I was just wondering when in history the official papal death sentences really ended. I am not interested in any killing that was not officially authorized by a pope (or his authorized representatives) as that would seem more like an potential unsanctioned action (even if done in the name of Catholic faith).

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    What evidence is there that anathematization involved the death of the excommunicate? Neither Wikipedia nor Catholic Encyclopedia mention it. Indeed, they mention the desirability of repentance and return to the Church, which is not really possible if the person is already dead and consigned to Satan for eternity. Jun 7, 2013 at 6:58
  • @AndrewLeach I do not know the exact terms of the proceedings. I have come across 'councils declaring anathemas', papal bulls charging people of committing those things. Then the capture , trial, killing, etc. I am a bit confused about the order and specifics but that is my basic impression of the kind of order of proceeding. However, its not really about precise words but the killing itself that forms my question.
    – Mike
    Jun 7, 2013 at 7:16
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    @AndrewLeach- What I am really referring to (if looking for an example on wiki) is something along the Jan Hus burning. It all seems very official and I want to know when this sort of killing officially ended in history. See this wiki article as an example: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hus#Condemnation. I do not think I am asking anything controversial, at east as far as I am aware.
    – Mike
    Jun 7, 2013 at 7:18
  • The problem is using a technical term like anathema, and assuming that members of the Inquisition [which I assume you're thinking of] were acting on papal authority -- especially when Hus was excommunicated by an antipope (or someone who was eventually declared an antipope). Jun 7, 2013 at 7:51
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    So your question is really as simple as "When did the Catholic Church last execute someone for heresy, and why did executions stop?" No need to mention the pope or anathematization. Jun 7, 2013 at 8:41

1 Answer 1


When official papal death sentence end? Never. Because it never started in the first place. Technically such a thing did not exist. Anathema was never officially meant death penalty.

But from your example of Jan Hus, I am assuming your question to be of the executions for holding heretical beliefs. Then the last person to be burned alive at the stake for that was Giordano Bruno, executed February 17, 1600. The last person to die (hanged to death) was Cayetano Ripoll, July 26, 1826.src

BTW the first one was Priscillian (d.385).

That said, I would like to make two points,

  1. Technically Church itself did not kill anyone, they just handed down heretics to secular authorities. (The link about Jan Hus that you mentioned in the comment explicitly mentions that too) The secular authorities wanted to kill heretics to maintain law and order in a city, which in turn will help them to keep up their power. The main aim of those inquisition is to protect the heretics from them and give them a last chance.
  2. Its not just the Catholics, protestants too did the same thing when they came to power. Thirty Years' War, Irish Martyrs, the English Martyrs, Boston martyrs, Salem Witch Hunt etc., are just examples. It is not to justify or defend any side's action, but just to say that the politics and culture is way too much different from ours today. And we cannot comprehend fully of what happened and why it happened to the fullest extend.
  • Although I do not agree with the splicing of words to insulate the office of the Pope from things like the Roman Inquisition, I can skip the context and accept the facts. From that standpoint this is quite a good answer. At least it gives me what I was hoping to learn. It was much later than I would have guessed.
    – Mike
    Jun 8, 2013 at 11:46
  • I don't think the Salem Witch Hunt falls in the category with the others. Read any well-researched article about it. Now I have doubts about the others you mentioned!
    – Steve
    Jul 29, 2014 at 13:38
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    @Steve : Can you please explain, why you think it doesn't? (After-all it was done in the name of Christian God, it is even called "Puritan inquisition") Jul 29, 2014 at 13:43
  • @JayarathinaMadharasan No, it was done in the name of wicked women who took advantage of a weak judge to accuse their enemies and get rid of them. The townspeople, Puritans, we swept away by it. It was Christians in the outlying area who stopped it.
    – Steve
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:31
  • @Steve : I am sorry. You may not want to believe it and I am not here to make you believe. They did it because of their religious belief. You can read the actual transcripts of court proceeding. All questions were related to devil and their relation with him. Religion played important causal role. Jul 31, 2014 at 14:42

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