Witch To Be Given Re-Trial, 300 Years After Her Execution

Maria Bertotelli Toldini to have her sentence overturned in court, hopes local culture minister Quinto Canali

Witch To Be Given Re-Trial, 300 Years After Her Execution

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

We’ve heard a lot about witch hunts in the news lately, haven’t we? But when a professor gets a bit of grief on Twitter for saying something sexist is then pronounced the victim of a 'baying witch hunt', it underestimates what witch hunts actually were. Actual witch hunts, which took place across Europe and Northern America from the 1400s until the 1700s, resulted in the torture and execution of 50,000 - 60,000 innocent women. The comparison is hardly fair.

What* is* fair, though, is that Maria Bertotelli Toldini is having her case brought before an Italian court again, 300 years after she was executed aged 60.

The list of charges against Maria runs heavier than the pot of boiling cheese she was alleged to have thrown a 5-year-old into. As well as that one, she's also accused of multiple child murders, making land barren, damaging a vineyard, blasphemy and heresy!

For her sins, the childless widow was publicly beheaded and her body was burned in a square in Brentonico, a tiny hamlet at the base of the Italian alps.

Seeking to clear Maria’s name is Quinto Canali, a local culture minister. He says the case will be re-heard in front of a real judge, a real court of appeals, both of whom will be familiar with laws of yore. His aim? To get official clarification that witch hunts were vicious, unjust and not to be made a mockery of.

Canali was provoked to act after seeing a reconstruction of Maria’s execution - one of the last to happen in that area - put on for tourists: 'Who would have the idea of doing a comedy folkloric show on Auschwitz?’

'If we see in our history that there was something that was wrong against humanity, we have to know it and say that this history was wrong.

'It is important now just as it was important 100 years ago and it will be important 100 years from now. There was a murder that was not justified, that should not have happened. They killed a person with motivations that didn’t exist. She was innocent.’

Carlo Andrea Postinger, an historian who has read up lots on the subject, says there are some unknowns, as it’s not known who first accused Maria. That said, it’s likely that she - like so many other alleged witches - was targeted by members of her own family as part of a dispute over inheritance!

Canali told The Guardian he has faced some criticism - mostly from right-wing papers and less educated men - but to them, ‘I told them “fuck you”, as we say in Italy’.

In more poetic terms, he explained how important it is that we don’t let things in history slide so easily: 'If you let something go that happened 300 years ago, maybe you will let something go that happens now. The past is yesterday, but it is also 300 years ago.’

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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