a sort of alpine combination of Till Eulenspiegel and Fred and George Weasley, if you will. The quote in this title are his alleged words — “Das wird ein heißer Tag heute” — as he was fetched to be taken to the pyre.

BONUS LINK: And speaking of legends, a 1,200-year-old Coptic Egyptian text, recently translated, is found to tell the story of a shape-shifting Jesus who dined with a well-intentioned Pilate before his death. I suppose that it shows, like the stories of the Lauterfresser, that we humans want to hear these stories and be amazed.

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